Stop Calling Everyone a Tech Bro

Fresh-faced Stanford grads yapping about their startups. Ruthlessly capitalist billionaires in their fifties. Soulful, shaggy-haired billionaires in their forties. Greedy venture capitalists. Earnestly liberal social media critics. New York political candidates who don’t work in tech.

What do all these disparate characters have in common? They are all routinely, casually labeled “tech bros.” A term that once mocked a particular Bay Area cultural phenomenon has become an all-purpose epithet. In the process, it has lost whatever analytic value and rhetorical punch it once had. If tech bros are everywhere, then they are nowhere.

The tech bro is, of course, a species within the broader bro genus. Generic bro-ishness is properly understood as a form of performative male camaraderie, typically involving an ostentatious commitment to partying and a mildly ironic preppy aesthetic. Bros are the opposite of hipsters: aggressively conformist, intentionally unfashionable, proudly loyal to institutions (whether it’s Penn State or Deutsche Bank). With its roots in fraternity life, bro culture can include a darker undertone of misogyny, although the textbook bro is more buffoonish than menacing.

“Tech bro” was a logical adaptation of the concept, as a generation of overwhelmingly male college grads who before might have sought their fortunes on Wall Street flocked to high-paying jobs in San Francisco. To many Bay Area residents, the term conjures a specific image: a twentysomething guy, usually white, in all likelihood wearing a quarter-zip Patagonia fleece vest branded with the logo of his Silicon Valley workplace. (These vests are also popular with his cousin, the finance bro.) This quintessential tech bro appears to have few interests outside his high-paying job, Bitcoin, and perhaps biking. Callow and callous, he is an irresistible target of mockery, blamed for driving up the cost of living in San Francisco while deadening its spirit with his acquisitive lifestyle and cultural cluelessness. While not necessarily sexist himself, he is an emblem of the boys’ club culture that permeates the tech industry.

The tech bro meme hit a nerve in a city jolted by an influx of wealth and commerce, and in an industry where very young men held outsized influence while women felt like second-class citizens. All along, however, there was a certain ambiguity to it: Did tech bro, like finance bro, refer to the industry’s rank and file—no one calls Lloyd Blankfein or Steven Mnuchin a bro—or to its C-suite? The answer was both. That cocky 24-year-old getting drunk in the Mission could be an entry-level Facebook engineer, or he could be Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, who in 2014 became the world’s youngest billionaire just a few years removed from sending emails to his Stanford frat brothers featuring lines like, “Hope at least six girls sucked your dicks last night.” (One can see why he would go on to invent a disappearing-message app.)

Somewhere along the line, however, the tech bro label began being asked to do too much. It is used to mock the pretensions of Silicon Valley’s upper crust: thus Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, a middle-aged man who has been in the Bay since the Clinton administration and is far from the stereotypical transplant, becomes a tech bro when the subject is his strange diet or world travels. It is applied to straightforward displays of sexism: When the Google engineer James Damore was fired for publishing an internal memo suggesting that workplace gender disparities stemmed from biological differences, it was hard to find an article on the subject that didn’t label him as a tech bro (or, alternatively, a Google Bro.) Don’t get me wrong: The male dominance of the tech industry is a problem. It’s just one that calling everyone a tech bro does little to illuminate. The term is even invoked when the very fate of American democracy is at stake. “Don’t make social media tech bro billionaires the arbiters of truth,” declares one recent op-ed headline. In short, “tech bro” has become the go-to term for any man in tech who merits criticism. As the industry’s reputation plummets ever further, that gets closer and closer to any man in tech, period.

How to Pull an Effective All-Nighter, If You Have To

Illustration for article titled How to Pull an Effective All-Nighter, If You Have To

Photo: Chaay_Tee (Shutterstock)

Finals, due dates, exams, and deadlines all have one thing in common: they convince us that skipping sleep is a good idea. While that’s certainly not true, sometimes pulling an all-nighter is your only option to get things done. And if you have to go that route, you may as well do it right.

First, let’s talk about what we mean by an “all-nighter.” Some people are naturally night owls and tend towards later schedules. If you work the evening shift, go to bed at 4 a.m., and wake up at noon, you’re not pulling an all-nighter, you just have an atypical schedule. However, if you’re planning to get three hours of sleep tonight so you can meet that deadline, congratulations, you’re an all-nighter candidate. Before you grab that energy drink, though, ask yourself if this is really worthwhile.

