Tag: Their

Hacking The Pipeline: How HBCUs Are Taking Tech’s Diversity Issue Into Their Own Hands

Michelle Rial / BuzzFeed News


Leslie Tita's tone grows oddly anxious as he curls into the back of a Lyft, and speeds away from Howard University. Tita is a successful entrepreneur who owns a co-working space for entrepreneurs from Africa. He's strikingly tall and sturdily built, with long fine dreadlocks and an infectious grin, and doesn't seem the type to be worried about anything. But ask him about the “pipeline problem” in tech — the notion that tech companies don't hire enough people of color because there is not enough available talent — and you'll see his brow furrow.

“Lately there's been a lot of talk about race in general and that’s translated to tech, but what worries me is that it feels very trendy,” he says. “I have mixed feelings on how the big companies are trying to address it without working together, and I feel this fear that in a couple of months it's going to die down.”

Tita has reason for this trepidation: Despite tech’s insistence that the talent pool for engineering students of color is insufficient, that it is a so-called pipeline problem, data suggests that’s not exactly true. A study in USA Today last year suggested that universities are graduating black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that technology companies are hiring them.

Perhaps its because they're looking in the wrong places. The feeder universities for the big tech companies, like MIT and Stanford, have their own diversity issues. (At Stanford, African-Americans represent a paltry 7.8% of undergraduates. At MIT it's 10%.) In short, tech firms are building pipelines from places without any black people to begin with.

Which explains why Tita is volunteering his weekend as a mentor for an event called HBCU Hacks — a series of two-day hackathons held at historically black colleges and universities, organized by the nonprofit organization Black Founders. At these events, computer science and engineering students of color spend their weekends to conceive of, code, and hopefully finish some variety of app, game, or technical product. In short, they're trying to re-route the pipes.

That is, if they can get the internet working. A few minutes before we bailed in the Lyft, Tita was moving across the floor inside the wood-paneled reading room in Downing Hall, a linoleum-floored engineering building on the edge of the Howard University campus. Fifteen or so students were also milling about quietly, idly tapping their phones or staring at the ground, backpacks on their shoulders. Tables strewn with ethernet cables sat empty, and a table with breakfast food and cold cardboard jugs of Starbucks coffee had been picked apart by bored and hungry students. One student wearing a hooded sweatshirt with Google's logo across the back tended to a sagging sign that read “HBCU Hacks.” It should be an exhausting, nonstop event, but the students and mentors were idle, due to a particularly vexing hurdle: a campus-wide internet outage.

“There's really only two things you need for a hackathon, and that's a computer and internet and, of course, we're missing one of them,” said Tita, before letting out a strained laugh.

Black Founders

The Howard hackathon comes at a time when tech companies are under increasing scrutiny for their lack of diversity. Yet as the likes of Apple, Google, and Facebook increasingly roll out diversity reports and announce new efforts to fix the pipeline problem, the obvious fact remains that it's especially hard for people of color to gain employment at the elite companies of Silicon Valley. Diversity is frequently discussed among big tech companies now but it remains underserved in terms of actual hiring.

“We are working to increase diversity in the talent pipeline and make Yahoo a great place to work for a diverse employee base,” Yahoo’s 2015 report read after disclosing that African-Americans made up just 2% of its workers. Facebook, whose 2014 report revealed the 5,500 person company had only 81 black employees, stressed that it was “trying desperately to have a more diverse workforce and deal with the constraints on the pipeline.” And yet to some extent, the problem may be that tech companies view the problem as, well, a pipeline.

Despite hopeful and sometimes even grand gestures from companies like Apple, which last year gave a massive grant to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, much of the difficult work of building companies that genuinely reflect the ethnic makeup of their users will ultimately fall to the students of color and their institutions. The majority of that work — as many black entrepreneurs see it right now — won't take place onstage or at a press conference, but under the fluorescent lights of co-working spaces and engineering halls, where engineers, coders, and designers of color strive to build the workforce that can bridge Silicon Valley's diversity gap.

