Posts tagged Valley

Lauren McCarthy Takes On Silicon Valley Optimism

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published by our partners at Kill Screen

When iOS 8 was injected into Apple smartphones worldwide in September, one of the biggest stories that emerged about it was the predictive typing “feature.” If you’re still bumpin’ dat Blackberry or are a Windows Phone disciple: Quicktype enables “the keyboard [to get smart] and typing gets easier. It suggests contextually appropriate words based on whom you’re typing to and in what app.”

In case you missed it, yes, Apple is implying that typing and communicating with your friends and loved ones is too hard and must be made easier—overlooking the fact that, culturally, the iPhone has made the act of calling your friends or loved ones without texting first an out-and-out befuddling intrusion.

For more stories about videogames and culture, follow@killscreen on Twitter.

Additionally, the sentences you can piece together via Quicktype are single-malt insane robo-hatchling pseudo-English. (“The fact that you are the only thing is that I have to do it for the next few years and years of the best thing about the new update is the only way you can get it together for a while,” is a recent example I confused a friend with.) Plenty of stories and Twitter feeds popped up in the last few weeks centered on this techno poetry, amounting to not much more than giggling, “LOL did you see this?” instead of pondering “OMG what does this mean?”

It’s the latter question that Brooklyn artist/programmer Lauren McCarthy has been exploring since 2005: How do technological advances impact our interactions with one another as humans?

“A lot of times I see new technologies painted black or white, but it never feels that simple to me,” says McCarthy. “I think many of these things could go either way and it will take a lot of good debate and thoughtful design if we want to swing toward a future we actually want.”

See also: Mark Zuckerberg’s Mythic T-Shirt And Fake Silicon Valley Do-Goodery

She decided to start tinkering after thinking abstractly about the gym: “this public/private space where people gather to refine their identities amid various dynamics of surveillance, control, and utopianism—and comparing this to the online social spaces that were developing in the mid-2000s,” as she described it. Some of her earlier experiments included 2009’s Showertweet, where, as the Twitter Artist in Residence for the Brooklyn Museum of Art, she waterproofed her phone and tweeted everyday from her shower.

In 2014, this hardly sounds like a social experiment at all, right? We’ll blare Spotify from our iPhones precariously perched atop our toilets and maybe grab it mid-shower if we think of an especially witty, acerbic, or inspiring tweet. But in 2009, McCarthy’s intent was to “explore the effect technology has on the boundary between private and public life. What happens if the most intimate experiences are shared online?”

Crowdsourcing Conversations

Today we all know the answer but likely can’t get enough perspective on it to step outside and properly label it, much less decide do anything to course correct if necessary. It says something about us that in five short years, our online identities and our offline ones have become enmeshed to the point of being lockstep—a potentially unhealthy and obsessive existence. More importantly, we stopped asking ourselves that question.

See also: How To Use Emoji Anywhere With Twitter’s Open Source Library

“The vulnerability and self-awareness of everyday moments interests me a lot,” explains McCarthy. “Not necessarily the times when you’re at your most blank, but the times when things are pretty normal while everything you feel as a person conscious in the world is bubbling just below the surface.”

McCarthy’s way of doing that, historically, has been by highlighting or heightening awkward or uncomfortable moments in conversations or social interactions and making them the centerpiece rather than the silences we pretend not to notice. After all, we spend most of our time not being raconteurs extraordinaires but verbally stumbling our way through interactions, asking people to repeat themselves, or sheepishly admitting we weren’t really listening.

This year she launched Crowdpilot, an app that “lets you crowdsource your conversations by bringing a group of your friends or strangers along to listen in and assist you in any situation. Say you have a blind date and are unsure what to say. Crowdpilot lets you stream your conversation and lets others (Facebook friends, “hired assistants who speak English,” whoever) suggest dialog options: Making your next OKCupid excursion a mish-mash of Mass Effect, Monkey Island, and You Don’t Know Jack.

Fox News declared people “are not going to be happy” about their conversations unknowingly being eavesdropped on, and dredged up a number of comparisons between McCarthy’s app and the NSA. In a certain sense, yes, this was Fox News being Fox News—sensationalistic and provocative—but when was the last time you heard mainstream-media skepticism around technology beyond “Which smartphone should you buy?”

This is McCarthy’s intent: “I am hoping people feel the conflict with the things I put out there, and negotiate with the experience to find their own answers or questions.”

It helps that the runway she takes people on is heavily paved with coyness—all the copy accompanying her creations deftly matches the tone of Silicon Valley techno-optmism, cranking the dial a notch or two up to the invasive/frightening implication side. Even when she’s dabbling firmly in sheer, terrifying absurdism, as with 2009’s Happiness Hat, a “wearable conditioning device that detects if you’re smiling and provides pain feedback if you’re not.”

As her website plainly describes: “An enclosed bend sensor attaches to the cheek and measures smile size, a servo motor moves a metal spike into the head inversely proportional to the degree of smile. Through repeated use of this conditioning device you can train your brain to smile all the time. The device runs on Arduino.”

Basically, NBD—if you aren’t happy, a metal spike will force you to fake it, thanks to microcontrollers!

Clearly she’s being facetious here, right?

“I might use a familiar tone or framework but then twist it a bit to see how it feels just a few steps away,” explains McCarthy. “With each piece I am trying to engage with the tension and let the audience do this too. I’m more interested in provoking questions than trying to impose one point of view.”

But, she admits, responses to her work tends to be “usually pretty mixed.”

Can Technology Really Make Us Better Humans? 

Then again, if you’ve ever spent any amount of time not staring at your glowing rectangle while out and about, that shouldn’t surprise you: We’d rather be distracted and “connecting” than working on our self-awareness and connecting. McCarthy’s work tries to push us somewhere in the middle—able to use technology to heighten our self-awareness. A great example of this was last year’s us+, a supplement to Google Hangouts that “analyzes speech and facial expression to improve conversation.” Like Crowdpilot, it covertly monitors a conversation, but will give you onscreen prompts to be more positive, to listen more, or it will mute you if you’ve been talking too much.

