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Ello, boys!

Ello is a new social network that promises not to run ads or sell user data, ever (which is great). On October 23, they announced in a letter to users that Ello has become a Public Benefit Corporation, which has allowed them to enshrine these two promises in their charter (this too is great).

What’s not so great: the seventeen signatories of this letter, the “founders and investors in Ello,” are all men.1 The letter declares that “2014 is not 2004, and the world has changed.” Evidently, not so much. Honestly, you’d think Ello would have thought about bringing even a single woman onboard, if not to bring an epsilon more insight into the 99 million more women than men who sign on to social networking sites every month, then at least to avoid giving people like me a bone to pick with them.

As an aside, I’m on Ello – I quite like it, it’s pretty. But so far in my experience it’s suffering badly from the network effect, and my news feed is mostly crickets. So if you’d like an invite, let me know!

[1] At least, I’m pretty sure they are – a few of the names are gender-ambiguous. I’d love to be proven wrong.

One second every day: Oxford in five minutes

This is the third One Second Every Day video that I’ve uploaded. This one covers Sept 23, 2013 – Aug 11, 2014: my entire time at Oxford reduced to five minutes. Nothing can quite do justice to the intensity of the past year, but this video does provide a glimpse of the chaos:

The first three videos can be found here, here, and here.

Risk in International Development

Bill Gates explains Why Jeffrey Sachs Matters in a recent article reviewing The Idealist, by Nina Munk (HT to Mahmud Naqi for sending me the article). The book (which I have not read) explores the successes and failures of Sachs’ Millennium Villages Project, which is highly contentious in development circles. The article is nuanced, but here’s Gates’ main point:

In the world of venture capital, a success rate of 30 percent is considered a great track record. In the world of international development, critics hold up every misstep as proof that aid is like throwing money down a rat hole. When you’re trying to do something as hard as fighting poverty and disease, you will never achieve anything meaningful if you’re afraid to make mistakes. I greatly admire Sachs for putting his ideas and reputation on the line.

I agree with the sentiment of this argument, but I think it lacks a crucial nuance. Yes, it’s important to experiment with new and risky ideas in international development and to accept that in so doing, some (and perhaps many) projects will fail. But the key is that the way we should measure risk in international development is not only by the chance a project will fail, but also by the consequences of potential project failure.

Continue reading Risk in International Development

Sexualised, never sexual

An article about a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders taking her employer to court to fight for fair pay has been making the rounds:

The salon visits, the makeup, the eyelashes, the tights were almost exclusively paid out of her own pocket. [She was required] to attend thrice-weekly practices, dozens of public appearances, photo shoots, fittings and nine-hour shifts at Raiders home games, all in return for a lump sum of $1,250 at the conclusion of the season. (…) With fines for everything from forgetting pompoms to gaining weight, the handbook warned that it was entirely possible to “find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.

Beyond the unethical and probably illegal wage issues, this article also unveils just how explicitly these women are objectified.

Continue reading Sexualised, never sexual

Fighting diseases with smart phones

Can South Africans tackle heart disease with the help of an egg cup and a Android phone? In their talk at the Martin School on Feb 6, Dr Fred Hersch and Professor Gari Clifford answered with a qualified, but hopeful, “yes.”

Egg cup stethoscope
A stethoscope made form an egg cup. Source: University of Oxford.

Continue reading Fighting diseases with smart phones