When conversation turns to teenagers and how they use technology, the narrative is usually focused on how teens are disconnected from the real world because of their reliance on smartphones and social media. danah boyd begins her new book, "It's Complicated: the social lives of networked teens," with an observation she made at a high school football game in Nashville: It was the parents, not their children, who were locked into their smart phones.
According to boyd, the ability to socialize on one's own terms is what determines when one is keyed into technology, not age or tech savviness.
At an event like a football game, adults are generally there because of their children. At home, however, is when parents seek to be social and have family time, while teenagers turn to technology to find their friends online.
"We see young people who are hurting, and they're making that just as visible as young people who are doing really well. We blame the technology for making all this visible, rather than saying 'Wow, I have a window into people's lives. Can I step back? Can I appreciate? Can I figure out how to intervene in a productive manner?'"
boyd says many social media networks are being used by teenagers in the same way that teens have used any platform to express themselves. The difference is the transparency of posting it online for everyone to see.
According to boyd, this is an opportunity to reach out in a way that wasn't available before.
Even with a large research university and seaside real estate, it's hard for Santa Cruz to compete with Silicon Valley's pull on engineers and entrepreneurs. Every morning, more than 20,000 people leave Santa Cruz county and commute to work in the Valley.
It's a rare morning when Allison Holmlund is home to help her husband get their kids ready for school. Packing a lunch for her son, James Dean, she explains the ins and outs of her commute. "If I leave before six," she says, "I can make it in about an hour. If I leave after six, it's at least an hour and a half."
Holmlund commutes 48 miles to Redwood City to work for a software startup called Host Analytics. "Having those, call it, three hours of my day, back, would be huge," she says. "But I'm not at the point where I would sacrifice a phenomenal opportunity at a hot startup, which is where I'm at today."
By phenomenal opportunity, she means equity — the chance to own a piece of a company that might pay off like Instagram or WhatsApp. She says Santa Cruz's tech industry can't match Silicon Valley's $700 billion industry, its salaries, or its intense workplace culture. Over the years, companies like Netflix and Seagate started in Santa Cruz, then migrated to Silicon Valley.
But the local tech ecosystem is growing.
Close to 100 people showed up to a recent weeknight tech meet-up downtown, sponsored by the Santa Cruz Office of Economic Development. "Five years ago, we really had to beg to get people here," says Doug Erickson, a regular on the Santa Cruz tech scene.
Afterwards, commuters fill out a survey designed to find out what it would take to make them stay in Santa Cruz. "What percentage of your current compensation would a Santa cruz opportunity have to come up with to get you to forgo your commute?" one question asks.
The man behind the survey is venture capitalist Bud Colligan. He's lived in Santa Cruz for 18 years, but he didn't always invest here. In December, Colligan started a group called the Central Coast Angels with 20 Silicon Valley veterans who live in Santa Cruz.
"It's people from Google, Symantec, Apple, Palm," Colligan says. "At our first meeting, we had a discussion, of, well, 'Should we also do angel investments over the hill?' And my response was, 'You know, there's a thousand angels over the hill. That's not somewhere where we're gonna have a dramatic impact.' Here, we could have a dramatic impact."
President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis on Thursday.
Clearly, there are issues the two men disagree on, like abortion rights and gay marriage. But there's one thing the Pope and the president both decry: the widening gap between rich and poor. According to the AP, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama will express his appreciation for the pope's leadership on issues such as inclusion and equality.
Both view poverty and income inequality as a crisis, though in slightly different ways.
For the pope, "it's not poverty, it's the gap itself that raises the moral question," says Steve Schneck, who directs the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. Schneck says on the other hand, President Obama is "concerned that this income gap in the United States is undermining America's ability to be competitive in the world."
Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images
President Barack Obama is welcomed as he disembarks from Air Force One at Fiumicino Airport on March 26, 2014. Obama is on a week-long trip during which he will meet with Pope Francis and and travel to Saudi Arabia.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Thursday is scheduled to hold his first major press event where he is expected announce a version of Microsoft Office for the Apple iPad. That's something Microsoft has resisted for a long time.
"We think [not developing Office for iPad] was a mistake," says Forrester Research’s Frank Gillet. He says Microsoft’s stubbornness has cost the company more than a billion dollars in revenue because the iPad is the most popular tablet on the market.
