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Facebook, Twitter and Google Finally Got Some Good Feedback on Their Anti-Hate Speech Efforts
February 4, 2019 12:44 pm|Comments (0)

European Union officials have given Facebook, Google and Twitter a rare pat on the back, for cutting the time it takes to scrub hate speech from their platforms.

The EU’s crusade against hate speech is a long-running issue that has involved threats of new regulation, as happened in Germany, if the big social media firms don’t do more to tackle the problem. As things stand, the companies have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct.

On Monday the European Commission—the bloc’s executive body—said its clean-up drive is bearing fruit. According to its statistics, 89% of suspect content is being evaluated within a day of someone flagging it up, and 72% of the content that is found to be illegal is removed.

For comparison’s sake, those figures were 40% and 28% respectively, back in 2016. The stats come from civil society organizations that monitor take-downs across various EU countries.

“Illegal hate speech online is not only a crime, it represents a threat to free speech and democratic engagement,” said Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová in a statement. “In May 2016, I initiated the Code of conduct on online hate speech, because we urgently needed to do something about this phenomenon. Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech.”

The European Commission claimed “there is no sign of over-removal,” and noted that content using racial slurs and degrading images in reference to certain groups is only removed in 58.5% of cases.

Facebook is apparently being especially cooperative, assessing 92.6% of hate-speech notifications within 24 hours. This is notable, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently pledged to make Facebook—whose AI isn’t yet fully up to the task—better at properly adjudicating what qualifies as hate speech and what doesn’t. The company’s nature as a conduit for hate speech was highlighted last year by its reported role in the Myanmar genocide.

The Commission’s one gripe on Monday was the lack of transparency and feedback to users, when content gets flagged up and removed—the levels of feedback actually fell over the last year, from 68.9% to 65.4%. Again, Facebook did well here, while YouTube failed quite badly, offering feedback less than quarter of the time.

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Gillette's Ad Proves the Definition of a Good Man Has Changed
January 17, 2019 12:12 am|Comments (0)

Once again, the country seems divided. This time, it’s not a border wall or a health care proposal driving the animus, but an online ad for a men’s razor, because, of course. But underneath the controversy lies something much more important: signs of real change.

On January 13, Gillette released a new ad that takes the company’s 30-year-old slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get,” and turns it into an introspective reflection on toxic masculinity very much of this cultural moment. Titled “We Believe,” the nearly two-minute video features a diverse cast of boys getting bullied, of teens watching media representatives of macho guys objectifying women, and of men looking into the mirror while news reports of #MeToo and toxic masculinity play in the background. A voiceover asks “Is this the best a man can get?” The answer is no, and the film shows how men can do better by actively pointing out toxic behavior, intervening when other men catcall or sexually harass, and helping protect their children from bullies. The ad blew up; as of Wednesday afternoon it has more than 12 million views on YouTube, and #GilletteAd has trended on Twitter nationwide. Parents across Facebook shared the YouTube link in droves, many mentioning how the ad brought them to tears.

And then, with perfect internet timing, the backlash came. The ad played differently with men’s rights activists, Fox News, and the Piers Morgans of the world. People shared videos and photos throwing disposable razors into the toilet (not a good idea—they aren’t exactly flushable). Men argued that the ad was anti-male, that it lumped all men in together as sexists, and that it denigrated traditional masculine qualities. But whatever noise has surrounded it, the fact that “We Believe” exists at all is an undeniable sign of progress.

“Advertising reflects society,” says Henry Assael, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business. They’ve also become yet another battleground in the country’s larger culture wars. Though some people have made hay on Twitter about never using Gillette again, Assael says buying habits, particularly with something as habitual as a razor, are hard to break. He estimates most people don’t really follow through with their threats to abandon a brand over controversies like this. Take Nike and its ads featuring Colin Kaepernick last year: While there were vocal calls for boycotting the company at the time, it wound up reporting stronger than expected growth in its most recent earnings report.

Gillette’s ad plays on the feeling that men right now want to be better, but don’t necessarily know how. When Gillette was researching market trends last year, in the wake of #MeToo and a national conversation about the behavior of some of the country’s most powerful men, the company asked men how to define being a great man, according to Pankaj Bhalla, North American brand director for Gillette. The company conducted focus groups with men and women across the country, in their homes, and in online surveys. What Bhalla says the team heard over and over again was men saying: “I know I’m not a bad guy. I’m not that person. I know that, but what I don’t know is how can I be the best version of ourselves?”

“And literally we asked ourselves the same question as a brand. How can we be a better version of ourselves?” Bhalla adds. The answer is this ad campaign, and a promise to donate $ 1 million a year for three years to nonprofits that support boys and men being positive role models.

