Hack Hack Hack Hack It Apart
Mystery hacker Guccifer has been terrorizing America’s political elite by hacking into their email accounts and proving that even former presidents aren’t really that great at their newfound painting hobby. Now, The Smoking Gun reports that Guccifer has begun targeting Silicon Valley. Ugh, guess that means tech really is cool now.
“What’s just depressing to me is how—and it’s not just for us, let me generalize it—the moment a company goes public the conversation shifts from how they’re trying to change the world and the product they’re building to how they’re making money.” Andrew Mason probably wasn’t ready to be the CEO of a publicly traded company. [Fast Company]
Meanwhile, at TED: Vint Cerf is dreaming of a day when we can use the Internet to communicate with aliens. Dude must make it a point to believe six impossible things before breakfast. [Gizmodo]
Former Gilt CEO Susan Lyne is now Brand Group CEO at AOL. Resident enfant terrible Alexia Tsotsis published the memo and added, ”As far as we can tell, Arianna, with her Hellenic iron fist, has retained her dominion over the HuffPost stronghold, and we’ll continue to push the boundaries of what we can do until we get fired.” Noted! [TechCrunch]
In other shuffles, Federated Media founder John Battelle is once more CEO of the blog network that he founded, taking over for Deanna Brown, who is leaving for an unspecified new project. [Forbes]
Apple Fellow Guy Kawasaki is now advising Motorola. [Android Authority]
XXX in Tech
When you hear of someone who has an AOL email address, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? A dad? Someone who still uses dialup? A TechCrunch employee? Now you can add “strip club aficionado” to your stereotypes of AOL email users, at least according to a new study by the British event planning group Chillisauce.
Rose-Colored Glasses Warby Parker just released its annual report for 2012, and it’s a pretty fun slideshow to click through. The glasses empire now has 113 full-time employes and 42 part-time employees. Of those bespectacled folks, 108 have company-sponsored gym memberships. In other Warby Parker health news, 2,507 pounds of salad were eaten in the office this year. Although there are not too many exact sales figures in the package (besides the fact that 296 monocles were sold this year) a diagram on the last page shows that sales from the first quarter of the year to the last one have nearly tripled. Warby Parker says it gave out 250,000 pairs of glasses this year, some of which went to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Good news, Silicon Alley denizens. After much demand from fellow gossip-mongers, Betabeat has decided to resurrect your favorite recurring Friday feature. Welcome back to Rumor Roundup! Overheard a juicy tidbit about impending departures or imminent acquisitions? Dying to dish about startup blunders or frothy financing? Holler at your girls: email@example.com
THE SUN SOMETIMES SETS ON THE AOL EMPIRE Multiple sources have told Betabeat that AOL Ventures plans on shutting down QLabs–the press-shy experimental think tank in Soho located at 670 Broadway. ”The time frame must be darn near immediate,” one source told Betabeat, alluding to some urgency around winding down existing projects. ”It’s dead,” said a source with indirect knowledge of the decision. “Their funding ran out,” the second source added, speculating that the initiative had a set funding size, but “nothing yielded.”
So much for “hyperlocal” news as the Next Big Thing. Ad Age Digital reports AOL is preparing to make big changes to Patch. Instead of replacing the vanishing hometown newspaper, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong says Patch.com is now on course to take on classified ads giant Craigslist:
Blog the Public
The blogosphere is a brave new news world, but it’s generally assumed that blogs that report the news adhere to basic journalistic standards—like not deliberately inserting bits of misinformation into their virtual pages. Right?
Former TechCrunch blogger MG Siegler took a dig at bloggers who rewrite others’ reporting. “I used to love to plant one really weird bit of random information (sometimes even false) into stories to catch the rewrites,” he tweeted earlier today. There’s that TechCrunch swagger.
When it comes to tech blogs, your granny’s favorite dial-up provider, AOL, is always good for some surprising news. Tonight Sarah Lacy’s PandoDaily is reporting possible new drama in the offing. According to Ms. Lacy, “two independent sources” have confirmed that AOL is considering selling off both Engadget and TechCrunch. “The two would likely be sold together as AOL Tech,” writes Ms. Lacy, “possibly including smaller assets like TUAW and Joystiq.”
The post-lunch session of the Guardian Activate Summit kicked off with an interview between Guardian U.S. editor in chief Janine Gibson and a woman whom Ms. Gibson called “the Madonna of our industry:” why Arianna Huffington, of course. Ms. Huffington, who donned a smart navy blue blazer and a perfectly coifed blond bob, introduced herself with some opening remarks about what she called the “fetishization of social.”
“The fetishization of social is celebrating something going ‘trending’ or going ‘viral’ without asking what it is that’s going trending or viral,” said Ms. Huffington. “We all need to do a better job of asking those questions, otherwise we’re going to find ourselves in the same dangerous area that mainstream media have found themselves in, where everything is breaking news. Donald Trump endorsing Mitt Romney, Balloon Boy, all these things.”
We found this comment especially pointed coming from Ms. Huffington, as The Huffington Post just tweeted, “Miley Cyrus saves a dog left outside of Walmart,” a piece that has all the classic elements of a viral story (major celebrity + cute animal + feel-good component) without any of the explanation. We really do need to be asking why Miley Cyrus’ dog saving abilities are going viral, wouldn’t you agree?
On Wednesday afternoon, Betabeat arrived at the arty brick headquarters where AOL’s startup alter egos, QLabs and AOL Ventures, take up an entire floor at Broadway and Great Jones in Soho. We were greeted by QLabs founder and hacker Chris Danzig, QLabs hacker Eric Skiff, and hacker-biz developer Michael E. Gruen. Everyone’s title is “hacker,” we were told. “We’re extremely flat,” Mr. Danzig said.
The hackers were having trouble controlling the temperature on what was a very humid day. The QLabs space is like the underbelly of the Titanic, with myriad chambers divided by arches and doors. “We have the AC, the heat on, and the windows open,” Mr. Danzig apologized, as we settled into a small conference room around a table made of reclaimed wood.
QLabs is an experimental think tank for the rapid prototyping of ideas on the web, one or more of which will hopefully become the next big AOL property. There are only seven hackers on the QLabs team, with about three more in support staff—but the corporation rented the entire floor with the foresight that it may one day be filled with thriving companies spun out of QLabs projects.