When to pull an all-nighter

Denying your body sleep is naturally unhealthy. As such, there’s one rule above all others for pulling an all-nighter: don’t. Obviously, that’s not always the most practical solution and some days you just have to work late. However, you should always keep in mind that reducing your amount of sleep takes a toll on your body. If minimizing sleep is a part of your typical routine, you’re going to ruin any of the productivity benefits you’d gain with those extra few hours.

All-nighters are also not great for your memory, attention, or focus the following day. Staying up til 4 a.m. to study for a test at 8 a.m. is a bad idea. Just because you spent all night reading words on pages doesn’t mean your brain retained the information. If you need to function the following day, cut your losses—or at least compromise and get some sleep.

There are still some situations where staying up all night might not kill any benefit you would otherwise gain:

  • When your workload is light the next day. It’s a bad idea to coast through your job or classes, but we all have slower days than others. Staying up late on Thursday to finish a project due Friday isn’t going to be nearly as bad if you only have to work a couple hours for the rest of the day.
  • When you have time for naps. Losing sleep is a problem that’s only solved by getting sleep. Staying up all night to get a project done for the morning can be alright if you can find time to nap in the afternoon. If staying up all night means you won’t get a chance to sleep for two days, reconsider.
  • When you haven’t pulled another all-nighter recently. Staying up all night means losing sleep. Staying up every night means wrecking your sleep schedule permanently. If you’ve skipped a substantial amount of sleep within the last few days, don’t do it again until you’re well rested.

How to tackle the big night

Pulling an all-nighter should be treated like any other physically challenging endeavor: you need to make sure you have the right supplies and prepare yourself before going in. When you know you’re going to be skipping sleep, follow these guidelines:

If possible, take a power nap

Pulling an all-nighter is stealing sleep from your future self. Make up for it by topping off your metaphorical tank before you get started. The more sleep you can get beforehand, the less you’ll hurt yourself later on. In an interview with how-to blog Art of Manliness, a former Navy SEAL explains why it’s important to begin an all-nighter with a nap:

Make sure you don’t get behind on sleep. When you know an all-nighter is coming, see if you can bank a few extra hours in advance. That makes the well deeper when you have to dip into sleep reserves. This really works.

Taking a nap before your work binge is going to do world’s more good than taking one in the middle. If you wait until you’re already exhausted to “just take a quick nap,” you might not wake up for hours. The only thing worse than missing sleep is missing sleep and having nothing to show for it. This would also be a good time to brush up on the right duration nap for the brain boost you need.

Eat proteins, not carbs

Your body needs something to burn to get through the night, particularly if you’re focused on a brain-intensive task like writing a paper, so it’s a good idea to grab some snacks or an extra meal. What you eat matters, though. Instead of focusing on carbs (potato chips, pizza, and most of the biggest late-night cramming staples), focus on protein consumption. Why? Carbs store energy for later, and can even make you sleepier in the short term:

Everybody associates foods high in carbohydrates (like breads and pasta) with energy, but what they really do is prepare your body to exert energy. This means that only exercise makes the carbs in your body start your wheels turning.

According to Dr. Nathan Shier, an Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, professor of nutrition science, consuming high-carb foods releases high levels of a hormone called serotonin into the brain. Too much serotonin makes you lethargic. Translation? Stay away from high-carb meals before and while studying or you’ll spend your “all-nighter” asleep on top of your keyboard.

Proteins are going to be much more helpful in keeping you going through the night. So, instead of a bag of Doritos and some cookies, reach for some jerky and a protein drink.

Grab caffeine (but abstain from it first)

Caffeine is the obvious staple for staying up late throughout the night. Additionally, while it’s not exactly the healthiest option, energy drinks are actually effective at keeping you up and even improving focus (though you will crash later). The trick, however, is to avoid caffeine leading up to your anti-sleep protest. Once again, the Art of Manliness explains how drinking caffeine throughout the day reduces the effectiveness of the drug at night:

All of the SPEC-OPS guys we talked to unsurprisingly recommended consuming some sort of caffeine throughout the night. The trick, according to all of them, is to lay off the caffeine the day before and the day leading up to your all-nighter. Your body and mind build up a tolerance to caffeine, so if you’ve been ceaselessly pounding back the coffee all week long, it won’t have as strong of an effect during your round-the-clock vigil.

