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United Airlines seat ads: How to opt out of targeted advertising

[Michael Grothaus at FastCompany]

"United Airlines announced that it is bringing personalized advertising to the seatback entertainment screens on its flights. The move is aimed at increasing the airline’s revenue by leveraging the data that it has on its passengers."

Just another reason why friends don't let friends fly United. We should all be reducing our air travel overall anyway, given the climate crisis, and in a world where we all fly less, shouldn't we choose a better experience?

This sounds like the absolute worst:

"United believes its advertising network will be appealing to brands because “there is the potential for 3.5 hours of attention per traveler, based on average flight time.”"

Passengers from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, and Utah can opt out of having their private information used to show targeted ads to them for the duration of what sounds like an agonizing flight. Passengers from other US States are out of luck - at least until their legislatures also pass reasonable privacy legislation.

Other airlines are removing seat-back entertainment to reduce fuel, so on top of the baseline climate impact of the air travel industry, there's a real additional climate implication here. Planes with seat-back entertainment, in general, use more fuel; United is making a revenue decision with all kinds of negative impacts that they should not be rewarded for.

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Calm Company Fund is taking a break

[Calm Company Fund]

"Inhale. Exhale. Find the space between… Calm Company Fund is going on sabbatical and taking a break from investing in new companies and raising new funds. Here’s why."

Calm Company Fund's model seems interesting. It's a revenue-based investor that makes a return based on its portfolio companies' earnings, but still uses a traditional VC model to derive its operating budget. That means it makes a very small percentage of funds committed from Limited Partners, rather than sharing in the success of its portfolio (at least until much later, when the companies begin to earn out).

That would make sense in a world where the funds committed were enormous, but revenue-based investment tends to raise smaller fund sizes. So Calm Company Fund had enough money to pay for basically one person - and although the portfolio was growing, the staff size couldn't scale up to cope.

So what does an alternative look like? I imagine that it might look like taking a larger percentage of incoming revenue as if it were an LP itself. Or maybe this kind of funding simply doesn't work with a hands-on firm, and the models that attract larger institutional investors are inherently more viable (even if that isn't always reflected in their fund returns).

I want something like this to exist, but the truth is that it might live in the realm of boring old business loans, and venture likely is able to exist because of the risks involved in those sorts of companies.

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Study finds 1/4 of bosses hoped RTO would make staff quit

"The findings suggest the return to office movement has been a poorly-executed failure, but one particular figure stands out - a quarter of executives and a fifth of HR professionals hoped RTO mandates would result in staff leaving."

Unsurprising but also immoral: these respondents believed that subsequent layoffs were undertaken because too few people quit in the wake of return to office policies.

This quote from the company that conducted the survey seems obviously true to me:

"The mental and emotional burdens workers face today are real, and the companies who seek employee feedback with the intent to listen and improve are the ones who will win."

It's still amazing to me that so many organizational cultures are incapable of following through with this.

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A Guide to VC “Congrats” Tweets, From 🤑 to 😐

“Tweet: Thrilled to have represented [VC firm] in our work with [company]. Huge outcome!”

"Translation: A partner we fired actually did the deal, and no one serviced it well until it was clear it was going to be a homerun. Then we all fought over it and rewrote history in a ‘congrats’ blogpost that never mentioned the original GP."

Hunter didn't come to play.

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Apple, SpaceX, Microsoft return-to-office mandates drove senior talent away

"Taken together, our findings imply that return to office mandates can imply significant human capital costs in terms of output, productivity, innovation, and competitiveness for the companies that implement them."

There's no doubt that there's a lot of value in being in the same physical room together; I'm writing this on the day after a work summit that brought my team together from across the country, and I'm still buzzing from the energy. But I think anyone in tech that proposes a full-time return to office policy needs to rethink.

It comes down to this: "it's easier to manage a team that's happy". People want their lives and contexts to be respected; everyone's relationship with their employers has been reset over the last few years. This goes hand in hand with the resurgence of unions, too: the contract between workers and employers is being renegotiated, and particularly for parents and carers, but really for everyone, working from home yields a kind of freedom that's hard to replace. And asking people to come back reads as a lack of trust and autonomy that erodes relationships and decimates morale.