There’s broader evidence as well that the mainstream concept of masculinity is evolving. Last summer, the American Psychological Association issued guidelines saying that “traditional masculinity ideology” can be harmful for boys and men. When the guidelines got media attention last week, they received a fair share of criticism from conservatives, who viewed them as an attack on long-standing male traits.

Since the #MeToo era ramped up in 2017, the question has been: Will this change anything? Advertising can be a litmus test for where a culture is—an imperfect one at times, but a useful one. Companies run ads to make money, so they wouldn’t knowingly risk espousing beliefs that the majority abhor. Advertising is not so much about creating a new desire as it is about playing into what people already want.

“Advertising is in the business of reading cultural trends, that’s what they do,” says Lisa Jacobson, professor of history at the University of California Santa Barbara who focuses on the history of consumer culture. “They spend a lot of time reading culture, thinking about culture, focus-grouping cultural shifts, so they are attuned to it.”

Gillette’s Bhalla acknowledges that the company would not have made this ad a decade ago. “The insight that ‘I am not the bad guy but I don’t know how to be a great guy,’ that insight wouldn’t have come 10 years ago, because this wasn’t in our ether. It wasn’t in our society at the time,” he says.

Even today, Bhalla and his team knew the ad would not please everyone. An ad addressing such overtly controversial ideas is inherently risky. It could backfire and appear craven, as Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad did when it seemed to trivialize Black Lives Matter, and it could alienate existing and future customers. “We Believe” has about 713,000 dislikes on YouTube.

At the same time, thousands of people are talking about the ad online, and the campaign has prominent coverage in media outlets like this one. “It’s a calculated gamble,” says Jacobson. Even if Gillette does lose a few MRA activists, it stands to gain more new customers than it will lose.

Daniel Pope, a historian who has written extensively about advertising in America, says that although this ad is clearly speaking to certain anxieties and desires in the culture, it’s a classically segmented or targeted ad. “Given the hostility that it’s brought forth from conservatives and anti-feminist circles, [it’s clear] they are not appealing to everybody here. They are looking to a particular demographic based on perhaps political beliefs, education levels, feelings of gender equality.”

Jacobson also notes the tropes of the ad appear to make an explicit play for millennial and Generation Z men, who are the generations most embracing and driving the change in masculinity. It’s similarly an appeal to the mothers who buy their sons their first razors. Going after women is a smart business move, since women often do a majority of the household shopping, and Pope notes women also make up a good percentage of Gillette’s customer base. (Bhalla told WIRED the gender breakdown of Gillette customers is roughly 60 percent to 70 percent male, but that doesn’t necessarily capture cases where women are buying products for the men in their lives.)

Though Gillette didn’t say this outright, the ad also works as a sort of corporate prophylactic against allegations of sexism or insensitivity, which many corporations have faced lately. Gillette is a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, which sells many family and women-focused products in its other brand lines. “I have a feeling it was very much a corporate decision,” says Assael.

Gillette’s older ads showed clean-shaven men kissing women, sending the message that the right shave can win you the girl. In 2013, the company launched a campaign called “Kiss and Tell,” which asked couples to make out before and after the man had shaved and then report back.

The company is not alone in abandoning ad campaigns based on this kind of “women as object and reward” messaging. In fact, it’s following in the footsteps of Axe Body Spray, which for years relied on the idea that if you sprayed the stuff on women would come running. In 2017, Axe parent company Unilever unveiled a new ad campaign called “It’s OK for Guys,” which fought the idea of toxic masculinity by making it clear that it’s OK for men to have emotions, or be skinny, or not like sports. Like Procter & Gamble, Unilever has many family brands under its umbrella, and it was perhaps no longer appropriate to have Axe’s brand out there selling stereotypical machismo.

It’s not only stereotypical gender roles that the Gillette ad attempts to dismantle; it also subverts harmful racial stereotypes. The ad opens with an African American man contemplating his face in the mirror, and it highlights Terry Crews’ congressional testimony in which he advocated for men to stand up and intervene in toxic culture. It goes on to show African American fathers supporting their daughters, educating other men about sexist behavior, and protecting women from catcalling.

“I think this is a subconscious reason why this is getting under the skin of Piers Morgan and Fox and Friends,” says Jacobson. “It’s because this is inverting an old narrative in which white supremacists or just casual racists have attributed toxic masculinity to African American men.”

She’s talking about the racist stereotypes that paint African American males as prone to criminal behavior like sexual assault, or as absentee fathers. By showing black men intervening to stop these behaviors—which the ad shows largely being undertaken by white men—it subtly rejects those harmful tropes.

This careful treatment of race is not necessarily the norm in advertising. According to Assael, the industry was slow to adopt racial inclusiveness and diversity even after the civil rights movement. Gillette’s ad was handled with uncharacteristic thoughtfulness.