This effect makes a fairly strong argument in favor of reducing or eliminating the amount of caffeine in your diet in general. Caffeine has a tangible and sometimes useful effect on your brain, but if you’re using it constantly, it will be of the least help when you need it the most. It’s also worth stating yet again, this scenario is far from ideal. We all know what desperate times call for, but using caffeine to avoid sleep on the regular will destroy your productivity, focus, and even memory.

Do periodic exercise

The effects of a physical workout on your brain and productivity can’t be overstated. In the same way that a quick, 20-minute workout can help your brain directly before an exam, exercise can help boost your brain’s ability to learn and retain information, as well as improving creative thinking. We call this trait neuroplasticity.

You don’t want to exhaust yourself with a full body workout, of course. However, going for a walk, doing a few pushups or jumping jacks, or something to get your blood flowing will help keep your brain on the right track. This is a basic physiological response to thousands of years of evolution: if prehistoric humans fell asleep while running from danger, chances are they wouldn’t live very long. When your body is exerting physical energy, it signals to your brain that now is the time to be alert and focused, not to drift off to dream land.

When you’re done, rest and regroup

You made it through the night, finished up that project, completed that paper, built that battle robot or whatever it is you needed to do. You met your deadline and the deed is done. Now’s the time to get back on track. It’s going to be tempting to crash as soon as you get home—and sneaking in a nap can help you get through the day!—but to get back on your schedule properly, wait until your usual bedtime to crash. At the very least, don’t go to bed more than a couple hours earlier than you normally would. When you do, make sure you get a full night’s sleep.

The most important recovery technique of all is to stop pulling all-nighters as much as humanly possible. Especially when you’re in college or work a demanding job, it can be tempting to run on minimal amounts of sleep and maximum amounts of energy drinks. This will kill your productivity over the long-term (to say nothing of the effects sleep loss can have on the brain). Besides, developing good sleep habits can mean you need less sleep overall anyway. So, if it’s crunch time and you just have to get that one important project done, do what you have to do. But don’t make a lifestyle out of it.

This story was originally published in April 2014 and was updated on January 26, 2021 to meet Lifehacker style guidelines.

The Morning After: Apples new fitness feature is a guided walk with Dolly Parton

How are those mid-pandemic, new-year-new-you fitness goals going? My diet is still atrocious, but I’m grinding out my workouts. We’ve got two stories today that take different approaches to coaxing us all into being a little more active. 

Future Fit

Through the app Future, Senior Editor Nicole Lee hired a remote personal trainer that cut her no slack, while Apple surprised us all with a new Fitness+ feature that spices up your outdoor walks with celebrity narration. Isn’t that just a podcast? Er, kind of. However, the first wave of stars, such as Dolly Parton, Draymond Green and Shawn Mendes (ugh, I’ll skip), will include a selection of music tracks to go alongside their walking ruminations.

All you need is your Apple wearable, a Fitness+ subscription and a pair of wireless headphones — you can leave your phone at home. New episodes will arrive every Monday from now through the end of April. 

— Mat Smith

Something is in the works, and it’s probably not another pair of expensive headphones.

Former Apple Senior VP of Engineering Dan Riccio is now focusing on a mysterious “new project” at Apple where he will still report directly to CEO Tim Cook. For it to need leadership from a guy who’s run everything from iPad development to Macs to the recent AirPods Max, it must be big, right? Based on recent rumors, the best bet is Apple’s augmented/virtual reality headset, with the Project Titan car initiative close behind.

Riccio will still hold the title of Vice President of Engineering, but his replacement on the executive team is John Ternus. Ternus has been the VP of engineering since 2013, and Apple’s announcement notes he was a key figure in developing its custom M1 CPUs.
Continue reading.

The new version is available only in 4:3 aspect ratio.

Babylon 5 on HBO Max

Nearly 30 years after its first broadcast and close to 20 since its troubled DVD release, Babylon 5 is finally getting a polish. Warner Bros. is launching Babylon 5 Remastered both as a digital download (from iTunes and Amazon where available) and on HBO Max

Speaking to Engadget, a Warner Bros. spokesperson explained how they scanned the original Babylon 5 Remastered camera negative then transferred the film sequences into 4K before they downscaled it to HD, with a dirt and scratch clean-up as well as color correction. The show’s CGI and composite sequences, meanwhile, were digitally upscaled to HD with only some minor tweaks where absolutely necessary.