It’s this sense of self-reliance that has led people like Monique Woodard, the executive director of the diversity-in-tech nonprofit Black Founders, to partner with historically black colleges and universities across the country for this series of hackathons. Black Founders hopes to create the foundation necessary to build a culture of innovation in the tech space that, pipeline or not, Silicon Valley won’t be able to ignore.

“You see a lot of companies paying lip service about diversity, but when you talk about HBCUs there’s some pushback. That’s not where they’re recruiting,” Woodard told BuzzFeed News. “They are still looking for a Stanford student, a Harvard student, an MIT student — they just want that person to be black now. That’s not always realistic. Why not work with the engineering and business schools at HBCUs as well?”

Black Founders

Of course, no matter where they come from, they need internet to get there. And currently, the Howard hackathon is all out of that. But resourcefulness is the rule of the day. So Tita hatched a new plan and offered to host the students at his office, I/O Spaces, a few miles up the road in Silver Spring, Maryland. “Everybody call an Uber or Lyft,” one of the hackathon organizers told the group. “Grab a buddy and let's just get out of here.”

On the ride over, Tita was upbeat and focused on getting the students up and hacking. “I think it's so important to give young engineers at these HBCUs the chance to see what it's like to build something and maybe even get the chance to get funding,” he explained. “But really, it's a chance to say to them, 'Hey, this is real — this tech stuff is not just like a specific niche of people. You can build a startup.'”

As the Lyft driver pulls up to the co-working space Tita says that part of his urgency comes from the realization that although the world appears to be paying closer attention to racial inequality across the country, he’s worries it’s a momentary cycle, and is aware that window might close.

But his wariness passes quickly. “The good thing is that even though it's a trend, people can make good money off of trends,” he says, flashing a smile before entering the co-working space. “The question is, how can we, as black entrepreneurs, make the best of this moment in time?”

Hackathons aren’t much as far as spectator sports go. Save for trips to the bathroom and scuttling back and forth to a modest table stacked with pre-made sandwich wraps and soda, the students rarely move from their respective seats. Allee Clark, a senior computer science student at Howard, is working at a table with three other students on an app called Nemesis, which will employ a Tinder-like swipe interface to allow friends to find worthy partners to debate on any number of issues. “Arguing with people is pretty much the oldest and best part of the internet,” he laughs, before explaining that the group will try to develop “a behavioral API of sorts to show what kind of person you are.” The project is light-hearted and Clark and his team are using the weekend as valuable practice. They are less focused on the outcome than the experience. “If I weren’t here, I’d probably be be back in my room trying to build something else, but here there’s at least some free food,” Clark says.

That lackadaisical mood is a bit disheartening to Aaron Saunders, a local entrepreneur and adjunct faculty member teaching computer science at Howard. Saunders worries that Howard and other HBCUs have fallen behind in providing a curriculum advanced enough to graduate top-tier engineering talent.

“When I finally got in to teach, I told myself I was going to focus on getting students to build, and it was a struggle because I was asking them to make something and they’re only being taught theory, not real-world application,” he explained. “They're prepping kids to go off to Lockheed Martin and IBM and those kinds of jobs and that’s all fine and good but they’re not doing what Stanford and the best universities are doing — preparing kids to create things — to create their own company.”

Black Founders

Worse, Saunders worries that curriculums at many HBCUs can be too slow to evolve to match what’s happening in the private sector, putting graduates at an even further disadvantage when they try to score jobs at big, fast-moving tech firms. “My personal opinion is that I don't think a lot of these kids are, on the whole, ready to work at Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. And that's the harsh reality,” he said. “If you’re not turning out a product these tech companies want, then you’re setting people up for failure.”

While Saunders admitted tech curriculums lag at many public institutions across the country, he argues the effects are amplified at HBCUs like Howard. “If you go to some other state schools and say, 'Hey, raise your hand if you know somebody in software development,' there's a likelihood that in that network they know somebody. That doesn’t exist at HBCUs. The difference is other communities have a strong network. Most here don’t.”

