Tech Startup Rejects Gig Economy

(p. 1) SEATTLE — When Glenn Kelman became the chief executive of his online real estate start-up, he defied the tech industry’s conventional wisdom about how to grow.
Instead of hiring independent contractors, he brought in full-time employees and put them on the payroll — with benefits. That decision over a decade ago made Mr. Kelman and his company, Redfin, iconoclasts in the technology world.
Many tech start-ups lean on the idea of the “gig economy.” They staff up rapidly with freelancers, who are both cheaper to hire (none of the insurance, 401(k) and other expenses) and more flexible (they can work as much or as little as needed). It’s the model Uber has used to upend the taxi business.
. . .
Mr. Kelman argues that full-time employees allow him to offer better customer service. Redfin gives its agents salaries, health benefits, 401(k) contributions and, for the most productive ones, Redfin stock, none of which is standard for contractors. Redfin currently employs more than 1,000 agents.
Now with his company on a stronger footing, Mr. Kelman says he believes his approach has been vindicated. He has even (p. 5) become an informal counselor to other tech entrepreneurs exploring a shift to employees from contractors.
. . .
A number of technology companies have switched or are in the process of switching their contractors to employees for reasons similar to those of Redfin, including Shyp, a parcel shipping service; Luxe Valet, which offers a valet parking app; and Munchery, a food delivery service. Honor, an on-demand service for home health care professionals, is making the move to improve training.

For the full story, see:
NICK WINGFIELD. “A Start-Up Shies Away from Gig Economy.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., JULY 10, 2016): 1 & 5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 9, 2016, and has the title “Redfin Shies Away From the Typical Start-Up’s Gig Economy.”)

When Istanbul Was “a Place of Tolerance and Enlightenment”

(p. C7) In vivid and readable prose, Ms. Hughes tells the story of the three cities that succeeded one another on the Golden Horn. First came ancient Byzantium, “the armpit of Greece,” an “ethnically mongrel place” where Greek settlers mingled with native Thracians. Then there was Constantinople, the New Rome founded in 324 by the emperor Constantine, “a city with both Greek and Near Eastern genetic coding, strengthened by Roman muscle and sinew and wrapped in a Christian skin.” And at last there was Istanbul, the “buzzing, polyglot” capital of the Ottoman Empire, transformed by the architect Sinan (perhaps the greatest genius of the European Renaissance) into “one of the world’s most memorable and impressive urban environments.”
One of the leitmotifs of Ms. Hughes’s book is the cultural pluralism that has characterized Istanbul since earliest times. The 11th century saw the Viking Harald Hardrada and thousands of other “pugilistic opportunists” from the wild Baltic serving in the Byzantine emperor’s Varangian guard. In 1492, Sultan Bayezid II welcomed thousands of Jewish refugees who had been expelled from Granada by Ferdinand II of Aragon, making early Ottoman Istanbul “the largest and most flourishing Jewish community in Europe.” Although the Christian Greek population of the city has dropped from 240,000 in the mid-1920s to fewer than 1,000 today, Istanbul remains a true “global city.” Leaving aside the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees eking out a miserable half-life “on the sides of inner-city roads and trunk-route intersections,” perhaps 20% to 25% of the settled population of modern Istanbul is composed of Kurds from eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia, making Istanbul by far the largest Kurdish city in the world. Throughout its history, as Ms. Hughes writes, “Istanbul has been a city for the Cosmopolitan, for the World Citizen.”
. . .
Ms. Hughes doesn’t conceal the fact that Istanbul’s history has often been a bloody one, from the vicious Nika riots of 532 (when the emperor Justinian butchered some 50,000 civilians) to the dark spring of 1915, when “hunched groups of Armenians could be seen being frog-marched to the city’s police stations, and not coming home.” But Istanbul has also been a place of tolerance and enlightenment, and when one compares its recent history with that of the other great multicultural cities of the Middle East–Aleppo, Baghdad, even Jerusalem–Istanbul can still fairly be called, as it was in Ottoman times, “the Abode of Happiness.”

For the full review, see:
Peter Thonemann. “The Abode of Happiness.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 9, 2017): C7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 8, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Hughes, Bettany. Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2017.

“Possibly Extinct” Cave Squeaker Frog Keeps on Squeaking

(p. 6) HARARE, Zimbabwe — The cave squeaker is back.
Researchers in Zimbabwe say they have found a rare frog that has not been seen in decades.
The Arthroleptis troglodytes, below, also known as the cave squeaker because of its preferred habitat, was discovered in 1962, but there were no reported sightings of the elusive amphibian after that. An international “red list” of threatened species tagged them as critically endangered and possibly extinct.
Robert Hopkins, a researcher at the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe, in Bulawayo, said his team had found four specimens of the frog in its known habitat of Chimanimani, a mountainous area in eastern Zimbabwe.
The research team found the first male specimen on Dec. 3 [2016] after they followed an animal call they had not heard before, Mr. Hopkins said. They then discovered two other males and a female. Mr. Hopkins said he been looking for the cave squeaker for eight years.

For the full story, see:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. “Rare Frogs Seen in 1962 Resurface in Zimbabwe.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., FEB. 5, 2017): 8.
(Note: bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 4, 2017, and has the title “Cave Squeaker, Rare Frog Last Seen in 1962, Is Found in Zimbabwe.”)