Engadget has extensively covered the interesting and tortured journey that Babylon 5 took to reach home video. Rather than repeat ourselves here, we’d recommend you read this report from 2018 explaining the story in-depth
Continue reading.

The administration has committed $300 billion to R&D and breakthrough technologies as part of its Innovate in America plan.

The new Biden administration plans to make a clean break from Trump’s openly hostile stance towards the sciences. Among the many departures from his predecessor’s policy positions, Biden has pledged to “restore trust in science” and “pay great attention” to scientists as a matter of course in crafting responses to the COVID pandemic and climate change.
Continue reading.

The company has denied the reports, again.

Honor / Huawei

After selling its spin-off phone brand, Honor, last year, Huawei may do the same to its premium Mate and P smartphone series, in a bid to get around US sanctions, according to a Reuters report. The company — which denies the sell-off — has reportedly been talking to a consortium led by investment firms backed by the Shanghai government since as far back as last September. In summer 2020, Huawei topped the global smartphone sales charts with 55.1 million units shipped.
Continue reading.

Stephen Colbert furiously explains why the mob who stormed the U.S. Capitol are terrorists

“When I saw the events at the Capitol last Wednesday, I was more upset than I can ever remember,” said Late Show host Stephen Colbert on Monday night. “Yeah, [9/11] is the most horrible day in America’s history. But I want to point out: No Americans were cheering for the terrorists back then! No-one was making excuses for the terrorists! No-one was pretending that they weren’t terrorists!”

Last week’s attack on the Capitol was a significant and devastating moment for the United States. Trump supporters’ violent attempt to overturn the election results was one of the strongest threats to America’s democracy yet. 

Yet, as laid out by a thunderously furious Colbert on Monday, further details have revealed the attempted coup was somehow even worse than it initially appeared. Pipe bombs were found at the DNC and RNC buildings. Eleven Molotov cocktails were found in one man’s car. Video even captured the crowd calling for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged. Five people died because of the siege, but it could easily have been so many more.

“The terrorists who stormed the Capitol weren’t just a bunch of yahoos fed a steady diet of lies, vape juice, and Monster energy drink,” said Colbert. “This was a coordinated and planned attempt to terrorize, if not kill, our nation’s elected leaders.”

“And if any of you out there think it’s wrong to call these people terrorists, consider this: You’re wrong,” Colbert continued, referencing a report that some Republicans didn’t vote to certify Joe Biden’s win because they feared for their family’s safety. “They capitulated to armed violent extremists. That’s the GOP’s new motto: We don’t negotiate with terrorists. We just give them what they want.”

Get a lifetime subscription to this fun fitness app for under £30

Products featured here are selected by our partners at StackCommerce.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

A lifetime subscription to BetterMe Home Workout and Diet is on sale.
A lifetime subscription to BetterMe Home Workout and Diet is on sale.

Image: pexels

TL;DR: A lifetime subscription to the BetterMe Home Workout and Diet app is on sale for £29.22 as of Jan. 15, saving you 96% on list price.

Just starting your workout journey? There’s an app for that. Too busy to exercise? There’s an app for that, too. You miss the gym and need to work out with a personal trainer to stay motivated? More than likely, there are digital fitness experts right at your fingertips. 

Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey or how much time you have to spare, we’ve found an app that can basically do it all. It’s called BetterMe and a lifetime subscription is on sale for under £30. 

Whether you’re a total exercise beginner or a certified pro, looking to lose weight or feel more at peace with your body, there are courses on this app to suit your needs. They’re all very well thought out and expert-approved, and the best part is you don’t need much to prepare for them – just your body, a mat, and some determination. You can choose problem areas to focus on, track your calories, choose nutrition plans to fit your lifestyle (keto, vegan, intermittent fasting, etc.), and even build a customised health plan. And the cool part is the work is never over. Once you finish working on one targeted area, you can choose another, and another, and another. And a personal coach feature will guide and support you along the way.

On the BetterMe app, you’re not just working out alone, either. There’s a full community with which you can connect and chat, so you can get support from others and offer it up right back. 

Typically £877 for a lifetime subscription, you can sign up for BetterMe while it’s on sale and pay just £29.22. Who needs a monthly gym membership fee anyway?

10 apps on sale to help you reach your 2021 fitness goals

Products featured here are selected by our partners at StackCommerce.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Do yoga workouts and more from your living room.
Do yoga workouts and more from your living room.