The students suggest a more nuanced perspective: Access to bigger tech companies is available, but only on the companies’ terms. “Google is always around; they have Googlers that come to stay and teach at Howard’s campus, so Google is literally, like, downstairs,” one junior engineering student said, speaking of Howard’s Googler in Residence program. (Google declined to make its Googlers in Residence available for comment, but Yolanda Mangolini, Google's director of diversity and inclusion, told BuzzFeed News via a prepared statement that “Historically Black Colleges and Universities are and have always been an important pillar in the black community, and embedding our Googler engineers as instructors has helped bring practitioners to the classroom.”)

Indeed, the Googler in Residence program has its engineers embed and teach not just at Howard, but also at Hampton University, Fisk University, and Spelman and Morehouse colleges. The mere fact of that presence can make a difference, say students. “Google makes it a lot easier to get an internship, not because they’re biased toward us but because they are here. Microsoft and Facebook are around maybe twice a year at most, but when I apply to Microsoft using their site I get nothing; no response, no confirmation email. Never. It's like it's going into a black hole,” another junior mechanical engineering student said.

For Alanna Walton, a Howard sophomore in computer engineering, Big Tech’s real presence at the university has helped shape the trajectory of her still-young academic career. After taking a class with the Googler in Residence, Walton secured an internship at the search giant over the summer. By the time she made it back to campus this fall, she’d already begun laying the groundwork for her startup idea with three other Howard students, a customizable haircare business called GottaBeYour. Walton is soft-spoken and wears a high school shirt that reads “Powderpuff Seniors” but speaks about her business with the concern of a seasoned entrepreneur, already trained in speaking about scalability and unreliable vendors.

At the hackathon, Walton sits cross-legged on the ground, balancing her laptop on her knees, deep in focus. Amid haggling with shampoo vendors for GottaBeYour and bootstrapping the project with the money she made at Google, she’s using the weekend to build something different. “Bringing something that you already started into a hackathon, that feels weird or kind of like cheating,” she said. “Plus, I can try something different and maybe learn another thing or two — I’m really into wireless beacons right now.”

And so she and her partner Lucretia Williams are working on Food EZ, an app that allows people to set up drive-thru orders ahead of time but that aren’t sent to the kitchen until you reach the beacon’s connectivity radius. “Maybe it won’t work, but the technology is really interesting and there’s a lot to figure out.”

To talk to the hackathon mentors this ability to embrace and be comfortable with failure is just one of many cultural barriers complicating diversity programs — and learning to embrace it is critical. “We talk about culture fit all the time and accepting failure is just completely outside of our culture. We don't have the luxury to fail,” Howard graduate and mentor Beverly Turner, who runs her own private technology exposure programs, said.

That willingness to try something new — and maybe fail at it — is prized worldview in Silicon Valley. Failure, breaking things, the perennially available exciting and potentially lucrative opportunities on the horizon for every failed startup founder: This is the standard template for success in the tech industry. But as even the most successful entrepreneurs of color have found, the luxury of failure is a foreign concept.

Black Founders

BuzzFeed – Tech

To Make Investing Approachable To Young Adults, Stash Taps Their Passions

Stash

What happens when two finance vets get together with a guy who helped run a water bottle company and worked for Moby (yes, that Moby) selling teas, and build an app to convince today's young consumers to start saving and investing?

The new app, called Stash, claims to be the product of its co-founders' consumer marketing and investing experience. Unlike traditional financial firms, it seeks to frame investing around the much-noted identity and purpose-hunger of America's youth (i.e. snake people) and transform it into small but growing deposits over time. All a person needs to start is $ 5.

“It's only $ 5 to get started as a minimum investment, and that makes it so it's not expensive and scary starting out,” said co-founder David Ronick, the consumer products vet.

“It's not intimidating. You spend five bucks on a coffee or a beer,” said co-founder Ed Robinson, a former banker and trader.

Before launching Wednesday, Stash already had a 50,000 person signup list.

Brandon Krieg, David Ronick, and Ed Robinson

Stash

Here's how Stash works.

You fill out a standard Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated questionnaire, answer a question about your risk tolerance, give them your employment status, net worth, income, and what you plan to do with the money you're saving. From there you can start picking investments with as little as $ 5 going to the first one (which probably only gets you a fraction of a share).

