Will someone give Kara Swisher some media training?

What a horrible performance she gave on Real Time with Bill Maher on May 3rd, I'm dismayed that she is one of America's main mouthpieces for understanding technology. I mean Bill himself said he learns about technology from reading her articles, but the problem is she seems as jaded as the rest of Big Tech and appallingly, difficult to understand.

Dear Kara, it's not about what we "do" with Facebook (yes they need regulation and all the rest but your analogy was awful), it's about who we want to "be" and granted, you came close to trying to define who "are" they, but they have become much more than the new town square in our living room. I wish you would have stopped your background banter and listened to Bill and the other panelists when they tried to explain that Facebook is a symptom!

I mean how many times did Ms. Swisher state "The question we need to ask is... blah blah blah?" Ugh... it was more than five times by my count. Honestly, WDALYIC? The question Kara is not what you think in your shielded bubble, it's what all of us think in our everyday existence and what Bill and his panelists were trying to tell you: Facebook is a waste of time.

Not only is Facebook the new opiate of the masses (oh wait, we have actual opioids now) it's even more of a burden on our society because billions of people are now getting their news from Facebook alone. Good grief, there's even a NetLingo word for it: post-truth. That's right Ms. Tech Journalist, when objective facts are less influential in an argument than appeals to emotion and personal belief, you came very close to fake news, sister. And by you re-posting and re-tweeting all things Facebook, you may as well be a co-conspirator.

If nothing else Kara, I'm sorry to say you were just plain annoying and you didn't even make a point during the entire show. Who cares if they call Zuck a boy, I hope Bill will start getting his tech news elsewhere. I was shocked in Overtime to hear you talking about how the EU is getting tough because of a woman... RUFKM? I've lived there, it's because they care about their privacy! All you cared about at that point was taking a selfie. What you need to take is a nice, long vacation.

It would be one thing if you didn't make money off it all, but Kara, you make lots of it just because you have an opinion. How about a return to reporting on the facts instead. Like Kim Komando, another female tech journalist who I once admired but now sounds like an AI robot as she plows through her sterilized TV broadcast. Where there was once a contagious passion for all things tech, now there's a monotonous script delivered at a newscaster desk, in an uncomfortable dress, under false blue lighting and the watchful eye of "the man." Get back to your roots Kim, keep your fire bright. Hasn't CNET come up with an appealing tech journalist or fun tech broadcast about the latest in Internet news and online jargon? Time to get back to work.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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YouTube's Porn & Conspiracy Problems: Fix Your Recommendation Engine

YouTube was under fire again in early March, when a video blogger named Matt Watson detailed how pedophiles can enter a “wormhole” of YouTube videos to see “footage of children in sexually suggestive positions” according to CNET.com. They can then jump from video to video, helped by YouTube’s recommendation engine, and fill them with lewd comments. Oh yeah, there's an old NetLingo word for that: flame bait.

In response, brands such as Disney, AT&T, and Epic Games pulled their ads from YouTube, and the company responded by banning more than 400 accounts. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that Google-owned YouTube has had this kind of child-safety flare-up. In 2017 alone, disturbing knockoffs appeared on the YouTube Kids platform that depicted Disney and Marvel characters in troubling ways; then sexually explicit comments appeared under videos of kids’ gymnastics. “In response to those scandals, CEO Susan Wojcicki overhauled YouTube’s safety guidelines.” Yet two years later, the same problems keep cropping up.

It’s not just the comments that are problematic for YouTube, said The New York Times. The platform has been reckoning with the vast troves of disinformation and extreme content it harbors, such as conspiracy videos and hoaxes that are popular with millions of viewers. Here, again, the recommendation engine is part of the problem: It sends viewers of misinformation to similar videos with more misinformation.

Conspiracy theories and viral hoaxes top the list” of recommendations for viewers of many popular channels. Young people repeatedly battered by these recommendations often start to reject mainstream sources. To fix this, YouTube needs to recognize how deep these problems run and realize that any successful effort may look less like a simple algorithm tweak, and more like deprogramming a generation.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Big Tech Scruples: Why Did Facebook Executives have to be so Ruthless?

Facebook has weathered its share of scandals lately but this item didn't get much coverage and it really got my goat. At the end of 2018, some 250 pages of internal Facebook emails were released by British lawmakers revealing that executives were "ruthless and unsparing" in their ambition to collect more data from users according to The New York Times. The emails, which spanned 2012 to 2015, a time of tremendous expansion for Facebook, show executives including Mark Zuckerberg, discussing ways to undermine their competitors, obscure their collection of user data, and above all, ensure that their products kept growing.

Most of that sounds well and good (not the obscuring of data part) as our current definition of what a business should do, there's even a NetLingo word for it: moneytizing eyeballs.