See also: Apple: Your Right To Receive Texts Is A “Subjective Belief

By way of contrast, Google thinks a great supplement to Hangouts is letting you toss virtual hats or mustaches on yourself. It’s doofy, and in the spirit of fun, but again glosses over the question McCarthy zeroes in on. Yes, it’s okay to have fun online and fire off iOS 8 poetry to our friends—but obviously on a long enough timeline these types of interactions serve to further isolate us, not make our bonds tighter.

Take, for example, her Facebook Mood Manipulator from earlier this year, an obvious nod to the platform’s “secret” mood-manipulation experiment. Rather than let the social-media giant decide how you should feel, this browser extension lets you “manipulate your emotions.” Want to only see positive things in your feed? No problem. But, it obviously comes at a hidden cost: “If you can use an algorithm to make you feel better on a rough day, is there any reason [ever] not to? What if this comes at the price of filtering out your friends when they’re calling out for help?”

But that, in turn raises another set of questions: Can technology actually make us better humans? If so, are we actually becoming better humans, or something else altogether?

“That is one of the main questions I’m always thinking about,” McCarthy says. “I don’t really believe a particular technology is ever going to make us ‘better’ or ‘more human’ on its own though, we have to do that part. But maybe there is a possibility of using or arranging the tools in some unexpected way to trigger moments of awareness, to temporarily knock us out of our comfort zone into a space where we may find deeper understanding and connection.”

Header illustration by Jordan RosenbergEmoticon Love Pattern via Flickr1968 Vintage Home/Bathroom Remodeling… via FlickrWhy I Decided to Become a Cyborg via Flickr

More From Kill Screen

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Mark Zuckerberg’s Mythic T-Shirt And Fake Silicon Valley Do-Goodery

Mark Zuckerberg wears a version of the same gruel-toned T-shirt every day not because media handlers suggested he rock a signature look in the manner of visionary icons Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Nor does the Zuck don apparel of a color that exists only in dystopian tales (sort of a 1984-gray) simply because he’s a really busy guy who can’t be bothered. According to Zuckerberg, in his first public Q&A conducted in English, the lack of diversity in his personal wardrobe is because he cares.  

See also: Thanks Mark Zuckerberg! Now China Knows We’re Stupid

“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve the community,” Zuckerberg told the audience during Thursday’s town hall on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park. “I’m in this really lucky position where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than 1 billion people, and I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things.” Things like the color spectrum, clearly.

Is Zuckerberg ingesting nothing but soylent, too? Think of time saved! Does the Zuckerberg uniform include astronaut diapers, so he can “go” on the go? And by serving “the community” does Zuckerberg mean “capitalism”?

The Truth Is Out There

Truth in Silicon Valley, like Einstein’s Spacetime theory, is relative.

Running a multi-billion dollar for-profit corporation with a dodgy history of hiring practices, privacy rights, and “customer service” is neither a priestly calling nor noble endeavor. Mother Theresa, Zuckerberg ain’t. Doctors Without Borders serves humanity. Teachers and firefighters serve humanity. Building shareholder value when you are yourself the biggest shareholder is a somewhat less selfless undertaking. 

Nonetheless, do-goodery—the marketing tool du-jour in Silicon Valley—saturates every aspect of Zuckerberg’s media-honed public persona. The reason is obvious. Public acts of charity are more than a sweet tax-write off if you’re a billionaire CEOs who can easily afford to flip a few couch cushions in the name of, say, eradicating Ebola.

See also: Facebook Wants You To Help Eradicate Ebola

It shows your “community”—who may feel burned by your company more than a few times—that you care. It also plays great with shareholders, at least one of whom recently expressed concern that despite the social network’s public support of the gay and transgender community, its political action committee “has donated 41% of contributions since its inception to politicians voting against LGBT rights.”

Trust No One

That shareholder’s concern that Facebook’s fiduciary hypocrisy could cause it to fall from public favor is documented in Facebook’s April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That same filing includes a note about how 30% of the PAC’s contributions have gone to “politicians voting to deregulate greenhouse gases,” the filing states, “despite Facebook’s public support for the environment.”

Zuckerberg, one of the richest men on the planet trying to pass himself off as a do-gooder, is one of the most spectacular cases of personality overreach ever.  That doesn’t mean you should quit Facebook. But just because you use Zuckerberg’s product doesn’t mean you have to drink his Kool-Aid.

Screengrab by Facebook

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Mark Zuckerberg’s T-shirt And The Myth Of Silicon Valley Do-Goodery

Mark Zuckerberg wears a version of the same gruel-toned T-shirt every day not because media handlers suggested he rock a signature look in the manner of visionary icons Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Nor does the Zuck don apparel of a color that exists only in dystopian tales (sort of a “1984-gray”) simply because he’s a really busy guy who can’t be bothered. According to Zuckerberg, in his first public Q&A conducted in English, the lack of diversity in his personal wardrobe is because he cares.  

“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve the community,” Zuckerberg told the audience during Thursday’s town hall on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park. “I’m in this really lucky position where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than 1 billion people, and I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things.” Things like the color spectrum, clearly. 

See also: Thanks Mark Zuckerberg! Now China Knows We’re Stupid

Is Zuckerberg ingesting nothing but soylent, too? Think of time saved! Does the Zuckerberg uniform include astronaut diapers, so he can “go” on the go? And by serving “the community” does Zuckerberg mean “capitalism”?

Truth in Silicon Valley, like Einstein’s Spacetime theory, is relative. 

Running a multi-billion dollar for-profit corporation with a dodgy history of hiring practices, privacy rights, and “customer service” is neither a priestly calling nor noble endeavor. Mother Theresa, Zuckerberg ain’t. Doctors Without Borders serves humanity. Teachers and firefighters serve humanity. Building shareholder value when you are yourself the biggest shareholder is a somewhat less selfless undertaking. 

Nonetheless, do-goodery—the marketing tool du-jour in Silicon Valley—saturates every aspect of Zuckerberg’s media-honed public persona. The reason is obvious. Public acts of charity are more than a sweet tax-write off if you’re a billionaire CEOs who can easily afford to flip a few couch cushions in the name of, say, eradicating Ebola.