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Abortion bans drive away young talent: New CNBC/Generation Lab survey

"The youngest generation of American workers is prepared to move away from states that pass abortion bans and to turn down job offers in states where bans are already in place, a new survey from CNBC/Generation Lab finds."

This stands to reason: why would you move to a place where government wants to control what you do with your body? Whether you have a uterus or not, caring for the well-being of people who do is obvious. And all the societal overreach and Handmaid's Tale overtones affect everybody.

I'm interested to see how this affects those locations over time. Of course, there are other implications of this legislation, too: it's likely to be one of the major drivers for voters in November.

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‘In the US they think we’re communists!’ The 70,000 workers showing the world another way to earn a living

"Mondragón has become a beacon for the co-operative model, as a more humane and egalitarian way of doing business that puts “people over capital”. Every worker has a stake in the company’s fortunes and a say in how it is run, and receives a share of the profits. But the goal is more about creating “rich societies, not rich people”. That means looking after workers during not only the good times but the tough times, too."

I've always loved Mondragón. This is a lovely profile - and the fact that it has thrived sends such an important message.

I'm not sure about the claim about Americans thinking they're communists, by the way. Sure, some of the close-minded ones might. But I've seen it heralded as a good and important thing by lots of people here.

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FTC Announces Rule Banning Noncompetes

This is genuinely wonderful:

“The FTC’s final rule to ban noncompetes will ensure Americans have the freedom to pursue a new job, start a new business, or bring a new idea to market.”

This was already true for California; banning it nationwide is an enormous step for innovation everywhere. Even new noncompetes for executives are banned, although ones that are currently in place can remain.

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What you see

"Too often, [...] we assume that the person who is the object of our feedback has something to learn and fail to notice the same thing about ourselves."

This is a really important observation. Without checking ourselves, our feedback can be a way to ensure our vision remains myopic, and can enforce a kind of conservatism that (like all conservatism, I believe) ultimately serves nobody.

Feedback is important, but curiosity, care, and respect are even more important. Starting off with an assumption that our colleague might know something we don't - and a need to get to the "why" of everything we notice, and consider what we might not be noticing - is more than healthy.

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Doing weeknotes

"Weeknotes are well suited to teams that want to communicate about their work to colleagues or management. But they’re useful in other circumstances, too, such as individuals communicating to the teams they’re part of, or leaders communicating to the people they lead."

This is a pretty great introduction to weeknotes - something that I have to admit I've implemented only sporadically at work, and never on my own site. This page has me reconsidering and thinking about buckling down.

There's a ton of value in both reflecting on and communicating what happened over the last week. Some of my favorite product managers I've worked with, in particular, have done this very well, and it was always a level-setter for the whole team's knowledge.

Something to consider?

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Drop In Venture Funding To Black-Founded Startups Greatly Outpaces Market Decline

"The decline in capital to Black-founded companies greatly outpaces the overall decline in startup funding. While total venture dollars in the U.S. fell 37% last year, funding to Black-founded startups dropped a staggering 71%, according to Crunchbase data."

As the piece points out, this may in part be because venture funds are abandoning diversity initiatives. Because so much of venture is based on networks - you usually need a warm introduction to get funded, and some partners pattern-match with founders they've backed before - people from a certain demographic are more likely to be funded.

There was a time when I thought startups were meritocratic; in reality, it tends to be rich, white people funding people from similarly rich, white backgrounds.

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RTO doesn’t improve company value, but does make employees miserable: Study

"Overall, the analysis found that RTO mandates did not improve a firm's financial metrics, but they did decrease employee satisfaction."

The finding is unsurprising, but good to have data. It goes on:

"Specifically, after an RTO mandate, employees' ratings significantly declined on overall job satisfaction, work-life balance, senior management, and corporate culture. But their ratings of factors unrelated to RTO did not change, indicating that the RTO mandate was driving dissatisfaction."

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Boeing Max 9s start flying again after door panel blowout

"“I would tell my family to avoid the Max. I would tell everyone, really,” said Joe Jacobsen, a former engineer at Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration." And so I shall.

This is going to be a textbook example of how moving to a sales-led rather than engineering-led culture can be incredibly harmful. Clearly Boeing is feeling stress from its competition, but rushing planes out the door has hurt its standing rather than helped it. This ongoing incident makes me incredibly reluctant to fly on any Boeing plane at all.