Image: Yogaia

If you’ve already fallen behind on your New Year’s fitness resolutions, don’t beat yourself up. 2021 has already been a whirlwind. To help you get back on track, we’ve rounded up 10 convenient programs you can follow right at home.

Plus, all of these programs are currently on sale as of Jan. 15.

Don’t have time or equipment? No problem. TMAC FITNESS Beginner and Advanced Workouts provide quick 20-minute, equipment-free exercises at a one-time price of just $214 (regularly $3,580). That includes lifetime access to the classes, so you’ll save big on a gym membership in the long run. 

The iBodyFit Premium Diet and Workout Plan includes 400 online workouts, 40 diet plans, and daily feedback from trainers. This deal’s also a lifetime subscription, which means you’ll have full access to the app for life. Regularly $499, it can be yours for a low $49.99

It’s no secret that yoga has plenty of health benefits, and YogaDownload Unlimited makes your practice accessible at home. As a subscriber, you’ll be able to choose from over 1,500 online yoga and fitness classes, which is sure to keep you busy. Get unlimited access and downloads at just $29 for one year, a 75% markdown from the original price of $119. 

For those interested in a versatile fitness regimen, turn to The Build Your Custom Home Workout and Nutrition Plan Bundle. It includes 12 hours of content on scientific strategies for weight loss, muscle building, proper dieting, and so much more. For a limited time, the bundle is only $29.99 (regularly $1,800). 

In case you have even less time on your hands, Yogaia Interactive Yoga is a great way to ensure you get some physical activity on a daily basis. The interactive online yoga studio broadcasts over 1,000 classes that last anywhere from five minutes to over an hour. A lifetime subscription is $299 (regularly $399) for a limited time.

The Onyx app can do everything from counting your reps to correcting your form through your phone. Have it in your pocket for $79.99 (regularly $300). 

If your health goals go beyond just working out, the BetterMe Home Workout and Diet is for you. It offers personalized sets of workouts and effective meal plans that work together to help you reach your fitness goals. Grab a lifetime subscription for $39.99 (regularly $1,200) for a limited time.

Balance is the key to a healthy regimen, and The Simple Fitness and Nutrition Bootcamp is the three-in-one course bundle that can get you there. It offers three classes for a low $19.99 (regularly $189). 

Fitness Ally Premium AI-Powered Workouts delivers on-demand home fitness classes designed to make exercising accessible and convenient. Usually, a lifetime subscription costs $59, but you can snag it for 66% off at just $19.99 for a limited time.

Podcast lovers, the Auro Fitness and Wellness App was made for you. You can listen to your workout instead of watching it — the app includes over 700 guided home, gym, and outdoor podcast and music exercises. A one-year subscription is half off, which means you’ll only pay $29.99 for a limited time.

Korgs ARP 2600 M is a mini version of an iconic synth

Of course, this isn’t a 100-percent faithful recreation of the ‘70s modular synth. Korg expanded the feature set to make it work better in a modern music-making environment. For one, all of the control voltages have been normalized to five volts instead of 10, making it easier to integrate with other modular gear and Eurorack equipment. It also has USB host capabilities so, while it doesn’t come with a separate keyboard module, you can connect any USB MIDI controller you want and get straight to playing. Korg also ditched the original XLR audio outs and went with TS style jacks.

Unfortunately there’s no word on when the 2600 M will ship or how much it will cost. But hopefully the price is on a similar diet plan as the rest of the synth, because the $3,900 the recent reissue commanded was definitely too much for all but the most dedicated synth nerds.

This Was WhatsApps Plan All Along

Illustration for article titled This Was WhatsApps Plan All Along

Photo: Adam Hoglund (Shutterstock)

Even if you aren’t the type of person who peruses WhatsApp on a regular basis, chances are you’ve tried perusing its new privacy policy.

Emphasis on “tried.” The roughly 4,000-word tome fell under fire from countless WhatsAppers across the globe after the company told its users that they’ll be ejected from the platform unless they abide by these new terms. Some eagle-eyed critics quickly noticed that buried under the rest of the usual slop that comes with your average privacy policy, it seemed like the new terms mandated that WhatsApp now had the right to share supposedly personal data—like phone numbers or payment info—with its parent company, Facebook, along with fellow subsidiary Instagram.