It shows your “community”—who may feel like your company has burned them more than a few times—that you care. It also plays great with shareholders, at least one of whom recently expressed concern that despite the social network’s public support of the gay and transgender community, its political action committee  “has donated 41% of contributions since its inception to politicians voting against LGBT rights.” 

See also: Facebook Wants You To Help Eradicate Ebola

That shareholder’s concern that Facebook’s fiduciary hypocrisy could cause it to fall from public favor is documented in Facebook’s April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That same filing includes a note about how 30% of the PAC’s contributions have gone to “politicians voting to deregulate greenhouse gases,” the filing states, “despite Facebook’s public support for the environment.”

Zuckerberg, one of the richest men on the planet trying to pass himself off as a do-gooder, is one of the most spectacular cases of personality overreach ever.  That doesn’t mean you should quit Facebook. But just because you use Zuckerberg’s product doesn’t mean you have to drink the Kool-Aid. 

Screengrab by Facebook. 

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Not All Hot Silicon Valley Live Up To Their “Change The World” Billing—And We Have Data

There has never been a better time to be an engineer, with companies feverishly competing to recruit the best and brightest. But while some engineers may be motivated to work for the highest bidder, most are driven by something more intangible, according to VisionMobile survey data: They want to change the world.

Each year LinkedIn measures the most in-demand Silicon Valley startups, a window into the employers that engineers think can do more than help them pay their mortgage. But does the expectation match up with reality? Glassdoor data may have the answer.

Who’s Hot With The Engineering Crowd?

How does LinkedIn measure the most in-demand startups? According to its blog, LinkedIn “compiled the list by analyzing millions of interactions between Bay Area startups with less than 500 employees and the more than 337,000 Bay Area software engineers and IT professionals on LinkedIn.” It’s not a perfect measure of the hottest startups to work for, but it’s certainly a helpful indicator.

In 2014, LinkedIn determined that the most in-demand startups for engineers are:

  1. Lytro (“The first high-end camera that lets you capture and harness the power of light field”)
  2. Theranos (“Working to shape the future of lab testing”)
  3. Fitbit (“Design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so you can achieve your health and fitness goals, whatever they may be”)
  4. Coursera (“An education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free”)
  5. Minted (“The world’s premier marketplace for independent design”)
  6. Wealthfront (“The world’s largest & fastest-growing automated investment service with over $1 billion in client assets”)
  7. Bromium (“Redefines endpoint security with a new approach focused on isolation rather than detection”)
  8. Twilio (“Lets you use standard web languages to build voice, VoIP and SMS applications via a web API”)
  9. Egnyte (“Provides Enterprise File Sharing built from the Cloud down”)
  10. Leap Motion (“Senses how you naturally move your hands and lets you use your computer in a whole new way.”)

Remembering Cloudera co-founder Jeff Hammerbacher’s lament that “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” it’s telling that these in-demand startups tend to be working on important problems, even if they’re not searching for the cure to cancer. 

If LinkedIn’s past lists are any indication, the most in-demand startups tend to do well financially, too. Looking at 2013’s crop of the top-10 in-demand startups, six are now worth between $1 billion and $10 billion (Cloudera, Hortonworks, Dropbox, Jawbone, Nutanix and Pinterest), while three went public (Violin Memory, Nimble Storage and GoPro). The tenth? Big Switch Networks, which appears to be doing quite well even without either distinction.

And, After The Honeymoon

So that’s the promise of working for a hot startup. How does it match up with reality? 

Just as I did for the top big data startups, it turns out that Glassdoor review data can reveal a lot about the realities of working at a hip company. 

See also: What It’s Like Working At A Red-Hot Big Data Startup

Digging through Glassdoor data, it’s clear that…a job is a job. While engineers definitely remain enamored with the missions of their companies, the day-to-day grind of working with jerks or incompetent fools takes its toll on their happiness. 

The good news, however, is that these in-demand startups mostly get things right. A rating of 4 or more on the Glassdoor scale suggests the company is an ideal employer. Half of these 10 companies meet that criteria.

That said, the ratings aren’t specific to engineering talent. Also, it’s hard to separate out exactly who is an engineer and who isn’t, as most reviewers prefer to remain anonymous. But with a little sleuthing here’s a reasonably accurate view of how engineers feel about these top-10 startups.

  1. Lytro (3.9 of 5)—Some technical staff praise the company because they get to “work on technology that will absolutely change the camera industry someday,” while others struggle with “middle management [that] is ineffective, or worse, jerks” and “micromanagement [that] is on the rise.” 
  2. Theranos (4.1 of 5)—Most of the engineering employees sound like this reviewer, who says that “I have been a scientist for 20 years and never felt that my works actually matters until I started working here.” Others say that “co-workers are great, but here only because they need their job” and complain that “Often times you will work over 40 hours a week.” Imagine that.
  3. Fitbit (3.9 of 5)—Sixty-nine percent of employees would recommend Fitbit to a friend, with some lauding “how passionate everyone is” about the company’s mission. Others, however, say “management only cares about the engineers.” This isn’t a bad thing if you’re an engineer, of course, and the engineering reviews tend to be quite positive. 
  4. Coursera (4.4 of 5)—A whopping 85% of Coursera employees want their friends to work with them, and it’s a bit of an engineering playground because of its “pretty unique Scala+Play stack, which is a pleasure to work on and [there are] plenty of interesting high growth projects in the pipeline.” While some loathe the dual-CEO structure, most seem pretty happy with the company and its future.
  5. Minted (3.2 of 5)—LinkedIn may rate Minted as hot, but its employees sure don’t. A mere 53% of employees would recommend it to a friend. Part of the problem may be that “Certain parts of the legacy codebase are brittle and need to be refactored” with the company disinclined to “paus[e] new feature work to reduce technical debt.” That, however, isn’t enough to explain the “insanely high turnover rate.”
  6. Wealthfront (4.5 of 5)—Only two reviews, so it’s hard to give the data much credence to the glowing reviews of the “amazing engineering culture” where “everyone is brilliant.” Still, those two people really seem to like it.
  7. Bromium (3.8 of 5)—Though 75% approve of the company, only 67% like the CEO. One product manager “feel[s] like I am in the process of birthing a new giant technology company,” yet also says “If you are at the stage in your life when you are prepared to work very hard and move up, this place may not be for you.” That sounds … promising?
  8. Twilio (4.2 of 5)—Some suggest that the “talent at every corner of this company is staggering,” while another engineer wonders why “A lot of focus is around what new features people are working on with very little thought around fixing existing infrastructure beyond the hyperbole people hear in group meetings.” Overall, engineering employees seem happy.
  9. Egnyte (3.6 of 5)—Only 76% of employees would recommend Egnyte to a friend. Some engineers suggest that Egnyte has a “strong mentor system in place to help new hires get up to speed,” but others bemoan a “[t]oxic culture that starts at the top and is pushed down.”
  10. Leap Motion (4.5 of 5)—Only two employees have bothered to write a review, but at least one of them has imbibed the Kool-Aid, gushing that “Everyone there is clearly passionate about the core mission,” concluding that “This is a rare opportunity to actually change the world.”

