Teach Me How to Startup
Agitprop about “coding as the new literacy,” lost momentum last year somewhere around the time adults felt compelled to issue public apologies to Codecademy for ignoring their email tutorials. But with President Obama shouting out high tech high schools in the State of the Union–and Chinese hackers inspiring a possible “Sputnik moment“–the cause of educating young minds in the ways of coding seems to have taken on new urgency.
Witness, for example, this video produced by Code.org, a nonprofit devoted to enhancing computer programming education. ”Learn about a new ‘superpower’ that isn’t being taught in in 90% of US schools,” the description advertises. Wait, America still has a chance at staying a superpower? Tell me more!
Aleksey Vayner, the Yale grad who gained Internet infamy in 2006 for his video resume, “Impossible is Nothing,” is dead at 29. [Motherboard]
Square COO Keith Rabois is leaving the San Francisco-based payments company; Kara Swisher says disagreements with CEO and founder Jack Dorsey are at least partially behind the departure. [AllThingsD]
The latest petty sleight in the high-school style feud between two social media giants: Facebook has cut off access to Twitter’s new video-sharing service, Vine, preventing the app from using Facebook to find new friends. [AllThingsD]
What asshole decided to name a smartphone made for the African market YOLO? [Mashable]
A French court wants to force Twitter to reveal the identities of users who author racist tweets in violation of the country’s hate-speech laws. Twitter is deciding whether to fight the ruling. [NYT]
Tech Celebrity Sightings
When not humblebragging about the fact that he–a millionaire–still takes the bus to work, Square cofounder Jack Dorsey enjoys the holidays the only way a nouveau tech founder truly can: by frolicking around with a model on a yacht in St. Bart’s.
Lala Land When you plunk down $18 million in hard-won settlement earnings on an 8,000 sq. ft. manse with “a jetliner view of L.A.” you don’t just around on the couch watching Bravo. Especially not if your names are Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
The strapping venture capitalists recently hosted two parties at their new Hollywood Hills home. The first was feting Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell, cofounders of the fashion startup Hukkster, which recently scored a $1 million seed round from the duo. Guests included actor Jason Lewis (Samatha’s boyfriend to the rest of us).
Ride or Die
With all the excitement over last week’s decision to test out taxi apps in New York City, another technological step forward got overlooked. During a meeting at its Beaver Street headquarters last Thursday, the Taxi and Limousine Commission also unanimously voted in favor of new rules for those credit card swipers and “entertainment systems” (scare quotes necessary) in back of your cab, referred to as T-PEP.
Square is now offering gift cards, redeemable anywhere Square is accepted. You’ll need to use the company’s wallet to send a card, but not to redeem one. [Fast Company]
For a use case look to Jack Dorsey, who’s using the product to send gifts like $100 worth of tacos. [Twitter]
No more Instagram photos in your Twitter feed, fostering FOMO among your followers. [AllThingsD]
Several big-name tech companies are making another attempt to stifle patent-trolling. Firms including Google and Facebook have filed an amicus brief in a case currently being argued in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals, asking that the court set a precedent against lawsuits based on patents for things like “an ecommerce platform.” [TechCrunch]
The World Conference on International Telecommunications just got underway, and already nations including China and Russia have attempted (and just as quickly abandoned) a push for the Internet to be considered composed of government-controlled networks. [ZDNet]
Basel Bust? Artsy’s invite for its Art Basel party this year–thrown by Chanel–was positively littered with enticing cohosts. “On behalf of Carter Cleveland, Larry Gagosian, Wendi Murdoch, Peter Theil & Dasha Zhukova, we invite you to a beachside barbecue on Wednesday, December 5th in Miami Beach,” the invite said. Perhaps too enticing. “I ended up not going because it was such a shit show,” said one would-be guest. The tipster blamed the venue, noting that “the same thing happened last night at Amfar. It was a mess trying to get into the after party and there were 400 people waiting outside and inside it was a crowded mess.”
Typical for Art Basel, said the source, brushing off complaints. “Less so for tech startups :)” Too bad they missed Demi Moore’s highly gif-able turn on the dance floor next to Lenny Kravitz. Perhaps our partier will have better luck with Tumblr, which is hosting its own Art Basel extravaganza tonight.
Are your tweeted-out Instagram pictures of Christmas lights looking a little busted? Sorry to rain on your lifecasting parade, but that’s not some temporary glitch. AllThingsD reports that Instagram has disabled the “cards” that make your snapshots show up all pretty in your Twitter feed, so they’re likely to show up cropped or otherwise effed.
Power Literary Hire: Twitter cofounder Ev Williams’s new publishing tool, Medium, just added an impressive member to its team. Kate Lee, a former literary agent from International Creative Management (ICM), has joined Mr. Williams’s startup as the director of content. Ms. Lee was responsible for plucking several bloggers out of obscurity and giving them book deals. The Observer announced her leave from ICM back in April. In a blog post on the site, Mr. Williams described her job as “encouraging, soliciting, commissioning, and contextualizing interesting ideas, authors, and institutions” and noted that she would be building a small team in New York to help her do that.
Branch Finally Lets You Hang Out With Your Friends: Branch, the social conversations site, just launched a groups feature yesterday. In an email to Betabeat, Branch cofounder Josh Miller described it as “Branch’s equivalent of a Follow button.” The idea was inspired by the conversations that people have at dinner parties, in which smaller groups form to discuss topics that they care about. On Branch, these groups can be added into a conversation. Branch’s example site includes a group featuring Mr. Miller, Medium’s Ev Williams, John Borthwick from Betaworks, Michael Sippey from Twitter and Facebook’s Sam Lessin. These groups have a possibility to create Bloods and Crips-like warfare in tech. Choose sides wisely.
Ceci N’est Pas Une Sandy The affordable-art-dealing website 20 x 200 is now selling a print of a NASA satellite image of Hurricane Sandy. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Red Cross to help relief efforts. The striking image was taken at 9:02 a.m on Sunday, approximately 10 hours before NYC’s MTA shut transport service down throughout the tristate area. Hang it above your couch of a constant reminder of the grander universe and just how much you appreciate your wifi.
More Money, More Fancy Fancy, Pinterest’s cooler older brother, has raised just over $26 million in additional funding. New investors include Celtics owner Jim Pallotta, Twitter and Square cofounder Jack Dorsey and Edward Gilligan, the vice chairman of American Express. This also ruins rumors that Apple was planning to acquire the company. No word yet on what their favorite user, Kanye West, thinks of the new influx of cash.