According to David Cearley, an analyst with Gartner Research, Office for iPad could signify something important about Microsoft’s future, a willingness to look beyond the company's "insular" environment.
Microsoft had worried that making Microsoft Office products available on iPad would undermine the company's own Surface tablet device.
That's because more than 90 percent of the limes we enjoy in this country are grown and sold in Mexico, and regional violence in that country has slowed the supply of the citrus. Add to that a mild drought, a disease that some forecast will jump to fields in California and across the United States, and you have lime producers worried.
The San Antonio Express-News reports local buyers are buying cases of limes for $100 each; prices usually range from $4 - $25 per case depending on the season. Consumers, especially those enjoying limes in restaurants and bars, may end up seeing the prices passed on to their checks.
To put these prices into a bit of context, in 2014, Mexico’s minimum wage was raised, slightly, to near $5 a day. Meaning, at that rate, it would take 20 days for someone earning the minimum wage in Mexico to afford a case of limes in Texas.
Initially, she ran from agents in her attempt to illegally enter the U.S. But after three days alone in the Arizona desert, Brenda lit a fire to get their attention. Her story is not uncommon.
Students are taking on record levels of debt to pay for college. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says it's a drag on the economy and is calling for changes to the federal student loan system.
King Digital Entertainment went public Wednesday, and the results were crushing — the stock sank. It may be a sign that investors are losing faith in the mobile gaming market.
Patrick Cannon had been in office less than six months. He resigned Wednesday, just hours after he was arrested and accused of taking more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says all planes that headed for the search area in the southern Indian Ocean earlier Thursday are now returning to Perth and ships are leaving too.
Ford assembly line manager Liu Chan stands in front of the final stage of assembly at Ford's sprawling assembly plant in the Southwestern city of Chongqing. Most of the nearly million vehicles Ford sold in China last year were made here. Workers interviewed by Marketplace say competition for jobs at the plant is so fierce that some aspiring workers pay bribes to Ford's local HR department to secure positions. Ford has launched an internal investigation as a result of the allegations.
At the end of Ford’s assembly line in Chongqing, Plant Manager Greg Brown is counting cars. “If we stand here an hour, we should count 63 cars going by here,” Brown says, peering at a digital sign above us displaying the number of cars that have come off the line already today. “We’re scheduled to build 1,281 vehicles today.”
Ford sold its first passenger car in China in 2003. Last year, it sold close to a million.
Most of them are assembled here in the Southwestern Chinese metropolis of Chongqing, Ford’s largest manufacturing hub outside Michigan. It’s a joint venture with Chinese automaker Chang’an. “In Chongqing, we’re in a fantastic spot, because the growing auto market is out here in the middle and in the West,” says Scott Chang, spokesman for Ford. “So being in Chongqing gives us a great advantage.”
Another advantage is a near endless supply of cheap labor. The Chongqing region is home to low wages, and tens of millions of farmers eager to make more money at a factory close to home. The twenty-first century autoworker is someone like Liu Chan. He's a short, thin assembly line manager wearing a navy blue work suit emblazoned with the joint venture’s official name Chang’an Ford. “I work at the final stage of the assembly line, making adjustments to vehicles coming off the line,” says Liu inside the plant’s break room.
Liu says he works eight hours a day, with few chances for overtime. He has two kids, he owns a Ford Focus, and his wife works here, too. Ford has handpicked Liu to speak with me, and managers won’t let him discuss salary, overtime rates, no numbers.
“But this is Marketplace,” I say to his managers, “we do the numbers.”
Nope, says Ford – those numbers are secret.
So after my day at Ford is through, I return to the factory gates without the looming presence of Ford management, where other workers help me do the numbers.
“My base salary is higher than average - a little over 1,800 yuan a month,” says a worker named Xu.
His salary is equal to $1.80 an hour. Xu works on the assembly line at the plant. He shows me his Ford ID badge, but he asks that his full name not be used. Xu says with overtime and bonuses, he makes around $10,000 (U.S.) a year – enough to buy a modest apartment nearby for his wife, child and his wife’s parents.
He says he feels lucky to have this job. “The workload is very demanding, hours are long, and it’s very tiring,” says Xu, “But my salary is very high compared to work at any other factory around here.”