Much of the reaction to Gillette’s ad has been positive. Across the board, media and ad experts WIRED spoke to agreed the commercial was clever and as emotionally moving as an ad can really ever hope to be. Though the backlash to it clearly shows that the cultural divisions in America persist, its very existence is proof that the old definitions are masculinity are changing.


More Great WIRED Stories

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Delta Air Lines Just Got Some Incredibly Good News. (and Just In the Nick of Time)
January 5, 2019 12:01 pm|Comments (0)

If one raises checked bag fees, almost all the rest quickly follow suit. If one squeezes more passengers into basic economy, then most of the rest do as well.

Often, the only way an airline can stand out is to do the single, basic thing that they’re paid to do–but be better at it than competing airlines do. In other words, get you from point A to point B, safely and on time.

Thank God, the safety part of the equation has been near-perfect in the United States recently, with the single exception of a Southwest Airlines passenger who died in an in-flight incident last year. 

That leaves only the race to be on time. It’s why American Airlines treats on-time departures as the number-1 metric by which employees are judged.

And it’s why Delta Air Lines must be absolutely thrilled with the news that the airline got this week. That’s because Flight Global released its list of the most on-time airlines in the world.

And for the second year in a row, Delta is number-1 on the list. It’s the only U.S. airline ever to earn the distinction, which is based on a year’s worth of analysis of 124,000 flights every day.

If a flight arrives within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time, it’s considered on-time according to Flight Global. By that standard, Delta gets an 89 percent on-time arrival rate.

Here’s the full list of 10:

  1. Delta
  2. Qatar Airways
  3. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  4. ANA
  5. Aeroflot
  6. Alitalia
  7. Emirates
  8. United Airlines
  9. American Airlines
  10. SAS

Not everything is rosy for Delta. If you’re an investor, you might be a little concerned about the financials Delta released this week, which dropped its stock and led to questions about the airline industry as a whole.

But if you’re a passenger, or if you’re an airline trying to improve this one metric because you think it’s one of the main remaining differences between you and many of your rivals, it’s welcome news indeed. 

Published on: Jan 5, 2019

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Retirement Strategy: Waiting For Some Good Buys? Here Are A Few
April 23, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

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Is GE Now A Good Value?
March 27, 2018 6:11 pm|Comments (0)

About a month ago, I talked about 4.00% being the magic number for General Electric (GE) in a number of ways. One of those ways was the annual dividend yield, because the stock’s fall was putting this number in play. Despite a huge market rally on Monday, GE shares actually declined, with the stock less than 75 cents from this key dividend level at the day’s low. Will this be the point at which investors see value from the name again?

Last September, the board declared a $ 0.24 quarterly dividend, at which point the forward yield was 3.95%. Unfortunately, this became a misleading number for GE because as the stock fell, more and more concerns built up about a dividend cut, so it was hard to use that payout rate to project a yield. Things reset in early December, when the current rate of $ 0.12 was declared, and the chart below shows how that yield has fared on a closing basis since.

(Data sourced from Yahoo Finance. Last data point on chart is for Monday, March 26th close of $ 12.90)

With shares hitting a low of $ 12.73 on Monday, the annual yield was up to 3.77%. As you can see below, even after GE shares bounced a little into Monday’s close, the current yield is well above even the longest dated US Treasury. Looking purely at income potential, GE represents a better play moving forward if you believe the payout remains at its current level.

(Source: cnbc.com)

The odd part about Monday’s decline for the stock was that the market soared, with the Dow up almost 670 points on the day. There wasn’t a major catalyst that sent GE shares lower, outside of the Wall Street Journal worrying a little about about risks left over from the company’s once massive lending business. Even names like Facebook (FB) and Tesla (TSLA) that have seen plenty of negative news recently managed to go positive by the close, something that didn’t happen with GE.

With the stock doing so poorly lately, and nobody sure of what will happen with the business moving forward, it might not be a surprise that JPMorgan slapped a street low $ 11 price target on the name a few weeks ago. This was based on the notion that normalized free cash flow per share looks to be well below the street consensus, and we’re not even at a trough. On the flip side, there are those arguing for plenty of upside for the beaten down name, with Melius Capital stating that a breakup likely undervalues the business by 25% or more than previously estimated.

The question for investors is does GE now become a value play? Well, that likely depends on what you think of potential earnings. If you think that the street’s projection of $ 1.06 in 2019 is fair or even low, then a forward P/E a little north of 12 with a dividend yield of 3.7% seems like a decent value at roughly half of the S&P 500’s current trailing P/E ratio. However, if you think the situation will get much worse and earnings per share could fall as low as say 80 cents next year (a bit worse than street low of $ 0.85), a P/E above 16 currently is a bit harder to stomach in a declining revenue/earnings scenario.