Naturally, people lost it. Over the past week, tens of millions of people have apparently flooded off of WhatsApp and onto rival messaging platforms like Signal and Telegram. Elon Musk weighed in, as did Edward Snowden. Turkish authorities opened a probe into WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices, followed by Italy’s regional data authority doing the same. On Thursday, authorities in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market, filed a petition alleging that the new terms weren’t only a threat to personal privacy, but to national security as well.

What became very clear very quickly is that, while everyone agreed on being outraged, there was a bit of fuzziness on what they agreed to be outraged about.

The confusion was the natural result of WhatsApp’s bungled rollout of these new policies. By shoving a scary-sounding ultimatum in front of countless users, and by tying that ultimatum to a privacy policy that (I think we can all agree) is near-impossible to comprehend, the bulk of WhatsApp’s users were left assuming the worst: that Facebook could now read their WhatsApp messages, snoop through their entire contact list, and know every time you leave someone on “read” within the app. These rumors eventually reached WhatsApp Head Will Cathcart, who issued his own lengthy Twitter thread debunking the bulk of these claims, before WhatsApp proper did its own debunking in the form of an FAQ page.

In a shocking turn of events, WhatsApp’s attempt to set its own tarnished record straight was regarded as bullshit by its more vocal critics. And honestly, they had a point: This is WhatsApp we’re talking about. When an encrypted chat platform that’s been widely praised by people in the privacy and security space very rudely announces it’ll be sharing your data—any data—with a company like Facebook, you can understand why that would raise some hackles.

The thing is, in the years since WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton cut ties with Facebook for, well, being Facebook, the company slowly turned into something that acted more like its fellow Facebook properties: an app that’s kind of about socializing, but mostly about shopping. These new privacy policies are just WhatsApp’s—and Facebook’s—way of finally saying the quiet part out loud.

I Don’t Have All Day, Gimme The Short Version

If you’re also the type of person that solely uses WhatsApp to message friends, family, and the occasional petsitter, nothing’s changing on the privacy front. In fact, what we think of when we talk about our “privacy” on WhatsApp has been largely unchanged since mid-2016, when the company first announced that WhatsApp would start sharing some of your basic metadata like your phone number and a grab-bag of “anonymous” identifiers unless you manually opted out. (Facebook ended up pulling the opt-out button pretty soon after, but that’s another story entirely.)

Not too long ago, an anonymous developer reverse engineered the entire WhatsApp web app, and their findings are freely scannable through their GitHub. In a nutshell, if I messaged a petsitter after the 2016 updates, Facebook might be able to suss out my phone’s make and model, along with how dangerously low on juice my phone might be—but those pet-sitting conversations are entirely encrypted. None of that’s changing now.

That said, if you live in a country like India or Brazil where WhatsApp isn’t only a chatting app, but a chatting app for brands and businesses to reach their clientele, things are a bit different. Unlike the aforementioned pet-sitting conversation, chances are any conversations you might have with a given company aren’t only unencrypted, but they’re shared with way more parties than you might think.

WhatsApp’s privacy policy might be new to most of us, but this particular practice has already been the platform’s MO for years.

The WhatsApp You Know And The WhatsApp You Don’t

The backstory that led up to WhatsApp’s bungled announcements actually started around the same time Koum jumped ship from the platform that was earning him frankly grotesque amounts of cash. A few months later, WhatsApp quietly rolled out a new business-facing product that promised to milk even more revenue out of the multi-billion-dollar platform: the “WhatsApp Business API.”

As the name suggests, the Business API was geared towards businesses: airlines that want to use WhatsApp to send boarding passes, for example, or a grocery chain that wants to use WhatsApp to let someone know their order is out for delivery. These messages weren’t meant to be promotional the way, say, an ad on Instagram might be; they were meant to be transactional—kind of like a conversation you have with a store clerk when looking for shoes in your size. If the business in question answered a given inquiry within a one-day window, Facebook let them send their response free of charge.

Any message sent after the initial 24 hours comes saddled with a tiny fee—ranging anywhere from a fraction of a fraction of a cent to a few cents per message, depending on which third parties might be involved and the country a given brand is targeting. This fee gets divvied up by those parties, and–of course—by WhatsApp.

While a few outlets covered this burgeoning product as something like Facebook’s answer to the “customer support” emails and texts from days of yore, it went pretty much unnoticed by most outlets that (rightfully) saw the API as a pretty boring piece of adtech. Brands, on the other hand, couldn’t be more jazzed about the idea, and they kept on being jazzed while WhatsApp adopted new features meant to make it more commerce-friendly.