Xu says getting a job at Ford is so competitive that some people resort to bribing employees in Ford’s HR department just to secure a position at the plant. “It’s pretty common for the most coveted jobs at the company like the quality control department,” says Xu. “They usually have to pay between 3,000 to 5,000 yuan," which works out to be $500-900. “If you’re a woman, it’ll cost you more than double that.”
Xu says that’s because women are generally looking for less labor-intensive but highly coveted administrative roles. Xu says paying for positions at Ford was common a few years ago, but lately it’s less so because of the increasing amount of overtime required to keep up with demand. “I know one person who paid 5,000 yuan to get a job here,” says Xu, “But then he was assigned to work in the welding workshop – a really tough job. He wanted to quit, but he had to stick around to earn back the bribe he had paid.”
Xu says Ford management has made it clear to employees that bribery is illegal and if they knew about this, they’d put a stop to it. But Xu says this would be challenging for the foreign automaker. “There’s a Chinese saying: There are rules that come from above and there are solutions down here on the ground,” Xu says with a laugh.
Ford may not be alone: Marketplace discovered online posts in China by middlemen and job seekers indicating coveted jobs were for sale inside other foreign automakers like Volkswagen and General Motors. Another Ford worker, named Wang – who also didn’t want to give his full name – says he too knows people at Ford who paid bribes for their jobs. He says the problem doesn’t emanate from Ford, but from China. “You might not do this sort of thing in the US, but here in China, bribing someone to get something you want is completely normal and inevitable,” says Wang with a shrug.
Not all the Ford workers Marketplace spoke to in Chongqing talked about others who had paid for positions at the plant. Several assembly line workers said they had never heard of such a thing.
In a written statement to Marketplace, Ford said: “We take these allegations very seriously and have initiated an investigation. Any behavior that violates our policies, such as the alleged behavior, would result in immediate dismissal.”
James McGregor, head of the China region for APCO Worldwide and author of “One Billion Customers: Lessons from the front lines of doing business in China,” says it usually takes foreign companies years to get used to the scale of corruption in China. “Everything you do, every transaction, every deal, every move, every permit, there’s just so many interfaces with the government,” says McGregor.
And at every step, he says, somebody’s taking money. “So when you get into the private companies, that culture that will infect it.”
McGregor’s advice for foreign companies who find this sort of corruption inside their China operation? Don’t be soft.
“You should fire people and you should do it very publicly, and you should turn them over to police authorities,” says McGregor. “Unfortunately what happens in foreign companies a lot is they’ll investigate corruption, and then they’ll quietly pay the people off to go away and inflict some other company because they don’t want the embarrassment.”
Another challenge for companies like Ford is they’re required by Chinese law to partner with a Chinese company. Ford’s Chongqing plant is a 50/50 joint venture with Chang’an, one of China’s big four automakers. Often, Chinese partners bring their own corporate culture to the mix – which can include practices like taking bribes.
Ford employee Xu says many of his colleagues at Chongqing’s Ford plant came from one of the plants owned by the Chinese partner – he says the benefits and pay at Ford are much better. And Xu says lucky for him, he didn’t have to pay to get a job he liked.
Marketplace for Friday April 4, 2014 Rob Schmitz/Marketplace
Ford passenger cars roll off the assembly line at the company's plant in Chongqing, Ford's largest plant outside Michigan. More than one car a minute is made at this plant.Rob Schmitz/Marketplace
A poster created by a Ford employee to decorate the plant's breakroom compares a "negative tree" with a "positive tree." Under the positive tree, a list includes "being honest," and "not looking for excuses," as desirable attributes of Ford employees.Rob Schmitz/Marketplace
A worker on Ford's assembly line at the company's Chongqing plant.Rob Schmitz/Marketplace
Workers help line up the vehicle's chassis with the frame of hte car at Ford's Chongqing plant.by Rob SchmitzPodcast Title: Ford's China conundrum: Big profits, bribery allegationsStory Type: FeatureSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No
Even without proof of physical force, people convicted of minor domestic violence offenses can be barred from possessing a gun, the justices ruled Wednesday.
If a politician from Iowa is going to commit a gaffe, it's probably best if it doesn't involve farmers. And in Kentucky, stay away from college basketball-related blunders.
The Christian charity said the change in policy was consistent with its stance on other controversial issues that Christian churches disagree on. But, today, World Vision said it had made a mistake.