Stash charges $ 1 per month and then, with $ 5,000 account, switches to a 0.25% annual fee. That's on top of the regular fees embedded into the funds themselves.

There are three categories of investments: “I believe,” “I want,” and “I like.”

The menu of investments are arranged to appeal squarely to how consumer marketing types think of young people. Yet in fact, these categories are mostly relabeled exchange traded funds from BlackRock's iShares. What Stash tries to add, and what it's charging users for, is both the unique framing of the funds and ease of use.

“That iShares investment, which is a great investment, is not something that most people we talk to could really get their heads around,” Ronick said. “It wasn't something they couldn't talk to their friends about and share on social media, it 's kinda like medicine.”

An example of an “I believe” investment is called “Clean and Green,” which is the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF, which includes investments in companies like Vistas Wind Systems and Gamesa Corp Tecnologica, a Spanish wind turbine company.

One “I like” investment is “Internet Titans,” which is the First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index Fund, an exchange traded fund that is over 20% allocated to Amazon and Facebook, along with sizable investments in Netflix, Salesforce, Google, Pay Pal, and Twitter. These investments, which can then be shared on social media, are supposed to be more relatable to younger people, said Robinson.

Investing in these tech or green energy companies is “self expression,” Robinson said, even if a bog-simple Vanguard index ETF plan “is probably the smart investment.”

Getting people to really embrace their investments is part of Stash's marketing plan. “My hope is that they can make investments in companies that are in line with their beliefs and that are also good investments,” Ronick said. “They may then talk to their friends about what they're invested in as opposed to handing their money over to something that's a black box.”

Of course, there are still a great many young adults who are more focused on their returns. For them, Stash has an “I Want” tab that includes more diverse investments with snazzy labels. The “Aggressive Mix” is the iShare Core Growth Allocation ETF (I can see why they changed the name), which is itself is a mix of the iShares funds that track U.S., European, and that tracks the S&P 500, along with indices of European and Asian companies along with bond investments.

“If we were to put them in a standard asset allocation right away they would say 'Woah woha woah, red flag red flag, this is a little too hard for me right off,'” Robinson said.

Stash

Stash's approach came from focus group interviews.

“We talked to 100 people, and we heard the same thing over and over again: the whole concept of investing was confusing, it was expensive, it was unrelatable, it isn't my world,” Ronick said about the conversations.

Other consumer-friendly companies like Betterment and Wealthfront, which provide automated investment advice, have a different approach — they are proud of putting their clients into investments based on academic theories about portfolio construction and a laser-like focus on cost. They have a Vulcan distaste for emotions or desires beyond getting the highest return with the lowest taxes over time.

When I spoke to Robinson, I shared with him my own personal finance advice to young people: if you have access to a 401(k) with a decent match, auto-contribute 10% to 15% of your income into the fund that provides the cheapest and broadest exposure to stocks. If you're outside the 401(k) system, get a Vanguard brokerage account and buy Vanguard's total stock market exchange traded fund, and over time (decades) shift into buying more bonds.

He said this was a great way to approach investing. Still, no one I know has followed my advice — I am bad at marketing. Hectoring based on academic theories about portfolio construction along with a puritanical aversion to costs or glitz is not a way to get real people to do things.

Stash, which is going after younger and less informed investors, instead sees it as its mission to get people to start putting away some amount of money in to the market and then get them into a more optimized portfolio over time.

“We’re going to be able to provide really solid advice around their portfolio around making smarter investor habits,” Robinson said. And hopefully, for them, that's what young people believe in, like, and want.

BuzzFeed – Business

We Asked 29 Tech Companies If Their Employees Can Access Your Personal Data

Privacy policies rarely mention the weakest point in any company’s security infrastructure: its employees.

BuzzFeed

Traditionally, privacy worries for consumers and tech companies have been limited to keeping information secure from third parties or hackers. But a series of internal abuses show that tech company employees often have universal access to user information, as well as reason — be it pure voyeuristic curiosity or, in the worst cases, a vendetta — to look at our whereabouts, spending, and of the most private corners of our lives.