Most of these companies are not only hot with recruiters but also hot with employees, as the reviews show. But it still pays to do your homework before jumping into one of these startups, no matter how hot LinkedIn data suggests they are.

Lead photo by Cory Doctorow

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Has Silicon Valley Reached Peak Hoodie?

I hear a man strolling by the Original Stitch pop-up stand on San Francisco’s 4th and Townsend nonchalantly say, “That’s a nice shirt.”

The Original Stitch pop-up stand.

He’s eyeing two button-ups neatly folded on a table, next to a giant Goodwill donation bin. The pop-up stand is part of last week’s #DitchTheHoodie event by Original Stitch, the startup where people can design and order their own custom dress shirts. The startup’s goal for the day? To have the good people of San Francisco donate their hoodies to Goodwill in exchange for a free button-up shirt.

The startup asks people to #DitchTheHoodie.

The “button-ups for techies” idea is not entirely novel. A whole slew of startups are attempting to monetize the stereotype of Silicon Valley’s fashion-challenged males. The latest buzz around men’s fashion in San Francisco’s tech set is Black V Club, a startup that sells only black v-necks for the entrepreneur who is too busy to be bothered to pick out an outfit each day. Throw on a black v-neck, and you’re good to go.

See also: What Banana Republic’s “The Startup Guy” Collection Gets All Wrong

A button-up in exchange for a hoodie donated to Goodwill. 

An image driven by mainstream media like The Social Network movie and HBO’s Silicon Valley, and reinforced by real-life San Francisco techies, the hoodie has come to represent tech culture’s sartorial weapon of choice for the lazy coding nerd.

People gladly rid of their hoodies. 

Not to be bothered with fleeting trends and style choices, the stereotypical programmer pulls on a company tee and hoodie in the morning and scooters into work.

See also: Does Silicon Valley Look Like Silicon Valley?

A ceremonious recycling of hoodies. 

Many agree that fashion in tech could step up a notch. While the hoodie in its physical form—perfect in its light fabric and soft versatility—will never go away, the hoodie as metaphor and everything it has come to represent in Silicon Valley, is being thrown away.

I inquired those who were donating hoodies about their thoughts of other San Francisco hoodie-wearing brethren.

Richard Sim and Matt Sim discuss button-ups. 

Brothers Richard Sim and Matt Sim agree that Silicon Valley needs to get some style. They see fashion startups gaining traction. 

Matt, a customer operations specialist at Google, tells me about a friend who is renting out suits on a monthly basis. “There’s a large market for fashion in Silicon Valley,” he says.

Richard and Matt Sim with the hoodies they’re about to donate.

I ask Richard, a technical sourcer at Duran HCP, what the fashion landscape looks like in Silicon Valley. 

“Or lack thereof,” Richard replies. “You can tell who is in marketing and who is in engineering—you could point it out if you see them walking on the street. A lot of engineers look like college students who have just rolled out of bed; they wear whatever their companies give them. Let me just say this—if it’s fitted, then they’re probably not an engineer.”

Alan Fineberg in his own engineering attire. 

Alan Fineberg, an iOS engineer at Square, is actually an engineer with some fitted clothing. Surprisingly, he tells me he doesn’t think too much about his style choices, but that everyone at his company is just constantly on point in terms of fashion. 

Alan attests that good fashion is usual for working at Square. 

“People at Square are very well dressed,” says Alan, “I have even been asked if Square has a dress code. Everyone is just really design conscious and that comes out in their aesthetic and style choices.”

Liam Hausmann flashes his teal hoodie. 

“Fashion in Silicon Valley is pretty terrible,” Liam Hausmann tells me. An associate at PR firm Bateman group, Liam believes that the tech fashion sense is being glorified by certain individuals—the Zuckerbergs of the world. 

Liam thinks Silicon Valley style could use a little spice. 

“Everyone is playing into this certain aesthetic, but it’s based on something less than awesome,” says Liam, “There’s a hive mind in men’s tech fashion. There are expectations that people should be dressing a certain way. People can definitely spice their wardrobes up—its easy to dress nice.” 

Jason Park models an Original Stitch shirt. 

Jason Park, working the Original Stitch stand, believes that with tech companies and startups expanding and going global, sooner or later people will have to start dressing better. 

“Traditionally speaking, engineers don’t dress very well and we are in a city full of engineers,” says Jason, “Tech is so much a part of our society that it’s not a niche space anymore. Engineers have to talk to more people, they have more meetings, they work with more businesses. You have to learn how to dress up and stand out. But it’s not just a necessity, it’s cool to feel good.”

Images by Stephanie Chan 

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HBO’s “Silicon Valley” Is Getting More Women

The actors and creators behind the hit HBO show Silicon Valley took to Twitter Wednesday to answer questions from fans with the hashtag #AskSiliconValley. The hit show parodies the technology industry from its perch in Hollywood, but it’s beloved by techies and critics alike. 