What does the word “lobbying” connote? Maybe a smoke-filled room somewhere, or multi-course meals, charged to an expense account. Well, “government affairs professionals,” as they like to call themselves, say the job has changed.
“I think there is less golf and there are fewer martinis than ever before,” says Dan Bryant, chair of the public policy and government affairs practice group at Covington & Burling.
Still, I persist, arranging to meet Rich Gold, a partner with the firm Holland & Knight, at the Round Robin & Scotch Bar in the Willard Hotel.
According to lore, the term “lobbying” was coined there. Back in the 1870s, Gold’s professional forebears plied President Ulysses S. Grant with cigars and booze. So, as a waiter approaches, I wonder if Gold is going to pick vodka or gin.
“I guess in some ways I am kind of the breakthrough generation,” he says. “I have never had a martini at lunch.”
And the day we met is no exception.
Gold has been lobbying for two decades, and he says the culture has changed.
“There is no walking into a back room anymore, and saying, ‘I need this,’ tapping the table, and getting it done,” Gold explains. The economic downturn also affected lobbying.
“The recession came late to Washington, and the end of 2010, 2011, 2012 were relatively lean years,” he says. “And we’re seeing that in D.C., with some brand-name firms really struggling now.”
Gerry Sikorski is one of Gold’s colleagues. He heads the government section at Holland & Knight. For a decade, he represented Minnesotans in the House of Representatives. We meet in a cafeteria on Capitol Hill – where martinis aren’t on the menu, by the way.
"Lawmaking specialists are less valuable than they once were,” he says.
Sikorski says the federal government is still operating. It is still buying things, regulating industries, and collecting taxes.
“What’s changed is the overarching law making,” Sikorski explains. “Policymaking pieces of it aren’t happening.”
Sikorski says a lobbyist can’t fundamentally reinvent himself, but he can adjust, and many lobbyists have had to. Increasingly, what firms want in a lobbyist is expertise in a particular subject matter.
According to W. Michael House, the director of Hogan Lovells’ legislative group, there are fewer lobbyists than there used to be.
Lawmakers are spending more time away from Washington. Last year, there were just 159 legislative days, when the House of Representatives was in session. And Congress isn’t passing many bills. In 2013, just 87 became law. So, a lobbyist like House adjusts.
“We always say Washington goes legislation, regulation, litigation, legislation,” he tells me, noting we are in the regulation stage right now.
Federal agencies are working on financial reform rule writing and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and even though the legislative process is moving slowly, it is moving. There are people interested in tax reform, for example. According to House, “that’ll be a two-to-four, maybe six-year process when it’s all said and done, but the smart people get in early.”
More firms are taking what they call a “multidisciplinary approach” to lobbying. Lobbyists work hand in hand with lawyers, and some firms hire strategic communications consultants.
Back on Capitol Hill, I meet Bryant in the Hart Senate Office Building. The relatively light legislative load doesn’t seem to faze him.
“The need to be explaining your business more, more clearly, and in a more compelling way, has never been more important both in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Bryant says, noting public policy has become “more global.”
Covington & Burling has grown its business overseas. It expanded its office in Brussels, to lobby European governments, and because many companies based in foreign countries want to lobby the U.S.
“I think as long as governments and government officials are making decisions that affect the public and that affect the business community, there will be lobbying,” he says. Although what that involves will continue to change.
The organization of certain brain cells in children with autism seems already different from that of typical children by the sixth or seventh month of fetal development, a study hints.
Facebook is buying Oculus VR for $2 billion. A Virtual Reality company. Really?
Yes. Not because Facebook thinks people are thirsting to experience their status updates in a more ‘realistic way’, but because it thinks Virtual Reality is going to be the next big thing.
“They’re really trying to become a holding company if you will,” explains David Rogers at Columbia’s School of Business. “They want to own a key stake in all the major platforms for social connection.”
That’s “all fine well and good,” says David Nelson, chief strategist at Belpointe Asset Management. Fine, if Facebook wants to treat its acquisitions like a venture capitalist. But Nelson – like the many investors who sold shares of Facebook on the news – wanted Facebook to give him hard numbers: future earnings, monetization, anything with a $ sign at the end of it.
