Skip to main content

Trying to build technology in service of a more equal world.






Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy: Our Maternal Death Rates Are Only Bad If You Count Black Women

“In an interview with Politico, the following words came out of Cassidy’s mouth: “About a third of our population is African American; African Americans have a higher incidence of maternal mortality. So, if you correct our population for race, we’re not as much of an outlier as it’d otherwise appear. Now, I say that not to minimize the issue but to focus the issue as to where it would be. For whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality.””



There is a moral case against crypto

““We” are not, in fact all going to make it — in a negative-sum or even zero-sum game, that’s impossible. The people using this line might, but that’s because they got in before everyone else. They are relying on the “greater fool” — which they hope includes you, dear reader — continuing to believe these lies and perpetuating their dishonest schemes.”



A reminder that you don’t become the richest person on the planet by being stupid, but also not by being ethical or kind.


The startup slump may be a blessing in disguise

Startupland is about to experience its first downturn since the 2008 recession. I realized today that many founders and startup employees were literal children when they last had to live through a bear market: for thirteen straight years, tech companies have been growing and growing. They’ve never seen or had to prepare for a slump.

It was a startling realization: to me, that feels like yesterday. (I’m older than I think I am.) I was at the tail end of my first startup at the time. We’d taken investment but had been cashflow positive for years first; because we were insulated from the worst of it, I had a panic-free front row seat. For a little while, funding dried up. Services consolidated or went away entirely. And in the meantime, free and open source projects - WordPress in particular - thrived.

The introduction of the iPhone catalyzed the consumer tech industry out of its trough. Rather than carrying on with business as usual, the companies that did well in 2009 were the ones who took advantage of the new always-on internet to create new kinds of services. They were differentiated from the failed dotcoms that came before: services like Flickr gave way to apps like Instagram. It was a genuinely new way of thinking. For a little while, even Facebook struggled to get to grips with the new web.

This week, Y Combinator sent a strongly-worded note to its portfolio of startups:

Regardless of your ability to fundraise, it’s your responsibility to ensure your company will survive if you cannot raise money for the next 24 months.

For a generation of startups used to spending money with wild abandon, partially because investors have implicitly encouraged the strategy of using capital as a moat, pivoting to business fundamentals may be too difficult. Even if founders can pivot their strategies, many of their employees were lured by lifestyle perks and the prestige of working for a growing company with name recognition in the community. If the startup hasn’t worked on a deeply-held reason to work there - something that makes the work meaningful; a nurturing community of people that values them as people - founders may find that retention is harder than they would like.

Still, I don’t think there’s any other way out. While the 2008 slump happened to coincide with the iPhone, I don’t see a similar paradigm shift coming for tech this time round. Crypto has already crashed, and although it will probably rebound, investment there has slowed. The metaverse is vaporware at best. The promise of an ambient web powered by augmented reality devices is years away.

So the biggest paradigm shift may simply be a return to reality: a vibe shift to profit. Valuations will be calculated based on revenue rather than hype. Some companies will make it; many more won’t.

In a world driven by revenue, the way to survive is to provide a service that people find valuable enough to pay for, aligned with their needs and interests.

Almost by definition, many of the companies that won’t make it through leaner times are the greediest: the startups created to feed their founders’ desire to make money rather than to deeply serve their customers or overhaul a predatory industry. Their coin-operated philosophies often extend to treating their employees like fungible resources who should be grateful to work there. I don’t think I’ll spend much time crying over them.

On the other hand, I’m excited for the companies who can double down on their customers and on their employees. The founders who can create real value for the people they’re trying to serve, and curate an empathetic community of thoughtful builders to do so, are the ones who are most likely to win. That’s what the tech industry is at its best, and that’s what will survive.


Tesla is toxic

When my mother was still alive, she was very concerned about her impact on the planet. She very badly wanted an electric car, and was interested in getting a Tesla. For lots of reasons, my parents weren’t able to buy one. So I put myself on the list for a Model 3: specifically so she would be able to get to and from her dialysis appointments in one.

It was delivered a month after she died. I could have canceled my appointment, but I decided to keep driving it. Honestly, although the self-driving capability is nonsense and the software is low quality, it’s a very nice ride. I really enjoy driving it.

The company’s CEO is making it less and less tenable to keep doing so. From Elon Musk’s will-he-won’t-he Twitter acquisition to comments about politics, social justice, and the media, he’s not an easy man to like. And now revelations that he offered to buy a SpaceX flight attendant a horse if she would perform sex acts on him make it even harder.

Teslas have great range and an excellent charging network. They’re not much more expensive than a Honda Civic and help wean drivers away from gasoline. But they also come with a kind of social baggage that is hard to look past. By association, I now appear to be okay with Musk’s actions. I am not.

When someone tells you who they are, the adage goes, believe them. The on-board software includes a boom box mode and a fart machine: stuff more at home in an adolescent’s fantasy arsenal than in a car driven by adults. As it turns out, this immaturity runs dangerously deep.

So what now? Surely the board at Tesla has to be considering having Musk removed. It would be the right thing to do. Otherwise, I’m going to get rid of the car (perhaps in favor of an ID. Buzz) and I’ll encourage other Tesla drivers to do the same.


SpaceX Paid $250,000 to a Flight Attendant Who Accused Elon Musk of Sexual Misconduct

“The flight attendant told her friend that the billionaire SpaceX and Tesla founder asked her to come to his room during a flight in late 2016 "for a full body massage," the declaration says. When she arrived, the attendant found that Musk "was completely naked except for a sheet covering the lower half of his body." During the massage, the declaration says, Musk "exposed his genitals" and then "touched her and offered to buy her a horse if she would 'do more,' referring to the performance of sex acts.””



We Need to Take Back Our Privacy

“That data becomes an even more powerful form of surveillance when it is combined with other data. A woman who regularly eats sushi and suddenly stops, or stops taking Pepto-Bismol, or starts taking vitamin B6 may be easily identified as someone following guidelines for pregnancy. If that woman doesn’t give birth she might find herself being questioned by the police, who may think she had an abortion.”



Fetus-powered street lamps? Republicans ramp up outrageous anti-abortion lies ahead of Roe's demise

“"In places like Washington D.C.," fetuses are "burned to power the light's of the city's homes and streets," claimed Catherine Glenn Foster, who had, just minutes before, sworn not to lie under oath. The GOP-summoned witness let loose the wild and utterly false accusation that municipal electrical companies are powered by incinerated fetuses.”



Taking a Break from Social Media Makes you Happier and Less Anxious

“At the end of this week, the researchers found “significant between-group differences” in well-being, depression, and anxiety, with the intervention group faring much better on all three metrics. These results held even after control for baseline scores, as well as age and gender.”



How inequities make the baby formula shortage worse for many families

“In the meantime, parents have begun stockpiling if they can – and rationing when they can’t. Much of the burden is falling on households that need financial assistance: The White House noted that people on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) account for about half of all infant formula purchases. Parents who work lower-income jobs often need to rely on formula more because their jobs do not allow for them to establish breastfeeding easily – assuming a parent can produce enough milk to begin with.”


Discover more IndieWeb sites
Discover more blogs on Blogroll