Fears of employee data abuse are founded, from the highest levels of government intelligence down to car-sharing apps. In 2013, reports revealed over a dozen instances in the past ten years in which NSA employees abused NSA surveillance to collect data on love interests, referred to internally as “Loveint.” At tech companies, where security measures and training are largely more relaxed, employees surveilling the location histories of ex-lovers, real-time tracking roommates, and looking at activity logs of friends of friends, is not only a plausible fear, but a new reality. Just last month, a New York Uber executive was investigated and reprimanded for tracking the whereabouts of a BuzzFeed News reporter without her permission.

For all the careful consideration and legal maneuvering of tech company terms of service and privacy policies, those documents rarely mention the weakest point in any company's security infrastructure: its employees. Clear, plainspoken explanations of employee access to user data are rarely, if ever, present in a privacy policy. But the reality is that thousands of tech company employees across the world now have unfettered access to our most personal data.

BuzzFeed News reached out to 29 major technology companies, including social networks, fitness trackers, and dating, payment, messaging, music, mapping, and music apps with ten specific questions about their internal privacy policies with regard to user data.

Out of the 29 companies, only 13 responded. Of the 13 that responded, three companies didn't offer comment. Responses from the other ten manifested a wide range of views: some took the inquiry seriously; others offered boilerplate responses, and a significant percentage of the companies chose to remain silent. All told, the collective responses offer a complex and, in many cases, unsettling survey of the current data privacy landscape.

BuzzFeed News sent the same set of ten straightforward questions to all 29 companies. Here is the list in full:

  • Do you have a privacy policy regarding employee access to user
    location, financial, and other account data, if so what is it? Are
    there any exceptions to that policy and what is a comprehensive list
    of those exceptions?
  • How many, and which types of, employees currently have access to
    users' account data?
  • What is the process to gaining that access? Is there more than one
    level of permission? What are they and the respective processes to
    obtain them?
  • Do the CEO and other senior executives have personal access to all
    user data? Do interns?
  • What are the repercussions of violating the privacy policy or
    accessing a user's account without permission? Has this policy ever
    been enforced, and if so can you provide an example?
  • How does the company monitor employee access to user accounts?
  • What steps, if any, does the company take to de-identify users in
    its databases?
  • Does the company share or sell user data that includes identifying
    information to other parties; and if so, how is that confidentiality
    protected?
  • Does the company have a plan for transfer of user data if the
    company changes hands?
  • Are there any procedures in place to notify users and the public to
    changes in the terms of service?


View Entire List ›

BuzzFeed – Tech

The Sony Hackers Are Now Threatening Employees And Their Families

An email from the “Guardians of Peace” showed up in some Sony employees’ inboxes, it ends: “your family will be in danger.”

Fred Prouser / Reuters

This afternoon, nearly two weeks after Sony Pictures Entertainment was hit with a devastating data breach, a number of Sony employees received an email from a party claiming to be the hackers. Several employees received the email to their main inboxes from an individual purporting to be the head of “G O P” or the “Guardians of Peace” (the group that claimed credit for the hack).

The email said that, “removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which is a worldwide organization” and continued, threatening that if Sony employees don't “sign [their] name to object the false of the company” then “your family will be in danger.”

A Sony staffer who asked not to identified shared the full email with BuzzFeed News

Several thousand current and former employees have had personal and professional information leaked, including salaries, bonuses, social security numbers, as well as some passwords for professional services, and even health insurance information. Ben Bergman, a reporter for the radio station KPCC, also reported that Sony employees received the email and that phones at Sony had also been hacked.

Many suspect that North Korea had a role in the hack. Included in the hacked documents was an itemized budget for The Interview, a comedy coming out on December 25th about an attempted assassination of North Korean president Kim Jong Un. Several full length Sony feature films, including Annie (which is yet to be released) were also distributed online and are available on file sharing networks.

When reached for comment, a Sony spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We understand that some of our employees have received an email claiming to be from GOP. We are aware of the situation and are working with law enforcement.”

