Category: Opinion

June 9, 2019 Off

Feedback loops and online abuse

By Jill T Frey

I’ve long thought that much of the world can be explained by feedback loops. Why are small companies nimbler than large ones? Why are private companies generally more efficient than governments? Primarily because in each case, the former has a better feedback loop. When faced with a baffling question — such as, “why do online companies do such a terrible job at dealing with abuse?” — it’s often helpful to look at the feedback loops.

Let’s look at the small vs. large and private vs. government comparisons first, as examples. Small companies have extremely tight feedback loops; a single person makes a decision, sees the results, and pivots accordingly, without the need for meetings or cross-division consensus. Larger companies have to deal with other departments, internal politics, red tape, the blessing of multiple vice-presidents, legal analysis, etc., before they can make meaningful changes.

Similarly, if a private company’s initiative isn’t … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

YouTube will let bigot monetize if he removes link to homophobic merch

By Jill T Frey

YouTube has made the weakest, least courageous response to mass backlash regarding its ruling yesterday that right-wing personality Steven Crowder’s racist and homophobic attacks on Vox video producer Carlos Maza didn’t violate its policies. Now YouTube says it’s demonetized Crowder’s channel because his “pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community” …but it will restore Crowder’s ability to earn a cut of YouTube ad revenue as long as he removes the link in his videos/channel to his offensive merchandise shop and fixes “all of the issues” with his channel. Specifically, Crowder’s shop sells [Warning: disturbing language not condoned by TechCrunch] “Socialism is for f*gs” t-shirts, baby onesies and beer-pong cups.

[Update: In the wake of this article and YouTube’s focus on his homophobic slur shirts, Crowder has removed the hateful merchandise from his store.]

The unwillingness to remove Crowder from YouTube counters the frequent calls by conservative politicians … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

YouTube’s bully problems prove that community doesn’t scale

By Jill T Frey

Editor’s note: Drew is a geek who first worked at AOL when he was 16 years old and went on to become a senior writer at TechCrunch. He is now the VP of Communications for venture equity fund Scaleworks.

I have a confession to make. It’s something that I live with daily. It’s not that I’m not proud of it…it’s just that I’m never sure how people will see me after they know my “secret.”

Here goes nothing.

I.

Was.

A.

YouTuber.

Yes, there it is.

Whew, I feel so much better. Or do I? Actually, I don’t. Get ready for a whole lot of “In my day…” and “It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” because to quote Whoopie Goldberg in Ghost, “Molly, you in danger girl.

In the beginning

Just to set this up, I’m from Philly. Basically as far away from “Silicon Read the rest

June 2, 2019 Off

Password expiration is dead, long live your passwords

By Jill T Frey

May was a momentous month, which marked a victory for sanity and pragmatism over irrational paranoia. I’m obviously not talking about politics. I’m talking about Microsoft finally — finally! but credit to them for doing this nonetheless! — removing the password expiration policies from their Windows 10 security baseline.

Many enterprise-scale organizations (including TechCrunch’s owner Verizon) require their users to change their passwords regularly. This is a spectacularly counterproductive policy. To quote Microsoft:

Recent scientific research calls into question the value of many long-standing password-security practices such as password expiration policies, and points instead to better alternatives … If a password is never stolen, there’s no need to expire it. And if you

Read the rest
May 30, 2019 Off

Lack of leadership in open source results in source-available licenses

By Jill T Frey

Amazon’s behavior toward open source combined with lack of leadership from industry associations such as the Open Source Initiative (OSI) will stifle open-source innovation and make commercial open source less viable.

The result will be more software becoming proprietary and closed-source to protect itself against AWS, widespread license proliferation (a dozen companies changed their licenses in 2018) and open-source licenses giving way to a new category of licenses, called source-available licenses.

Don’t get me wrong — there will still be open source, lots and lots of it. But authors of open-source infrastructure software will put their interesting features in their “enterprise” versions if we as an industry cannot solve the Amazon problem.

Unfortunately, … Read the rest

May 27, 2019 Off

How games conquered the movies

By Jill T Frey

We used to think that as video games matured, as a medium, they would become more like Hollywood, becoming more focused on character development, plot reversals, and tight, suspense-driven narratives, rather than action set pieces alternating with cinematic cut scenes. Hoo boy, were we wrong. Instead the exact inverse has happened. Action movies have become more like video games. And you know what, this is no bad thing.

I thought of this while watching John Wick 3 last night. (Which I loved, as I did 1 and 2.) It’s not just that its ballet of bullets — especially the one with the dogs — are so like video games, in both structure and form, that they seem to have been practically been torn from a controller; you can practically see health bars and Stun markets hovering over the heads of the characters.

It’s also that the series’s primary … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

The savage genius of SoftBank funding competitors

By Jill T Frey

Venture capitalists aren’t supposed to make their portfolio companies battle to the death. There’s a long-standing but unofficial rule that investors shouldn’t fund multiple competitors in the same space. Conflicts of interest could arise, information about one startup’s strategy could be improperly shared with the other, and the companies could become suspicious of advice provided by their investors. That leads to problems down the line for VCs, as founders may avoid them if they fear the firm might fund their rival down the line.

SoftBank shatters that norm with its juggernaut $100 billion Vision Fund plus its Innovation Fund. The investor hasn’t been shy about funding multiple sides of the same fight.

The problem is that SoftBank’s power distorts the market dynamics. Startups might take exploitative deals from the firm under the threat that they’ll be outspent whoever is willing to take the term sheet. That can hurt employees, especially … Read the rest

May 13, 2019 Off

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is having trouble — and that’s okay

By Jill T Frey

We may be poised on the precipice of a new era of spaceflight, but leaping prematurely off it would be a costly mistake — which is why the delays and failures of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the new spacecraft that will likely be soonest to take humans to space, are a matter for concern but not worry. In space, you expect the unexpected.

The sudden explosion of a Crew Dragon test capsule is frightening and frankly embarrassing to a company so heavily focused on an image of futurity and reliability. And a failed parachute deployment doesn’t inspire confidence either. But any historian of the space industry will tell you it’s rare that something with rockets on it doesn’t blow up at some point during development.

The Commercial Crew program was established back in 2010 with the goal of sending a crewed mission to the International Space Station, aboard a new spacecraft, … Read the rest

May 12, 2019 Off

Friend portability is the must-have Facebook regulation

By Jill T Frey

Choice for consumers compels fair treatment by corporations. When people can easily move to a competitor, it creates a natural market dynamic coercing a business to act right. When we can’t, other regulations just leave us trapped with a pig in a fresh coat of lipstick.

That’s why as the FTC considers how many billions to fine Facebook or which executives to stick with personal liability or whether to go full-tilt and break up the company, I implore it to consider the root of how Facebook gets away with abusing user privacy: there’s no simple way to switch to an alternative.

If Facebook users are fed up with the surveillance, security breaches, false news, or hatred, there’s no western general purpose social network with scale for them to join. Twitter is for short-form public content, Snapchat is for ephemeral communication. Tumblr is neglected. Google+ is dead. Instagram is owned by … Read the rest

May 9, 2019 Off

Three ‘new rules’ worth considering for the internet

By Jill T Frey

In a recent commentary, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg argues for new internet regulation starting in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability. He also advocates that government and regulators “need a more active role” in this process. This call to action should be welcome news as the importance of the internet to nearly all aspects of people’s daily lives seems indisputable. However, Zuckerberg’s new rules could be expanded, as part of the follow-on discussion he calls for, to include several other … Read the rest