This week’s headline quotes Starbucks’ new “Use of the Third Place Policy” that seeks to establish its stores as a third place, where customers can gather and connect and where any customer is welcome to use their spaces, including restrooms, cafes, and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase (Associated Press “New Starbucks policy: No purchase needed to sit in cafes”).
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Quartz "Are ebooks dying or thriving? The answer is yes"
A look at the massive surge in self-published ebooks facilitated by platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and how their place outside the traditional publishing houses and major industry data sources has led to problems in tracking ebook consumption.
Government Technology "Is participatory budgeting the answer to cities’ biggest questions?"
Participatory budgeting, in which local governments not only ask but depend on their citizens to decide how best to spend discretionary capital funds, has been used in more than 1,500 communities worldwide to allocate spending of hundreds of millions of dollars.
NPR "U.S. births dip to 30-year low; fertility rate sinks further below replacement level"
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Births: Provisional Data for 2017” reports 3,853,472 births in the U.S. in 2017, "down 2% from 2016 and the lowest number in 30 years" with a declining birth rate for nearly every group of women of reproductive age in the U.S. – the results put the U.S. further away from a viable replacement rate, the standard for a generation being able to replicate its numbers. See also Gizmodo.
The New York Times "Hundreds of apps can empower stalkers to track their victims"
Marketed as digital tools that help gather cellphone data for tracking children, friends, or lost phones, a growing number of apps and services offer technology to track others without their consent, from basic location tracking to harvesting texts and even secretly recording video, according to a new study from researchers at Cornell, New York University, and Hunter College.
Associated Press “New Starbucks policy: No purchase needed to sit in cafes”
Starbucks announced a new policy that allows anyone to sit in its cafes or use its restrooms, even if they don't buy anything, replacing previous policies that left decisions on whether people could sit in its stores or use the restroom up to store managers (managers and employees will still follow established procedures for “addressing disruptive behaviors”) – the change follows fallout after two black men who hadn't bought anything were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks. See also The Guardian and The New York Times.
Cities and Governments
The Verdict “Seattle has backed a new tax aimed at big tech companies to tackle homelessness”
The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a new tax plan that will have businesses that gross at least $20 million a year taxed around $275 per full-time worker, per year (down from an initially proposed $500 per person), raising an estimated $48 million that would help fund housing projects for low income residents and homeless services, such as shelters. See also CityLab, GeekWire and again and again, ReCode, and TechCrunch.
Communities and Demographics
Fast Company "Getty is trying to bring disability inclusion to stock photos"
As searches for disability-related images become more popular (“wheelchair access” searches were up 371% from 2016 to 2017 and autism-related searches climbed 434%), Getty has launched The Disability Collection, a new subcategory of Getty images that will feature people with disabilities in everyday settings, with a particular focus on human interaction to represent people with disabilities as they want to be depicted.
The Verge “Microsoft announces Xbox Adaptive Controller for players with disabilities”
Microsoft announced an Xbox Adaptive Controller designed for people with disabilities that has two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games. See also Motherboard.
Economics and the Workforce
The New York Times "The entire economy is MoviePass now. Enjoy it while you can."
The new model of business seeks to spend big, grow fast, and use investor cash to subsidize losses as companies focus on customer acquisition and research and development, playing a long game that could stifle competition and create strong bonds with dedicated users, if the business lasts.
Forbes “Growth in America is tilting to smaller cities”
Forbes’ 2018 Best Cities For Jobs survey reported six of the 10 metropolitan areas with the fastest job growth to be either mid-sized (150,000 to 450,000 total nonfarm jobs) or smaller (less than 150,000 nonfarm jobs), with smaller metro areas dominating job growth in a number of sectors – the trends reflect U.S. Census Bureau metropolitan area population estimates for 2017, which show a significant increase in domestic migration away from the 53 major metropolitan areas with populations over a million and toward the 54 middle-sized metro areas in the 500,000 to 1 million range.
Pew Research Center "Americans say U.S. colleges make the grade, but many say public schools don’t measure up"
Pew Research Centers’ new “The Public, the Political System and American Democracy” report finds that about half of U.S. adults say the country’s colleges and universities are either the “best in the world” (16%) or “above average” (35%) compared with those in other developed nations, but just 18% say U.S. public schools rank above average or higher internationally and 41% say public schools are below average (37% rate them as average) – respondents were asked to evaluate a range of national institutions and aspects of life in the U.S. with those of other developed countries.
TechCrunch “Apple brings its coding lessons to schools for students who are blind and deaf”
Apple announced an expansion of its Everyone Can Code initiative, bringing Swift coding curricula to a number of US schools focused on students who are blind and deaf – the lessons will be augmented for students using Apple’s accessibility tools and tailored to individual needs with help from teachers. See also Engadget.
Mashable “Eyes to the front camera: Chinese facial recognition tech targets inattentive students”
The Hangzhou No. 11 Middle School in China is piloting a smart classroom behavior management system which uses cameras and facial recognition to keep track of student performance and measure the expressions of students, including anger, annoyance, surprise, and happiness.
The Guardian “Facebook closed 583m fake accounts in first three months of 2018”
In its first quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report, Facebook reported taking moderation action against almost 1.5 billion accounts and posts which violated its community standards, with the overwhelming majority of moderation action taken against spam posts (837 million) and fake accounts (583 million) – the platform is increasingly using AI-based tools to find and moderate content without needing individual users to flag it as suspicious.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
The Seattle Times “Amazon Go targets Chicago, San Francisco for new stores”
Amazon Go, Amazon’s cashierless store concept which opened in Seattle in January, is reportedly planning to expand to Chicago and San Francisco as new job postings on Amazon’s website seek store managers in both cities – real-estate tracker Curbed had previously spotted a building permit for Chicago’s Loop district and the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Amazon planned to open a store near the city’s Union Square, with a formal announcement expected within weeks. See also Engadget, GeekWire, ReCode, and The Verge.
Quartz "Netflix will have a crazy number of original series and movies this year"
Netflix will have 1,000 originals on its platform by the end of 2018 – roughly half of its originals (470 series, films, and other productions) are slated to be released between now and the end of the year.