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Why You’ve Never Been In A Plane Crash

A really great piece about blameless postmortems and how the psychological safety to tell the truth leads to fewer mistakes and - in the case of the aviation industry - fewer lives lost.

"It’s often much more productive to ask why than to ask who. [...] A just organizational culture recognizes that a high level of operational safety can be achieved only when the root causes of human error are examined; who made a mistake is far less important than why it was made."

Exactly!

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Introducing our Open Salary System: Reflecting on a Decade of Transparent Salaries at Buffer

"What we’re sharing today is the result of applying our lessons learned from running a company with transparent salaries for a decade." I've been following Buffer's open salaries initiative since the beginning; this is a great update.

An open salary system is smart for all the reasons listed here: most importantly, it eliminates person-by-person bias.

Systemic inequalities between certain job functions, particularly with respect to gendered work, aren't completely addressed here given the system's reliance on market salaries, but I liked the way they adjusted their customer service salaries when they realized how important they were to the business.

The initiative is also a great way to signal an open culture to the world, and this post is thoughtful and thorough. I wish it was more standard.

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Why return-to-office mandates fail

"My advice to business leaders is this: If your “personal belief” tells you that in-office work is better, approach the question analytically. What actual, measurable problems related to your business objectives will be solved by a return to the office?"

This is the crux for me: there are very few actual problems that are solved by returning to the office. Instead, it's often a feeling - a return to the past. I would argue that looking backwards is never a good way to think; it's better to consider what you need to do in order to truly adapt to the future.

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An Unreasonable Investment

"Your career is not your job. It’s the humans you help along the way."

I feel this in my bones. The people who have helped me in my career have made an outsize difference to my life, and I hope to make the same kind of difference in other peoples'.

The best kind of leadership is servant leadership, which is what I try to embody in my roles: not just to the people who report to me, but the people around me. I want to be helpful. I want to push great people along. And I'm eternally grateful to the people who did that for me.

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Remote Work Hurts Innovation Among Work Teams Massive New Study Finds

Interesting study. Although I think there are enormous incentives for people to report this way, I'm sure there's a lot of truth to it.

It sounds like the big issue is the kind of informal ideation and conversation that happens really easily when you're in a room with someone but is rarely raised in a remote environment. It's not that ideas, reflections, and back-and-forth can't happen - it's that there's no really great medium for them to happen on. Slack doesn't capture it; emails and documents are too formal. And a brainstorm is an event rather than a whim.

I don't think people stop thinking creatively when they're at home. But there isn't a great forum for them to raise those creative ideas. That's both frustrating for the person and counter-productive for the organization.

So what does a better medium for this look like? I have some thoughts.

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Sam Bankman-Fried found guilty on all seven counts

Unsurprising. Which is the word I will also use for his inevitable early release.

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Failing Without Knowing Why: The Tragedy Of Performative Content

Thought-provoking for me: particularly as someone who thinks through ideas through writing. But perhaps that writing doesn't need to be in public, in front of an audience.

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Hustle culture is over-rated

“When hustle culture is glorified, it incentivizes people to work longer hours, not because it’s a good way to get the work done, but because they want to be perceived as working long hours.”

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Online Ads Are Serving Us Lousy, Overpriced Goods

“The products shown in targeted ads were, on average, roughly 10 percent more expensive than what users could find by searching online. And the products were more than twice as likely to be sold by lower-quality vendors as measured by their ratings by the Better Business Bureau.”

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The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank hit women- and minority-owned start-ups the hardest

“Silicon Valley Bank was one of the few that would give venture-backed start-ups led by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people a line of credit. After the bank’s collapse, they are now being hit the hardest.”

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Americans are increasingly disgruntled at work

“Of note: Workers who were in jobs that could be done remotely, but were forced to work on-site saw an increase of 7 points in active disengagement.”

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Macroeconomic Changes Have Made It Impossible for Me to Want to Pay You

“There’s no easy way to say this: I have made the difficult decision to lay off over six thousand of you. In the past two years, we have achieved huge wins together. But unfortunately, the macroeconomic environment has shifted in ways none of us could have foreseen, from an economy in which I did feel like paying you, to one in which I’d rather not.”

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