“They’re not able to do that. They’re just saying trust us this is going to be amazing,” he says. “And we’re looking five six seven even ten years out for the return, I think that’s too far. At least for me. I sold my stock after the what’s app deal.
This not uncommon reaction may involve a difference in culture between Silicon Valley and Wall Street as far as innovation is concerned. Victor Hwang, CEO of T2VentureCreations, a Silicon Valley Venture firm puts it this way: “On Wall Street, the biggest fear is missing the numbers, not making earnings. In Silicon Valley, in the startup world, the biggest fear is obsolescence. Because obsolence is the equivalent of death.”
He says looking only at a future earnings stream misses the fact that in an environment where industries are routinely disrupted and transformed, the foundations of earnings streams are vulnerable. There are existential costs to not innovating – something that can happen to any company, no matter how dazzling it appears at the moment.
“It wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft was the cool company, and now people think of it as a dinosaur,” says Hwang. Even Google is losing its sheen, he says. “I think Mark Zuckerberg asks himself every morning: how do we not become a dinosaur?”
All of that said, an investment of two billion dollars is no small gamble. Unfortunately, hindsight is the only way to see if it pays off. As Hwang put it, Facebook’s gamble with Oculus is “either extremely visionary or extremely foolhardy, and that’s the thing about innovation – you won’t know until later.”
Facebook's VC shopping list
by Tobin Low
With a host of high profile acquisitions in recent years, Facebook has become that friend who has to own the coolest, most expensive thing before anyone else. With multibillion dollar purchases of Instagram, WhatsApp, and now Oculus VR, the social media giant has been putting its money towards buying the newest "it" thing. That doesn't mean they purchase only sure-bets, though. Facebook has acquired a lot of companies over the years, some of which offer very similar services and use very similar technologies to the big name companies already in their shopping cart. Always a bridesmaid, sighed MySpace.
Here are a few other companies that Facebook has purchased over the years.
Beluga - Group Messaging
Long before the purchase of WhatsApp made your jaw drop with its $19 billion price tag, Facebook acquired Beluga - another mobile messaging service - in May of 2011. Unlike previous acquisitions where they essentially bought the talent but not necessarily the technology, Facebook stated that they wanted to make use of Beluga's product in addition to adding its designers to their team. Later that year, Beluga was shut down after its design was integrated into Facebook Messenger.
Lightbox - Photo Sharing App
Even after its $1 billion purchase of Instagram, Facebook purchased another mobile photo-sharing service called Lightbox. The app allowed android users to filter photographs and then share them to social media. Sound familiar? Though the Lightbox team and Facebook alike made it clear that the aquisition was more about working on engaging Facebook mobile users as opposed to maintaining Lightbox as a separate entity. The app was shut down shortly after the acquisition.
American Farm Bureau Federation - FB.com
This one's a little strange. Back in February of 2011, Facebook purchased the "FB.com" domain name from the American Farm Bureau Federation so that internal emails could be anchored to Facebook.com. What wasn't made immediately clear was that the purchase price was $8.5 million dollars. That little fun fact was revealed by a not so subtle announcement at the Farm Bureau's annual meeting in Atlanta.
*CORRECTION: Victor Hwang's characterization of Microsoft was transcribed incorrectly. The text has been corrected to reflect his statements accurately.
The National Labor Relations Board says Northwestern University football players can unionize. It's a win for student athletes, but the university says it will appeal.
Professor Gheorghe Burnei, head of the orthopedic department at Marie Curie Children's Hospital, holds X-rays from a patient during a morning visit, in Bucharest, Romania.
From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Thursday:
- In Washington, the Labor Department releases its final fourth-quarter gross domestic product report.
- President Obama continues his spring trip with a visit to Vatican City where he's scheduled to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis.
- The National Association of Realtors releases its February pending home sales index.
- And speaking of homes, Graceland, home to Elvis Presley, was declared a national historic landmark eight years ago.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee discusses "Strengthening the Federal Student Loan Program for Borrowers."
- On March 27, 1998, the FDA approved Viagra.
- Lastly, physicist and Nobel Laureate Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was born on March 27, 1845. While working with electromagnetic radiation he took a picture of his wife's hand revealing her bones. Fortunately, they weren't broken. Voila, the first X-ray!
The lives of fishermen in Alaska were forever changed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill more than two decades ago. They're still haunted by litigation, bankruptcy and herring that haven't returned.