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This week: Facebook and Twitter tried to burst their own filter bubbles on Election Day
Silicon Valley, like much of America, marked the end of a tumultuous election season on Tuesday. Now, it holds its breath for whatever comes next, and prepares for the worst.
Waymo’s fleet of autonomous cars steered themselves out of San Francisco to take shelter in “secured location” in case of post-election violence. And Salesforce tower, the tallest building in San Francisco, erected plywood defenses on its ground-level doors and windows.
So far the precautions have proved unnecessary, with no signs of mayhem in the streets of America’s tech capital.
On the big social media platforms however, there has been plenty of action to deal with. Both Facebook and Twitter activated their emergency measures to clamp down on premature claims of victory.
- Twitter labeled Donald Trump’s post that “they are tying to STEAL the Election” as misleading within minutes, requiring that users click through a warning message in order to view the tweet and limiting users’ ability to reshare the tweet.
- Facebook appended a disclaimer to an identical message Trump posted on its social network but left untouched another Trump post referring to “a big WIN” — reasoning that the language about victory being claimed was vague and unclear.
- Facebook also ran special override messages at the top of users’ feeds stating that “votes are being counted” and a winner has not yet been projected. The override was apparently meant to serve as an antidote to Trump’s 2 a.m. speech, in which he falsely boasted of having won the election.
Did these disclaimers and warning labels have an impact? Given how polarized the country is — as evidenced by the election results so far — it’s an open question. As the vote counting drags on in the hours and days ahead, the social networks will be under immense scrutiny to continue swooping in and flexing their muscles as the arbiters of facts.
The irony, of course, is that the social platforms spent years creating the information bubbles their users happily live in. Now, the frantic public service announcements being distributed by the social media companies may not be able to penetrate the bubble.
Expensify’s “Dungeons and Dragons”-style career development
Within tech companies, politics continues to be a divisive, hot-button topic, with Expensify CEO David Barrett playing the opposite role to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.
While Armstrong famously banned political conversation in the office, Barrett embraced politics and sent out an email to 10 million customers on October 22 urging them to vote for Joe Biden.
“A vote for Trump is to endorse voter suppression, it really is very basic,” Barrett wrote.
Almost as fascinating as the decision to send the email, is the process by which Expensify made the decision, turning to a special cabinet of 19 company elders for the final greenlight. As Melia Russell reports, this cabinet is not just the company’s senior management. It’s an hodge-podge of “high-performing employees with tenure and achievements that have earned them certain privileges.”
One Expensify employee likens the system to the game of Dungeons and Dragons, in which players can attain certain levels of achievement, say a Level 7 Wizard and Level 4 Druid.
Among the ranks, or “tracks,” that Expensify employees can ascend: Ambassador, Generalist, Expensifier, People Development, and for the true masters at the startup, Top Tier.
Read the full story: The CEO of Expensify consulted 19 employees before urging his 10 million customers to vote for Biden. Here’s the unusual system that creates his inner circle.
“I do think I can work well with people. I might criticize their code a little harshly, but overall I like to be on a team. I like ambitious goals. I like thinking through how we can anticipate the future software. It’s cool and I want to be involved.”
— Bill Gates, responding to a mock interview question from Steph Curry, the NBA all-star and Golden State Warriors point guard who recently launched an interview series called “State of Inspiration.” Curry asked Gates to imagine he was applying for a junior engineering job at Microsoft: Why should we hire you?
Snapshot: The scorpion’s lair
One of the big lessons of 2020 is that working from home, hunched over a laptop at the kitchen table, is not very pleasant — especially not when compared to reclining in the luxurious cockpit of the “Scorpion” chair. The 7-foot tall, 265-pound workstation boasts three monitors, 16 color LED lights and a curved steel tail that electronically adjusts the chair’s position and protects you from the distractions of nettlesome family members.
If you can convince your boss to sign off for the $2,000 to $3,200 cost of one of the Scorpion’s various models, you may never want to leave work again.
Not necessarily in tech:
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