With GE shares hitting another low on Monday despite a tremendous market rally, I’m wondering today at what point investors will consider the name a value. Will it be the 4.00% annual yield that the stock is fast approaching? With a forward P/E in the low teens, the name is certainly not expensive if you think management can get the business going again, but again, a cheap stock can always get cheaper if the situation worsens. Do you see value in General Electric currently? I look forward to your comments below.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: Investors are always reminded that before making any investment, you should do your own proper due diligence on any name directly or indirectly mentioned in this article. Investors should also consider seeking advice from a broker or financial adviser before making any investment decisions. Any material in this article should be considered general information, and not relied on as a formal investment recommendation.

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Kim Kardashian Is Sending Valentine's Gifts to All Her Haters–and It'll Probably Be Good for Her Career
February 2, 2018 6:09 pm|Comments (0)

It’s the month of manufactured love. February 14th, Valentines’s Day is a chance to send those you love something special. But for Kim Kardashian, it’s also a chance to send her haters some love.

The social media celebrity and entrepreneur is sending a long list of celebs who don’t like her a gift–her new perfume. While it’s unclear whether her goal is to make amends or fan the flames of hate, it begs the question: Should we try to make up with our professional enemies?

In your career, your network is your net worth.

We all have former colleagues or bosses we dislike. But when it comes to our careers, it’s a small world. You never know when you’ll need a reference from someone you used to work with. Or perhaps the person now works at a company you’d love to work for. Burning bridges is the worst thing to do if you want to have a successful career. Having a strong network, filled with people you can tap when needed is an asset these days. Which means, you may just want to swallow your pride and make amends with those from your past that could be of value some day.

These 4 words go a long way: “Hey, can we chat?”

Reaching out on a social media platform like LinkedIn is a great start. Asking the person to connect will give you a sign as to whether he or she might even be open to a conversation. If your connection request is accepted, you can then send a note asking to catch up by phone or over coffee. When you speak, you should focus on keeping the conversation positive and trying to restore the trust and respect needed to move forward. A great thing to keep in mind is everyone has a professional strength. If you can identify what the person’s strength is, you can target the conversation around it. An example might be:

“I see you are working at XYZ in marketing now. You were always good at social media. What are some of the things you are working on now that excite you?” 

By engaging in a conversation around what your colleague enjoys, it will put the person at ease and make the conversation flow better.

If you get called out, own it.

Lastly, if the person actually asks you why you are trying to re-establish a connection, be honest. It’s okay to say,

“I realize our relationship wasn’t as good as it could be in the past. I’m trying to improve how I network and support my colleagues. I’m sorry if my past interactions with you weren’t as positive as they could be. I’m trying to make amends and hope you will consider re-establishing our relationship.” 

It’s harder for someone to dismiss you when you’re being accountable for your past actions. But, if they do, chalk it up as experience and move on. At least you tried…

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Chelsea Manning Is Using Social Media Like It’s the Good Ol’ Days
June 7, 2017 10:25 am|Comments (0)

After seven years in a military prison, Manning was free on May 17th. And over the last few days, her social media posts have been reminding us of the good old internet, before logging on meant bracing yourself for news of the next disaster.

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This Video Of A Guy Executing Fish With A Pistol Is Actually Good Because Lionfish Suck
November 14, 2016 7:55 pm|Comments (0)

I think every non-sociopath’s first instinct when seeing the title card of the video above—which lives up to its billing, as this is indeed a four-minute clip of a man equipped with a waterproof Glock who uses it to “fish” for lionfish—is one of dread. Oh no, you worry, accurately. Am I really about to watch someone brain scores of defenseless little fish with a goddamn handgun???

Read more…


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Google’s AI is scary good at depicting what’s in your photos
November 12, 2016 3:00 pm|Comments (0)


Watch out IBM Watson, Google has its own kickass ‘Show and Tell’ AI and it’s getting pretty damn good at depicting what it sees in photos – and now everyone can use it. Today, the tech giant announced it’s open-sourcing its automatic image-captioning algorithm as a model in TensorFlow for everyone to use. This means anyone can now train the algorithm to recognize various objects in photos with up to 93.9 percent accuracy – a significant improvement to the 89.6 percent that the company touted when the project initially launched back in 2014. Training ‘Show and Tell’ requires feeding it hundreds of thousands of human-captioned images that the machine then uses and re-uses when…

This story continues at The Next Web


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Video Game Voice Actors May Go On Strike, And That’s A Good Thing
November 25, 2015 2:50 am|Comments (0)

Voice actors in the video game industry may go on strike if the union and the industry can’t negotiate new contracts.


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