Until you get to the part that Facebook engineered a way to collect Android users' data without having to alert them, and Zuckerberg personally approved cutting off a video-sharing app's access to Facebook because it was a competitor to Instagram (which they own). The app, called Vine and loved by many, was eventually forced to shut down. C'mon executives of Big Tech, speak out! Especially you spiritual ones... there's more than enough to go around.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Hey Amazon :( If Coastal Elite Turn On You, Go Where You're Needed

Amazon walked away from New York City due to the public outcry over the $2 billion tax incentives. Amazon, with the rest of Big Tech, is facing unprecedented scrutiny from the newly emboldened Left, according to Axios.com. Progressive Democrats have hammered Amazon over its market power and treatment of warehouse and delivery workers.

In fact, the company has become a potent symbol of American inequality but they are moving fast to head off attacks, and sometimes by co-opting the liberal agenda, like by raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But Amazon is popular in Virginia and that doesn't surprise the people in Roanoke, VA according to the Times. Polling shows that more than 90 percent of people in southern Virginia support the company. Why? For the idea of the jobs! Guess what, the red states lost a lot of work due to Big Tech. There's even a NetLingo word for it: You've been Amazonned.

Southern Virginians get why Amazon didn’t locate there: They don’t have 25,000 highly skilled people ready to go to work immediately, but they do have 75,000 college students they'd rather not watch leave. So, Amazon if the coastal elite think you and the other Big Tech companies are wrecking their cities, set up shop in places that will benefit America! I agree with their sentiment, it's tiring to watch politicians in New York City and Seattle gripe about tech companies overrunning their cities, it's like watching two rich people argue.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Working at Google is Not The Dream It’s Supposed To Be

Google has a two-tier workforce, with half of the 170,000 people who work for Google classified as temporary or contract workers, and permanent employees are instructed to treat them differently in a variety of ways. According The Guardian, there's a written company guide that says Google staff are not to reward certain workers with perks like T-shirts, invite them to all-hands meetings, or allow them to engage in professional development training. Ugh! I experienced that same bullying at ADT which was shocking. There's a NetLingo word for it: NQOCD.

The contract workers also don’t get benefits at Google, they can’t list on LinkedIn that they work for Google, and they are still subject to forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims, a policy that changed for full-time workers after a global walkout by Google employees (see below!). According to one employee, Google’s contract worker policy basically amounts to this: We are legally in the clear to treat people like garbage. Coming from one of the most successful companies in history, it only makes Google look like garbage.

As for their employees, Google has also been quietly urging the U.S. government to overturn an Obama-era protection that lets employees use their work email to organize online, according to Bloomberg.com. Google made an argument to the National Labor Relations Board last November, three weeks after 20,000 of its employees walked out to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases. The filing was revealed last week through a Freedom of Information Act request. Busted.

Because Google’s workers are spread around the globe and don’t have most co-workers’ personal emails, its employee email system played a pivotal role in the organizing for that protest.  Google’s push to remove the protection was considered surprising because the company publicly expressed support for the goals of the protest. Busted again. This is yet another instance of Big Tech saying one thing and doing something else, when what they need to do is be more transparent... but not to the degree as Netflix (see previous blog)!

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Still Like Netflix Knowing Their Employees Work in Constant Fear?

Who wants to work at a place where the culture can be ruthless and demoralizing? How about brutal honesty, ritual humiliation, insider lingo, and constant fear? Sure you always dream about how cool it would be to work at Netflix for example, but the reality of working in Big Tech and many other corporations these days is very different.

You don't care you say, you want the salary, the prestige, the experience. Well apparently ruthless and demoralizing and working in constant fear is the Netflix way. What gives? According to The Wall Street Journal at Netflix, they count "radical candor and transparency" among their highest corporate values. OK... So that means when almost every employee can access sensitive information such as viewer numbers for Netflix’s shows, and when 500+ executives can see the salaries of every staffer, they want to demand the same transparency to evaluating performance? The problem with that is you don't treat humans the way you treat data.

Netflix actually encourages team dinners where everyone goes around and gives feedback and criticism about others at the table, and managers are encouraged to apply a "keeper test" to their staff... asking themselves whether they would fight to keep a given employee and firing those for whom the answer is no. In fact, Netflix infamous CEO Reed Hastings uses the keeper test himself, and last year fired one of the company’s first employees, a close friend for decades. One former Netflixer says she saw a fired colleague crying as she packed her boxes while other employees looked away, fearing that helping her would put a target on their back.

It's kill or be killed according to Gizmodo.com. This is the kind of the place where the Chief Human Resources Officer created a 120-slide PowerPoint deck back in 2004 explaining Netflix’s culture of “freedom and responsibility.” She pushed them to keep only highly effective people and devised the keeper test. You can guess how the story ends: Hastings used the keeper test on her in 2011 and fired her. Don't worry, there's a NetLingo word for what she'll do next: ladder bypass.

For those of us who have endured this kind of corporate hell, it's disheartening to see that Big Tech and other corporations still don't care about bullying people to get rid of dead weight. What's even more challenging is that many employees join companies like this with their eyes open and they don't care either! Otherwise Netflix wouldn't have an 87 percent approval rating on Glassdoor. Netflix also took the No. 1 spot on a survey in which knowledge workers were asked which company they most wanted to join.

