The Catalogue: No. 13

Friday, August 10, 2018

This week in Silicon Valley because I love throwing shade at Silicon Valley! (I grew up here and love it dearly, but there is a certain archetype that arises from sudden (and unequally distributed) wealth and the illusion of meritocracy and we gave birth to it.)

I'm Done Pretending Silicon Valley Tech is Visionary | Marco Marandiz for Startup Grind
In Silicon Valley, there is an entrepreneur on every corner, and a new you-sit-at-home-naked-while-i-do-your-shopping app every week. Only a handful of companies, proportionally speaking, are actually trying to do things that will have a meaningful impact, and the organizations that have true vision are generally underfunded and unnoticed.
Many startups define their mission just well enough to discover an avenue to revenue. And some don’t even want revenue. They just want users, because lately that’s as good as cash when going in for a round of funding. Most of these startups die within the year, and most people will forget their names long before then.
How Tech Campuses Hinder Diversity and Help Diversification |  Emma Grey Ellis for Wired
If tech campuses are glamorous black boxes with a special (homogenous) caste of workers jumping from one to the other and back again, it starts to look like meritocracy has no room for diversity. And that in turn makes it even harder for people not plugged into the network to find an entry point. "When you have these insular campuses where people don’t interact with the area around them, it becomes this opaque world," says Y-Vonne Hutchinson, founder and executive director of recruitment firm ReadySet, and cofounder of Project Include. "White and Asian male talent has learned how to play that system, but people from under-resourced backgrounds assume that they cannot succeed in getting through the hiring process."
How Silicon Valley Has Disrupted Philanthropy | Alana Semuels for The Atlantic
[Silicon Valley nonprofits] are taking their cues from The Giving Code, which recommends not talking about “charity” and meeting immediate community needs, but instead focusing on “impact” and getting at root causes of problems. It suggests using the language and mindsets of business, and focusing on metrics, data, and effectiveness, rather than the language of altruism and ethics. It says that Silicon Valley donors are interested in approaches to solving problems that use technology, and in causes to which they have a personal connection. 
Similarly:
The 'Black Hole' That Sucks Up Silicon Valley's Money | Alana Semuels for The Atlantic
But nonprofits say it would be much more helpful for donors to give out that money now, when people who live in Silicon Valley are struggling. Especially because some of the challenges facing lower-income people are directly related to the success of some of these entrepreneurs, who created companies that brought tens of thousands of new people to the region, pushing up demand for housing. “Sometimes that injection of significant funds to a reputable organization could be a game changer on a social problem,” Cat Cvengros, the vice president of development and marketing at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, told me. The food bank has seen a 50 percent increase in demand since the recession, Cvengros said, and isn’t able to respond to all the people who need its help.
Silicon Valley's Unchecked Arrogance | Ross Baird for Bright
Silicon Valley has become a “monocrop” culture where entrepreneurs are well-educated, have frictionless access to capital, and have their basic needs taken care of. The majority of resources today are going to entrepreneurs whose lived experience is in well-off, well-connected cities.
The Origin of Silicon Valley's Dysfunctional Attitude Towards Hate Speech | Noam Cohen for The New Yorker
Today, of course, hateful, enraging words are routinely foisted on the public by users of all three companies’ products, whether in individual tweets and Facebook posts or in flawed Google News algorithms. Championing freedom of speech has become a business model in itself, a cover for maximizing engagement and attracting ad revenue, with the social damage mostly pushed aside for others to bear. When the Internet was young, the reason to clean it up was basic human empathy—the idea that one’s friends and neighbors, at home or on the other side of the world, were worth respecting. In 2017, the reason is self-preservation: American democracy is struggling to withstand the rampant, profit-based manipulation of the public’s emotions and hatreds.
Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley (book) | Emily Chang
For women in tech, Silicon Valley is not a fantasyland of unicorns, virtual reality rainbows, and 3D-printed lollipops, where millions of dollars grow on trees. It's a "Brotopia," where men hold all the cards and make all the rules. Vastly outnumbered, women face toxic workplaces rife with discrimination and sexual harassment, where investors take meetings in hot tubs and network at sex parties.
In this powerful exposé, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang reveals how Silicon Valley got so sexist despite its utopian ideals, why bro culture endures despite decades of companies claiming the moral high ground (Don't Be Evil! Connect the World!)--and how women are finally starting to speak out and fight back.
Drawing on her deep network of Silicon Valley insiders, Chang opens the boardroom doors of male-dominated venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins, the subject of Ellen Pao's high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, and Sequoia, where a partner once famously said they "won't lower their standards" just to hire women. Interviews with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer--who got their start at Google, where just one in five engineers is a woman--reveal just how hard it is to crack the Silicon Ceiling. And Chang shows how women such as former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, entrepreneur Niniane Wang, and game developer Brianna Wu, have risked their careers and sometimes their lives to pave a way for other women.
Silicon Valley's aggressive, misogynistic, work-at-all costs culture has shut women out of the greatest wealth creation in the history of the world. It's time to break up the boys' club. Emily Chang shows us how to fix this toxic culture--to bring down Brotopia, once and for all.
Silicon Valley Has a Homelessness Crisis |  Michelle Chen for The Nation
For years there has been a dramatic contrast between the concentrated wealth and political influence of the creative classes and the swelling homelessness epidemic in gentrifying cities like San Francisco and Oakland. Next door to the houses of young tech startup executives, families sleep in parked cars, while many workers must pay more in rent than they earn in wages. The Guardian recently reported that in East Palo Alto, one-third of schoolchildren are estimated to be homeless, meaning they have no secure form of shelter. More than 10,000 homeless people were stranded across San Jose and Santa Clara Counties last year on any given night, including hundreds of families with children. And that number doesn’t include the “hidden homeless,” the countless people without their own shelter who “double up” at friends’ houses. Sprawling homeless encampments dot the Bay, and the crisis is so endemic in some communities, activists have begun establishing homeless trailer camps in church parking lots.
The Curb-Cut Effect | Angela Glover Backwell for Stanford Social Innovation Review
There’s an ingrained societal suspicion that intentionally supporting one group hurts another. That equity is a zero sum game. In fact, when the nation targets support where it is needed most—when we create the circumstances that allow those who have been left behind to participate and contribute fully—everyone wins. The corollary is also true: When we ignore the challenges faced by the most vulnerable among us, those challenges, magnified many times over, become a drag on economic growth, prosperity, and national well-being.
This has become painfully evident as inequality has reached toxic levels in the United States. Since 1979, the income of workers in the top 10 percent has grown nearly 15 percent. For workers in the bottom 10 percent, incomes have fallen more than 11 percent. The top 25 hedge fund managers earn more than all kindergarten teachers in America put together. Only 9 out of 100 children born to parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution can expect to rise above their circumstances, the cornerstone of the American Dream.
This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley | Sunil Rajaraman for The Bold Italic
You decide to share an article about Brexit from The Atlantic, which will somehow shed light to all your friends as to why it happened. The article is 1,000 words long — you read only half of it, but that’s good enough. It captures all the arguments you’ve been wanting to make for the past two months to your friends. Will this be the Facebook post that finally spurs your friends into action? You realize your Facebook friends all agree with your political views and social views already.

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