The second season begins airing in April 2015—which seems like a long time to wait in an era of binge-watching. Until then, we’ll have to make do with the tidbits of information the cast and crew shared on Twitter. One key point: The show’s gender balance is changing for the better.

How Silicon Valley Is Really Like “Silicon Valley”

The show follows a startup named Pied Piper through its battle with Hooli, a Google-like giant. It’s a David vs. Goliath battle of algorithms, and, although humorous, the show features a number of aspects of the tech industry that are all too real—including the fashion, the absurd aspects of startup marketing, and an obsession with jokes about male genitalia

The #AskSiliconValley Twitter chat was in part a marketing ploy by HBO to get fans to purchase the first season on Apple’s iTunes, but creator Mike Judge and actors Thomas Middleditch and Kumail Nanjiani shed some light on behind-the-scenes aspects of filming and what to expect in Season Two.

Many viewers asked about the lack of women in the show, specifically in technical roles. This was a case of art mirroring life, as many big tech companies have revealed how skewed the gender ratios are in their workforces—but some hoped “Silicon Valley” could show a better vision for the industry.

So here is a bit of good news: According to Judge, two new female characters will be added to the cast. It’s unclear whether their roles will be technical. In the first season, women were mostly treated as disposable props or love interests for men—and every episode failed the Bechdel Test, a yardstick which measures movies and TV shows for meaningful female characters.

Bay Area locals have noted the show’s visual faithfulness to the real Silicon Valley, a bland realm of suburban houses and office parks. That’s because the show filmed many exterior shots in northern California.

Middleditch, the lead actor who plays awkward Pied Piper founder Richard on the show, dropped some hints about what people can expect from the upcoming season. One person suggested comedian John Hodgman should make an appearance as a relative of venture capitalist Peter Gregory. Middleditch hinted he might.

Maybe we’ll also see a glimpse of Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak. Perhaps not. Judge managed to give fans a tiny bit of hope while throwing some shade in Woz’s direction.

Nanjiani, the comedian who plays Dinesh, has some experience working as a programmer. He received a degree in computer science, and says his role on Silicon Valley playing a startup programmer is much more exciting than being an actual programmer.

If you were disappointed that the first season of Silicon Valley only lasted eight episodes, you might be excited for this: Season Two will run for 10 episodes.

Big Head, the friend of Richard who ditched Pied Piper in favor of a cushy gig at Internet giant Hooli, made a handful of cameos in the show after his startup departure. Fans of the deserter will be pleased to know that he will be back for season two.

During the season finale, the Pied Piper team developed a particular method of stimulating … well, let’s just say data to get their pitch to fly at TechCrunch Disrupt. So how long did it take the team to film that one scene?

If you haven’t seen the show yet, you have plenty of time to catch up before its April 2015 return. And we’ll be recapping every episode on ReadWrite.

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The Westboro Baptist Church’s Silicon Valley Protest: An Illustrated Guide

An ambitious plan by the Westboro Baptist Church to picket Silicon Valley’s biggest names may run into a problem that neither God nor technology can solve: traffic.

The Topeka, Kansas-based hate group, which made its way to infamy by picketing funerals of soldiers and sundry other dead folks of note with “God Hates ____” signs, is taking its “God Hates The Media” act to the San Francisco Bay Area on Tuesday, August 12. 

The church group’s schedule is more exhausting than your average tech IPO. The planned protests span almost 70 miles, with the hateful faithful aiming to hit nine tech companies between 11:35 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., allowing just two hours for travel time.

Yeah, good luck with that.

God Hates I-280

Recently ranked among worst commutes in the United States, Silicon Valley’s rush hour starts before dawn and never really ends. San Francisco drivers spent 56 hours in 2013 just sitting in traffic, according to research firm Inrix. And in San Jose, drives spent 35 hours they’ll never get back.

How the Westboro protesters plan to get from Facebook and Instagram in Menlo Park to Reddit’s office in San Francisco—hitting Google, Apple, Skype, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest in between—remains a mystery. 

ReadWrite repeatedly attempted to contact the Westboro Baptist Church, and were continually met with an endlessly ringing phone. We didn’t even get voicemail. Does God hate Google Voice, too?

Church Of The Poison Mind

The Westborovians have been making some concessions to Silicon Valley realities. They finally noticed—two years after Facebook splashed $1 billion on Instagram—that Instagram had moved out of its startup offices in San Francisco and into Facebook’s corporate headquarters. That and other changes have added 25 minutes of travel time to the original protest schedule.

What’s more, the updated travel time no longer seems to rely on the travel time suggested by Google Maps—which anyone in Silicon Valley knows is a wishful fantasy at best.

Perhaps the Westboro congregation put some seed money into a quantum teleportation startup using funds inherited from WBC founder Fred Phelps, who went to his just reward in March.

Or maybe the church is counting on using ridesharing services to surmount a Jericho’s Wall of Tesla-driving VCs and brogrammers in Google buses. Uber Pool isn’t out quite yet, but the new Lyft Line carpooling app is out just in time for them to get from Point A to Point B efficiently.

We do know that the Westboro Baptist Church sometimes uses the very same technology it condemns. Case in point: The Westboro Baptist Church is participating in an “ask me anything” interview on Reddit on August 10, just two days before the group marches on its San Francisco office. 

Navigating Silicon Valley is always tough, especially when you’ve just dropped in from out of town. To help the protesters get around, we’ve created this handy map of Silicon Valley. And in case traffic stymies them from getting around, they can at least see what they’ve missed.

Illustration by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite

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Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Are The New Rock Stars in Hollywood [Infographic] by @MDMSEO

Name one entrepreneur that wasn’t a fan of the hit TV series Entourage. You can’t. The show gave us all a peek into the crazy and wild ride they call Hollywood, and it quickly became a Sunday night ritual for many. When the wild ride ended, many were left wondering if any network would step up and fill the void left when Entourage ended. Well, HBO hit another home run with their new Silicon Valley show that depicts the startup life and follows a group as they bring their compression software to market. Are the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs the new […]

The post Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Are The New Rock Stars in Hollywood [Infographic] by @MDMSEO appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Silicon Valley Episode 7 Recap: “Proof Of Concept”

The seventh episode of Silicon Valley takes us to TechCrunch Disrupt, where we see the Pied Piper team finally hit the stage to demonstrate its highly-anticipated compression software. The real-life startup competition is the perfect arena for the Mike Judge-created comedy to expertly skewer the fledgling apps of today, with everything from micro-drones to human microwaving technology.