Factory Workers Collaborate with Robots

(p. B1) MARION, Ohio–A new worker is charming the staff at Whirlpool Corp.’s plant here: a robot called Chappy.
Employees at the dryer factory say they have taken a shine to one-armed, programmable robots that have assumed some repetitive tasks, working in concert with their human colleagues. One, nicknamed after a worker whose rote duties it has inherited, snaps photographs to scan for defects.
“If I can get some help doing my job, I’m all for that,” said Karen “Chappy” Beidler, who is now free to focus on checking and fixing wiring connections. “It’s technology helping manpower–you can’t beat it.”

For the full story, see:
Andrew Tangel. “Latest Robots Lend an Arm.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Nov. 9, 2016): B1 & B4.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 8, 2016, and has the title “Latest Robots Lend a Helping Arm at Factories.”)

Silicon Valley Techies Make Pilgrimage to Hewlett-Packard Garage

(p. 6) The Birthplace of Silicon Valley
On a quiet Palo Alto street lined with multimillion-dollar Victorian and craftsman homes, Spanish villas, lemon trees and sidewalks perfect for jogging or strolling with babies in carriages, a National Register of Historic Places sign in one front yard recognizes the home’s famous roots. In the detached garage of the house, the Silicon Valley was seeded. The garage is where two Stanford students, William R. Hewlett and David Packard, began developing their first product, an audio oscillator, in 1938. Their partnership resulted in the establishment in 1939 of the Hewlett-Packard Company, a manufacturer of software and computer services.
What Berry Gordy Jr.’s restored upper flat in Detroit is for Motown music buffs, the Hewlett-Packard garage has become for techies, who make the pilgrimage to 367 Addison Ave. to snap photographs of the property.

For the full story, see:
KAREN CROUSE. “A Few Sights to Take in on a Drive to the Game.” The New York Times, SportsSunday Section (Sun., FEB. 6, 2016): 6.
(Note: bold subtitle in original.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 6, 2016, and has the title “On the Road to Super Bowl 50.”)

DeVos Defends Due Process at Universities

(p. A17) Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made clear her intention to correct one of the Obama administration’s worst excesses–its unjust rules governing sexual misconduct on college campuses. In a forceful speech Thursday at Virginia’s George Mason University, Mrs. DeVos said that “one rape is one too many”–but also that “one person denied due process is one too many.” Mrs. DeVos declared that “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”
. . .
As four Harvard law professors–Jeannie Suk Gersen, Janet Halley, Elizabeth Bartholet and Nancy Gertner–argued in a recent article, a fair process requires “neutral decisionmakers who are independent of the school’s [federal regulatory] compliance interest, and independent decisionmakers providing a check on arbitrary and unlawful decisions.” The four had been among more than two dozen Harvard law professors to express concerns about the Obama administration’s–and Harvard’s–handling of Title IX. So too had 16 University of Pennsylvania law professors, as well as the American Council for Trial Lawyers.

For the full commentary, see:
KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. “DeVos Pledges to Restore Due Process; The Obama Education Department’s Title IX decree ‘failed too many students,’ she says.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Sept. 8, 2017): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 7, 2017.)

The commentary, quoted above, is related to the authors’ book:
Johnson, KC, and Stuart Taylor, Jr. The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities. New York: Encounter Books, 2017.

The article by the Harvard law professors, mentioned above, has been posted online at:
https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/33789434/Fairness%20for%20All%20Students.pdf?sequence=1

Amateur Inventors Are Crowdsourced to Solve Scientific Problems

(p. A3) At his laboratory console, Rhiju Das is making a game of a pressing public-health problem. He is recruiting thousands of videogamers to develop a better test for tuberculosis, which infects about one-third of the world’s population.
All they have to do is design a single molecule that can diagnose the disease in a patient’s bloodstream quickly, easily and cheaply–a task that so far has eluded public-health experts. To muster a crowd of amateurs to attempt it, Dr. Das, a biochemist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and his colleagues this week launched the OpenTB challenge on a Web-based videogame called Eterna.
“The players themselves are going to be the inventors,” said Dr. Das. “Any molecule that a top player can make in the game, we will test it in the laboratory.”
. . .
In a game called Phylo, developed at McGill University, 300,000 players have been cross-indexing disease-related DNA sequences from dozens of species. And in Quantum Moves, conceived at Aarhus University in Denmark, 10,000 players are applying the bizarre laws of quantum mechanics to improve computer design.
“The number of projects has exploded,” said McGill computer scientist Jerome Waldispuhl, who co-founded the Phylo project.
Despite initial misgivings about the accuracy of crowdsourced research, players have produced reliable results and a dozen or so peer-reviewed research papers.
Typically, the players drawn to the science games have no special scientific expertise. They usually are intrigued by the chance to make a useful contribution to research in their spare time.
. . .
By harnessing human intuition and visual perception, these crowdsourcing games highlight differences between human and machine intelligence, several game designers said. “All of these citizen-science projects are like a snapshot of what is uniquely human at the moment,” said physicist Jacob Sherson at Aarhus University who helped to design Quantum Moves.

For the full story, see:
Robert Lee Hotz. “Videogamers Wanted: to Fight TB.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 4, 2016): A3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 3, 2016, and has the title “Videogamers Are Recruited to Fight Tuberculosis and Other Ills.” The sentence quoting Jerome Waldispuhl, appeared in the online, but not the print, version of the article.)