>> Subject: Notice to all the employees of Sony Pictures
>>
>> I am the head of G O P who made you worry.
>>
>> Removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which
>> is a worldwide organization.
>> And what we have done so far is only a small part of our further plan.
>> It's your false if you think this crisis will be over after some time.
>> All hope will leave you and Sony Pictures will collapse.
>> This situation is only due to Sony Pictures.
>> Sony Pictures is responsible for whatever the result is.
>> Sony Pictues clings to what is good to nobody from the beginning.
>> It's silly to expect in Sony Pictures to take off us.
>> Sony Pictures makes only useless efforts.
>> One beside you can be our member.
>>
>> Our supporters take their action at any place of the world.
>> Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world.
>> Our agents find themselves act in necessary places.
>> Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email
>> address below if you don't want to suffer damage.
>> If you don't, not only you but your family will be in danger.
>>
>> lisa.harris-79svnkc@yopmail.com
>>
>> Nobody can prevent us, but the only way is to follow our demand.
>> If you want to prevent us, make your company behave wisely.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Watch In Real Time As 3.1 Million Humans Have Their Thanksgiving Plans Ruined (Again!)

2014 Edition! (h/t to last year’s post !)

flightaware.com

Last year, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a winter storm barreled across the country, stranding thousands and leaving them bartering with a higher power for WiFi in an over-crowded, turkey-less airport. Oh, and it's happening again this year.

That's right, roughly three million air travelers will be hurtling through the skies this holiday week, with a hefty portion making their way today, as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions brace a winter storm. And that means flight delays.

But, as we showed you last year, there's one small bit of entertainment to come out of all of this. Using Misery Map, a real-time weather and flight data visualization by the live flight tracking site Flight Aware, you can watch the delays pile up airport by airport in a neat, somewhat dizzying animation. Perfect for weather nerds, aviation aficionados, and run-of-the-mill sick and twisted schadenfreude.

So relax, stake out your spot on the floor in the terminal next to that inexplicably-placed lone outlet by the jet bridge and marvel. And please, please, please travel safe!

Via flightaware.com

BuzzFeed – Tech

What Uber Drivers Really Make (According To Their Pay Stubs)

I went on 11 rides with 11 randomly picked Uber drivers to see how much they’re paid and how they like driving for Uber.

Vimeo / Via vimeo.com

A few weeks ago, Uber New York General Manager Josh Mohrer, who has been known to fight his fair share of public battles in defense of Uber on Twitter, tweeted an offer out to reporters: In response to articles that questioned Uber's claims that drivers made an an average of $ 25 an hour (or that the median driver makes upwards of $ 90,000 a year) Mohrer said he would go on the record with any reporter who took 10 rides and asked those drivers for their payment statements (Uber is currently investigating Mohrer for apparently violating the company's privacy policy during the reporting of this story).

It seemed as good a chance as any to get to the heart of Uber's rapidly growing business, one that has already transformed the transportation industry in just a few years, so I took Josh up on the offer and took 11 rides with 11 randomly chosen Uber drivers and obtained eight out of 11 of the drivers' pay statements — two drivers who spoke on the record were not comfortable with showing me their pay statements and Uber did not provide pay statements for the last driver.

As is common with ride-sharing services, throughout my 11 rides, the work schedule varied considerably for each driver. Most were part-time by their definition (working two to three days out of the week or only a few hours each day), three were students attempting to pay their way through college, one had been with Uber since it arrived in New York, three just started driving for Uber in the week before I rode with them, one was renting his car through Uber's fleet partnerships program, and another was renting his car from his father. The youngest drivers were 21. The oldest were over 40.

The eight drivers netted hourly wages of $ 15.22, $ 21.17, $ 27.54, $ 32.90, $ 36.88, $ 37.12, and $ 38.25 — not including one-time referral or sign up bonuses or one-time deductions. They worked between 5.78 and 42.65 hours per week. Overall, their combined hourly wage during this time was $ 31.61 (BuzzFeed News has uploaded its aggregated driver payment information here).

All of this seems to verify, if not surpass, the data that Uber touted in a September blog post, comparing this past September's average net wages to the two previous Septembers' (before Uber put in place a fare cut that made Uber X cheaper than taxis). According to Uber, drivers netted an average of $ 25.00 an hour with an average of 1.3 rides per hour.