Gavin Belson and the Hooli crew preparing to unleash Nucleus.

Gavin Belson and the Hooli crew preparing to unleash Nucleus.

In “Proof of Concept,” everyone on the Pied Piper team is getting into trouble at the convention in their own little ways—Richard (Thomas Middleditch) feels slighted by an old ex, while Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) thinks he’s actually falling in love with Gilfoyle’s (Martin Starr) code, and Jared (Zach Woods) begins to feel his position being compromised by Monica (Amanda Crew). Erlich (T.J. Miller), meanwhile, has slept with the wife of one of the TCD judges and needs to prevent him from finding out.

The Aviato car heading into San Francisco.

The Aviato car heading into San Francisco.

The episode opens with Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) and company stomping the halls of Hooli. The two “brogrammers” from the beginning of the season—the ones who effectively stole Pied Piper’s compression algorithms—tell Gavin that their copycat app, Nucleus, is “optimal.”

Monica organizing the team at TechCrunch Disrupt.

Monica organizing the team at TechCrunch Disrupt.

We see Hooli’s meticulous digital chart, labeled “Project Burndown.” When we fade to Erlich’s incubator, Pied Piper’s own “Project Burndown” graph is scribbled messily on a white board—and the trend is going in the opposite direction. Despite the clear contrast between the two powers, both apps are set to debut at TechCrunch Disrupt.

Jared feels out of touch after his stint on Peter Gregory's island, and fears that Monica is taking over his position.

Jared feels out of touch after his stint on Peter Gregory's island, and fears that Monica is taking over his position.

Richard and the team pack their bags and head to the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA district in Erlich’s Aviato car. The convention center is bursting to the seams with groups of men in matching startup t-shirts. 

A booth babe "Bounce Jog" demo.

A booth babe "Bounce Jog" demo.

Jared’s back after being stuck on Peter Gregory’s island for four days, but the still-disheveled ex-Hooli member is quickly overshadowed by Monica’s organization and adeptness. She hands out passes to the Pied Piper team and instructs them during their soundcheck; Jared’s told to man the booth.

Thrown off by his driverless car kidnapping to the island, Jared increasingly loses his grip over the team. He prints an endless stack of papers with each TCD participant’s headshot and bio, only to find out that Monica installed a facial recognition app onto each of the guys’ phones. He sadly dumps his paper stack—at least half a tree—into the garbage.

Jared facing off with a micro-drone.

Jared facing off with a micro-drone.

Jared heads to the bar to buy drinks for the Pied Piper team, only to find that once again, Monica beats him to the punch with shots. At one point during soundcheck, the team decides that while Jared is not essential to the group. Dinesh says, “You’re essential to the booth.”

Perhaps designed to mirror the real world, Silicon Valley’s cast notably features just one female lead. “Proof of Concept” brings three more women into the spotlight, but they’re not entirely flattering portrayals.

Charlotte of Cupcakely asks the Pied Piper team for coding help.

Charlotte of Cupcakely asks the Pied Piper team for coding help.

At the beginning of the episode, Monica reminds the team there are 2% of women in tech, but 15% at TCD. She tells them not to be distracted—just as the team gets distracted by a blonde “booth babe” in hot pink athletic gear demonstrating a new product called “Bounce Jog.”

Booth babes are everywhere in this world’s TCD, even at the table adjacent to Pied Piper’s booth. But even women can’t attract anyone to Pied Piper’s barren booth, which is only visited by an ad-spewing micro-drone that Gilfoyle tries to swat away like a fly. Much like with the driverless car, we see Jared’s inability to deal with, and almost fear, such technology.

"You never should have said no to my man, Gavin Belson." Big Head ups his bro quotient in front of other Hooli employees.

"You never should have said no to my man, Gavin Belson." Big Head ups his bro quotient in front of other Hooli employees.

“Hello, what’s your name?” the drone squawks.

“Whoever is controlling this, no thank you,” Jared speaks into the drone.

The Pied Piper booth catches the attention of a young woman with pink streaks in her hair. She compliments Gilfoyle on the app’s “sick” compression rates, and then asks for help coding her app, “Cupcakely.”

The Cupcakely woman, Charlotte (A.J. Michalka), seeks out Dinesh separately for extra help on Java. Dinesh, mistakenly taking the app’s code for hers and not Gilfoyle’s, falls in love with Charlotte for “her brain.” It is only revealed later that not only was Cupcakely’s beautiful code written by Gilfoyle, but Charlotte only manages the app’s Twitter account.

Richard accidentally broadcasts Sherry's photo to the world, proving just how not obsessed he is.

Richard accidentally broadcasts Sherry's photo to the world, proving just how not obsessed he is.

Ex-Pied Piper member Big Head shows up at TCD with the Hooli crew, but separates himself for a second to have a chat outside with Richard. There, Big Head tells Richard that he met Sherry Caldwell (Mary Holland), Richard’s ex-fling, at a party.

TechCrunch Disrupt judge Dan Melcher eyeing Elrich.

TechCrunch Disrupt judge Dan Melcher eyeing Elrich.

“I saw her at the ValleyWag party last night, which was crazy by the way,” says Big Head. “There must have been 12 girls there. She said you went out a couple times and she dumped you and you became obsessed with her?”

Suddenly noticing the two Hooli brogrammers coming their way, Big Head changes his tone and tells Richard loudly that “Wide Diaper” will be crushed by Nucleus.

Erlich meets and romances Dan's new wife.

Erlich meets and romances Dan's new wife.