C'mon gang, we'll never get rid of this corporate culture of fear until people stop accepting it. The answer lies with you, with us... not with Reed Hastings and his cronies who are clearly acting out of fear themselves. Don't "want to work" there just because you spend so much of your valuable free time consuming their product. Better yet, boycott the product... they may not care in their hearts but they will when they feel it in their wallets. Our workplace environment should at least maintain common decency empower professionals to be their best possible versions.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Knowledge Workers: It's Time to Embrace Working Remotely

Employees actually hate open offices, everyone knows that. But's it now been scientifically proven that open offices are doing the opposite of what they were intended and causing us more stress. An article in Fast Company points out that they are too symbolically powerful for companies to abandon. What? It’s not just that open offices are cheap—though they are. OK. Open offices signal that people are collaborating and ideas will spark. Not true!

Open offices have become popular at startups and established companies alike, and Facebook even put all 2,800 employees in one 10-acre building! Ugh. The article goes on to point out that these layouts actually lower the percentage of in-person interactions by 70 percent, while emailing and other electronic messaging rises by 50 percent.

Open offices have also been shown to create stress, especially for women who fell like they are on display all of the time. Check that. While sixty-five percent of creative people have said we need quiet or absolute silence to do our best work. Sure enough, open offices changed everything and there's a NetLingo word for it: disruptive technology.

Even CBS News said yep, the latest research shows that most open office plans fail, and that we didn’t need science to prove how much open offices suck the life out of our workday. I can't believe that seventy percent of Americans now work in open offices! That's a lot of people when, they need to have a real conversation or pitch an important client, they have to find a storage closet.

According to the Financial Times, at the trending WeWork co-working offices, the shared desks seem fairly empty, while the private meeting rooms were full. The ultimate sign that the open office is due for some serious rethinking? Companies are now spending $3,500 for portable soundproof pods to let their employees get away from their colleagues and actually do their work. Gang, if you need to get out from under the fluorescent light, check out job sites like Remote.com.

Dear corporations and businesses alike, the time has come. If you have a productive employee who is capable of performing his or her job offsite, and is equipped with all the office technology and collaboration software as needed, and expresses an interest and desire to do so, then c'mon Big Tech, allow your employees the opportunity to work from home, work remotely, work virtually, telecommute... whatever you want to call it. If not, at least bring back the cube farms.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Why the Gig Economy can be an Online Hell for Workers

Karl Marx would not be surprised by the gig economy, said Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg.com. Marx’s proletariat was made up of laborers who were “increasingly impoverished by the rise of machines.” Well guess what? That describes the workers on “digital labor platforms” such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk perfectly.

The “click-worker” jobs on these platforms can include “filling out questionnaires for academic researchers, transcribing audio, even moderating content for social networks.” These jobs are demanding and require education, yet the people who do them earn an average of only $4.43 an hour, according to a survey of 3,500 workers from 75 countries. That number falls to $3.31 an hour when you factor in unpaid time spent looking for orders, researching clients, and taking qualification tests.

It’s not just workers in poor countries who are paid these wages. Two-thirds of U.S. “Turkers” made less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. These are “hellish” jobs without even “basic worker protections.” Should a modern society tolerate jobs that come with no worker rights and no possibility of dignified survival? “And even if such jobs are allowed, should they be offered by huge tech companies that provide outsize returns to shareholders?” Shouldn’t gig workers get to live in a world that feels like 2018, not Marx’s 1848?

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Congress Doesn't Get Big Tech and Senators Don’t Use E-mail. This Bothers Me.

From Senator Chuck Schumer to Senator Lindsey Graham, many of our elected officials continue to brag about not using email. That's concerning. Even more startling is the fact that Congress doesn't get Big Tech. The Facebook hearing last year made it clear that very few U.S. Senators understand Facebook's business. Most of the questions came from tech-challenged Senators who seemed clueless about how Facebook makes its money and even how the Internet works.

"If a version of Facebook will always be free, how do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?" Senator Orrin Hatch, the 84-year-old Republican from Utah (who also famously doesn't use email), asked early on in the five-hour hearing. Mark Zuckerberg paused a moment before saying, "Senator, we run ads." He, and his staff sitting behind him, then grinned directly at him. There's a NetLingo word for that Senator Hatch: noob.

Watch this and tell me Congress, do you really want to be laughed at by Big Tech?

Meanwhile Trump is begging Big Tech for free labor to avoid federal hirings, and because of the government shutdown, 45% of employees in the Department of Homeland Security’s newly created Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have been furloughed, in addition to 85% of workers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

This all bothers me so I try to reach out and voice my concern but apparently you need to call, and not email, your legislators. I'm told even if you don’t speak directly to the lawmaker, staff members will often pass the message along in one form or another. Really? With a can and a line of string?

Congress, you cannot afford to be stuck in 1995. As Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post reminds us, the digital revolution is now decades old, affecting virtually every industry and public policy. Senators help make federal laws regulating technology, privacy, cybersecurity, and the digital economy, and for you, ignoring how everyone else in the nation communicates is a form of political malpractice. If you know little or nothing about technology in a technological age, you shouldn't be in the Senate, but if you are, then please hire a consultant like me.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here