These net wages, however, don't take into account bridge tolls, car insurance, or other costs of being a driver. Subtracting only minimum insurance, rent (when appropriate), and tolls in the case of one driver who drives to and from New Jersey, the drivers' combined hourly wage weighted by how many hours they worked was approximately $ 21.95. Though it's not a far cry from what Uber claims their drivers pay on average per hour, it's important to note that this is still before accounting for other weekly driver expenses such as gas, car payments, car maintenance and wear and tear.

BuzzFeed News

The initial net income only reveals one aspect of the Uber driver pay structure, one that's been complicated by an huge influx of part-time drivers. Many of these drivers identify as part time because they either do not work every day of the week or only work a specific set of hours. Those who only work certain hours typically only go online during the busiest times of day when there is likely to be surge pricing.

For example, Zahidur Rahman, a 21-year-old student and Uber X driver who began working for Uber just a few months before the summer fare cuts, usually only works three nights a week because of classes. On those three nights, based on his pay statements, Rahman typically only works during the evening rush. During his busiest week starting on October 28 and ending on November 2, of the 38 rides Rahman had 15 were during surge pricing which was an average of 1.9 times the usual fare. Seven of those rides were double or more than double the standard fare. Rahman worked 18.57 hours that week, grossed $ 968.61 and took home $ 687.21 after Uber's 20 percent commission, sales tax, black car fund and the $ 10 data fee for their phone.

Between October 20 and October 27 (Rahman's highest grossing of the five weeks of pay statements I obtained), Rahman had 30 rides, 14 of which were surge priced rides and six of those surge priced rides were 2.75 times the fare. That week, Rahman only worked 14.5 hours across three days (the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd), grossed $ 1078.19 and netted $ 771.17.

Compare that to Lahab Alaur's highest grossing and busiest weeks. Alaur started working with Uber about four months ago. Of the drivers I obtained payment statements from Alaur worked the closest to full-time during the five weeks of statements. Twice, Alaur worked more than 40 hours and one week he was just under 40 hours.

Between October 6 and October 11, Alaur worked 42.65 hours, had 54 rides only 3 of which were surge priced, grossed $ 1,336.82, and netted $ 941.17. This was the most hours Alaur worked of the five weeks and he only netted approximately an average of $ 22.06 an hour. During the highest grossing week between October 27 and November 3, on the other hand, Alaur worked 40.1 hours, took 71 rides 16 of which were surge rides, grossed $ 1,870.77 and netted $ 1,333.73. He netted approximately $ 34.24 per hour that week.

Put that next to Rahman's highest grossing week and busiest weeks and you have an interesting comparison:

Rahman (part-time) Highest Grossing Week: 14.5 hours / $ 53.18 per hour
Alaur (full-time) Highest Grossing Week: 40.1 hours / $ 34.24 per hour

Rahman (part-time) Busiest Week: 18.57 hours / $ 37.07 per hour.
Alaur (full-time) Busiest week: 42.65 hours / $ 22.06 per hour

Put simply: Rahman, like many other part-time drivers I spoke to, works fewer but very specific high-income hours and thus makes much more per hour than a typical full-time driver.


View Entire List ›

BuzzFeed – Tech

Here’s How Uber Is Trying To Talk People Out Of Deleting Their Accounts

Community managers for the transit company confront journalist investigation allegations head-on to try and retain users.

Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

In the wake of a BuzzFeed News report that Uber SVP Emil Michael suggested hiring opposition researchers to find and publish personal information on journalists covering the company, some users have begun to delete their Uber profiles. But the company isn't letting them go easily.

One San Francisco Uber user, Brian Brophy, tried to cancel his account Tuesday evening, citing the company's “disturbing” business practices. In response, an Uber community manager vehemently defended the company in an attempt to retain Brophy as a user.

“We have not, do not, and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks do not reflect the views of the company and have no basis in the reality of our approach. Our executive has apologized for his comments,” the community manager replied.

Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti noticed and tweeted similar statement from an Uber community operations manager when she tried to cancel her New York account yesterday afternoon:


View Entire List ›

BuzzFeed – Tech