Richard cannot stop—literally—obsessing over the fact that Charlotte said he was obsessive. He becomes so fixated on this that he ends up showing all of his team member’s her picture individually while expressing his own disbelief.

Unfortunately, Richard forgets to remove her image from his laptop before the team’s final soundcheck, and he ends up broadcasting her image on a giant screen in front of none other than Sherry herself.

"Making the world a better place".

"Making the world a better place".

Sherry is understandably disturbed by Richard’s “freak out,” only until she overhears a heated conversation between Jared and Monica. Jared is expressing his frustration at Monica for completely co-opting his role in the team, making him obsolete.

This, of course, comes off sounding to Sherry like Jared’s professed love for Richard and his commitment as a “partner” in their relationship. Believing Jared and Richard to be in a loving—gay—partnership, Sherry apologizes to Richard for mistakenly talking about his (very real) obsession with her.

"We are lo mo so".

"We are lo mo so".

Finally, Erlich’s plotline revolves around one of the TCD judges, Dan Melcher. Erlich is concerned about the biased nature of the judging, as he had slept with Dan’s wife in the past. In order to find out if Dan is still upset, Erlich seeks out Dan’s wife Madeline to clear the air.

Pied Piper anxiously steps onto the TCD stage.

Pied Piper anxiously steps onto the TCD stage.

Catching Dan leaving his hotel room, Erlich sneakily knocks on the door only to meet Dan’s new wife (Lynn Chen). Unsurprisingly, after discovering that Dan was no longer upset at Erlich’s affair with Madeline, Erlich then goes on to sleep with Dan’s new wife.

Unfazed by this romp and assured that Dan’s new wife won’t spill the beans, Erlich makes it to TCD just as Pied Piper is about to head on stage.

Erlich in his best turtleneck being bathed in TCD spotlight.

Erlich in his best turtleneck being bathed in TCD spotlight.

Silicon Valley’s TechCrunch Disrupt mercilessly jabs at startup culture, showcasing deer-in-the-headlights CEOs in team t-shirts plastered with names like “Flingual” and “Human Heater.” An overexcited emcee can’t get more than two people to cheer.

Each and every single competitor assures the audience that their app is “making the world a better place,” and that they are “local, mobile, social”—and the even better degenerate of that, “lo mo so.”

The Pied Piper team eventually makes it on stage in their dark green, Chuy Ramirez-crafted tees. Lights dim, music starts to swell, and spotlight is cast on Erlich in a turtleneck.

Only a few seconds into his presentation, Erlich is immediately blindsided by a furious Dan, who tackles him to the ground. Fist fighting erupts on stage, and the team is left stranded and wondering whether Pied Piper will ever make its debut.

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Silicon Valley Episode 6 Recap: “Third Party Insourcing”

HBO’s Silicon Valley returned this week with its sixth episode, continuing to peel back the layers of California’s tech bubble and proving everything in the valley isn’t as shiny as it may seem. “Third Party Insourcing” shows us that newer and younger may not always be better—Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and the Pied Piper team enable the help of a surly teen hacker and Jared is taken hostage by a driverless car.

The episode opens up with Richard back in his doctor’s office, telling his physician that while he had learned programming language Ruby On Rails over a weekend as a teenager, the Pied Piper lead was just unable to handle programming his product for the cloud. His doctor mentions that Richard looks as if he’s aged 40 years in the past seven weeks—the amount of time since preparing for his app’s debut at startup competition TechCrunch Disrupt.

Jared, Erlich, and Dinesh beg Richard to employ help in front of their packed Scrum board.

Jared, Erlich, and Dinesh beg Richard to employ help in front of their packed Scrum board.

With one week left until Disrupt, the team is clearly antsy to get Pied Piper up and polished. Back at the incubator, Jared (Zach Woods), Erlich (T.J. Miller), and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) beg Richard to hire a hacker to help with cloud architecture, using their packed Scrum board as evidence that they needed to get as many jobs from “Ice Box” to “Completed” as soon as possible. The team suggests “The Carver” (Austin Abrams), a hacker notorious for taking down Bank of America.

A chair angrily plunged into a "Making The World A Better Place" poster.

A chair angrily plunged into a "Making The World A Better Place" poster.

The Pied Piper team head to a building to enlist the help of “The Carver.” Upon arrival, the crew sees what used to be a startup’s headquarters being broken down—computer monitors being carried into boxes, desks being unassembled. It is a glaring example to the team of the frailty and turnover cycle of fresh startups.

Signs of a failed startup—empty coffee cups and energy drinks just strewn across the room.

Signs of a failed startup—empty coffee cups and energy drinks just strewn across the room.

Richard, Jared, Erlich, and Dinesh walk through the floors, wide-eyed and somber like civilians witnessing the aftermath of the apocalypse. There’s a chair puncturing the wall, right over a poster exclaiming “Making The World A Better Place”. Conference rooms are littered with empty coffee cups and energy drinks.

Kevin "The Carver" judging the Pied Piper team relentlessly.

Kevin "The Carver" judging the Pied Piper team relentlessly.

“6 months ago, these guys had 35 million in Series B financing. Now, The Carver’s here doing teardown,” Jared remarks.

The team sees The Carver turned around and huddled over three large monitors, pushing out code. When the prominent hacker faces the group, we and the Pied Piper team learn that he is Kevin, a bratty high schooler who immediately jumps into sarcastic quips about Richard’s age.

“I thought you’d be younger,” Kevin says, “What are you, 25?”

“26,” Richard replies.

“Yikes.”

Silicon Valley’s youthful tech bubble is not a new concept, with attractive 20 to 30-year-olds ruling the roost at startups and beyond. This episode plays on the very real trend of children being indoctrinated into code, and tech companies’ search for nubile programming talent.

Kevin’s age is apparent despite his experience in engineering, as Erlich uses a blowjob joke to negotiate a deal—$20,000 for two days aiding the Pied Piper team.

The men of Pied Piper: Richard in a button up and hoodie, Dinesh in a striped polo, Erlich in a red Atari t-shirt, and Jared in a button up underneath a sweater.

The men of Pied Piper: Richard in a button up and hoodie, Dinesh in a striped polo, Erlich in a red Atari t-shirt, and Jared in a button up underneath a sweater.

By this sixth episode, we see the characters solidify their distinct style of dress for their roles. Richard continues his channeling of Zuckerberg in button-ups, hoodies, and corduroys. Dinesh wears a striped green and purple hoodie, while Jared sticks to his blazers and button-ups under sweaters.

Erlich in his CSS3 shirt.

Erlich in his CSS3 shirt.

Erlich wears a bright red Atari shirt with a full beard for a portion of the episode, only to change into a CSS3 shirt for the remainder, capturing geek chic with his novelty t-shirts.

Kevin tries to help the Pied Piper team with their cloud architecture. He wears a colorfully striped hoodie, an open button up, and a t-shirt.

Kevin tries to help the Pied Piper team with their cloud architecture. He wears a colorfully striped hoodie, an open button up, and a t-shirt.

In juxtaposition, Kevin’s colorfully striped hoodies over open button ups and t-shirts evokes a more childlike aura. “The Carver” is already eliciting markers of the “programmer” look but with a teenage twist in bright colors and graphics. He is much like a mini version Richard, truly a kid coder.

Jared wears a dark grey blazer, light grey sweater, and a button up. Monica wears a dark turquoise sweater, grey skirt, and a simple gold necklace.

Jared wears a dark grey blazer, light grey sweater, and a button up. Monica wears a dark turquoise sweater, grey skirt, and a simple gold necklace.

Monica (Amanda Crew) returns briefly this episode to meet with Jared and offer him a ride back to Erlich’s home in Palo Alto. She is dressed in a dark turquoise sweater, light grey pencil skirt, and delicate gold accessories, once again demonstrating her power and business savvy as Peter Gregory’s assistant through her stylish and put-together outfits.

Monica helping out one of Peter Gregory's assistants while on the phone with Jared.

Monica helping out one of Peter Gregory's assistants while on the phone with Jared.

This episode fails the Bechdel test yet again, as no women are not seen talking to each other at all. Gilfoyle’s girlfriend Tara (Milana Vayntrub) interacts solely with the men at the Pied Piper house, and another nameless woman from Peter Gregory’s company is introduced by Monica as an assistant who made a mistake. Monica and the assistant never talk, mind you, as she is explaining the woman’s mistake to Jared on the phone.

Jared happily embarks on his journey in a driverless car.

Jared happily embarks on his journey in a driverless car.

When Jared suggests going back by Lyft, Monica insists that one of Peter Gregory’s cars take him back. Jared agrees, and is met by a black driverless car. Excited and chuckling, the new Pied Piper member is shuttled off to Palo Alto.

The driverless car makes an unexpected change in route to Peter Gregory's island, Arallon.

The driverless car makes an unexpected change in route to Peter Gregory's island, Arallon.

Unfortunately, the fun ride comes abruptly to a stop as the car arbitrary changes direction to Arallon—Peter Gregory’s high-tech island hidden far in the middle of an ocean—4,000 miles away. Unable to reroute the driverless car after multiple sad pleas, Jared is taken to a port and driven into a crate which is then immediately locked up.

Jared is taken hostage by the driverless car, which takes him into a crate and eventually onto a ship.

Jared is taken hostage by the driverless car, which takes him into a crate and eventually onto a ship.

The crate is picked up and delivered onto a giant cargo ship—Jared, in a car, in a crate, on a ship, is being sailed away to Peter Gregory’s island.

Richard begins working with Kevin on Pied Piper’s cloud architecture. Dealing with Kevin’s difficult attitude, Richard continues to reveal vulnerability and asks the hacker to help him with the app’s data replication. After heading to the store and returning with snacks, Richard finds Kevin under the table, sobbing and terrified, and learns that Kevin had mistakenly overwritten the data scheme.

Kevin admits that he never took down Bank of America on purpose, but rather made a coding mistake while working there as a consultant.

Kevin admits that he never took down Bank of America on purpose, but rather made a coding mistake while working there as a consultant.

“The Carver” explains that the same thing had happened at Bank of America, that he was actually not hacking them but working as a consultant and had made a colossal coding mistake. The bank had only agreed not to sue him if he agreed not to tell a soul he had worked there.

With one week left to Disrupt, and the team flies into a panic trying to fix Kevin’s mistake.

“Richard, why would you let that little fetus access the DDM?” Gilfoyle snarls. Richard responds, “Because I thought that fetus was better than me, and so did you.”

Caught up in Silicon Valley’s youth-obsessed culture, the Pied Piper team immediately thought that because the young hacker had rumors of greatness trailing him, that Kevin had to be a programming prodigy. What they learned was not only that was not true, but “The Carver” had a tendency to create massive mistakes in his inexperience.

Richard and Kevin decide to work through the night and examine every line of code to find where the mistake lay. Finally, the two are able to remedy the problem and Pied Piper is back on track to launch. In a final testament to tech’s youth culture—the immaturity mixed with power, money, and knowledge, Kevin says, “I’m going to call my mom and have her pick me up.”

“Mom?” Richard laughs.

“By the way, you owe me 20,000 dollars,” Kevin bluntly delivers.

Jared realizes that the fork lift he was flagging down is driverless.

Jared realizes that the fork lift he was flagging down is driverless.

Jared finally reaches Arallon by the end of the episode, popping out of the driverless car and crate looking disheveled and with days of unshaven facial hair. He immediately sees a forklift engulfed in boxes heading his way. Elated and desperate, Jared shouts and flags the forklift down, only to find it is (surprise!) a driverless machine.

Jared amongst the driverless machines at Peter Gregory's island.

Jared amongst the driverless machines at Peter Gregory's island.

The final moments of the episode show a beautifully composed and thematically rich shot of Jared facing a gigantic warehouse full of self-moving machines, not a human being in sight.

Jared realizes he is alone on Peter Gregory’s island, one man amidst a thousand active machines. As these instruments meticulously build the island with unparalleled skill and intelligence, even Jared cannot connect with them on a sentient and compassionate level in order to get help.

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