By 2020, WhatsAppers based in India weren’t only using WhatsApp to talk to their pet sitters—they were scrolling through WhatsApp-specific catalogs for new shoes, plunking their selected pair into a WhatsApp-specific cart, and then using a WhatsApp-specific payment processor to pay for their new kicks before following up with WhatApp to make sure their order arrived on time.

More brand appeal means more brands are flocking to plug into this API. In 2018, WhatsApp initially opened access to the new platform to roughly 100 hand-picked partners, like Netflix, Uber, and a few hotels and banks in regions where WhatsApp is the SMS platform of choice. Some analysts estimated that a year later, the number of enterprises plugged into the API went from 100 to roughly 1,000. At its current rate, the team said, WhatsApp is on track to get close to 55,000 businesses using this API by the end of 2024, all collectively racking up a hefty $3.6 billion in messaging fees.

The thing is, it’s really hard to goad a brand to drop that kind of cash on your product when they can’t even read what their customers are saying because, again, WhatsApp’s chats are encrypted by default. This was one of the sticking points that ultimately led to Koum’s exit, according to the Washington Post: Facebook wanted to turn WhatsApp into a business-friendly platform, and WhatsApp’s team fired back that they couldn’t build that platform without weakening WhatsApp’s native encryption in some way.

They were right. But Facebook—again, being Facebook—didn’t really seem too bothered by the idea of baking a brand-sized loophole into an encrypted platform. But to trace this back which policy change ended up biting WhatsApp in the ass the most when it rolled out these new policies, you could say some of the creepiest parts actually stem from this one decision.

Asked for comment, a Facebook spokesperson emailed soon after publication and pointed to a blog post announcing WhatsApp had postponed the implementation of its new privacy policy until mid-May due to “how much confusion there is around our recent update.”

What We Talk About When We Talk About Encryption

When the sea of internet outrage reached a critical mass on Twitter dot com, Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted out that he was seeing “a lot of misinformation” about WhatsApp’s new terms of service. The changes people were reading were strictly related to messaging businesses on WhatsApp, which, as he reminded people, is always optional. He then linked to WhatsApp’s own FAQ on the subject, which included another mealy-mouthed explanation of how, exactly, businesses use your WhatsApp data. In reality, though, it doesn’t really say much of anything: it doesn’t touch on the exact data that these partners are hoovering up from a (supposedly) encrypted platform, nor does it even discuss what “changes” in the privacy policy specifically apply to business-based messaging.

So instead of parsing apart… all of that, let’s go straight to the source. The Business API’s source code is actually easily searchable on Facebook’s dev-facing site, which means you can also find the data points this API hoovers from WhatsApp proper, and how it could—at least potentially—bypass WhatsApp’s encryption to do so. Or if you want, you can just visit this surprisingly cogent FAQ that literally asks “Is end-to-end encryption maintained through the WhatsApp Business API?.” WhatsApp’s response, which we emphasized here is just… something (emphasis ours):

WhatsApp considers communications with Business API users who manage the API endpoint on servers they control to be end-to-end encrypted since there is no third-party access to content between endpoints.

Some organizations may choose to delegate management of their WhatsApp Business API endpoint to a third-party Business Solution Provider. In these instances, communication still uses the same Signal protocol encryption. However, because the WhatsApp Business API user has chosen a third party to manage their endpoint, WhatsApp does not consider these messages end-to-end encrypted. In the future, in 2021, this will also apply to businesses that choose to leverage the cloud-based version of the API hosted by Facebook.

In addition, if you are using HTTPS when making calls to the WhatsApp Business API client, that data is SSL-encrypted (from your backend client to the WhatsApp Business API client).

Or put another way, WhatsApp’s telling us that when we have conversations with the business or brand on the platform—and that business or brand happens to be working with a given number of third parties—the encrypted WhatsApp we’re used to using goes out the window.

I should probably clarify who these third parties actually are. Facebook calls them Business Solution Providers, (or BSP’s for short), and they’re essentially an approved set of adtech vendors whose sole responsibility is making marketing on Facebook as easy an experience as possible. If you’re advertising a hip new line of CBD gummies and only want to reach, say, dog moms on Instagram between 18 and 21 that live in the U.S. but exclusively speak Portuguese at home, there are a few dozen BSP’s that Facebook can match you up with. If you want to reach them on other Facebook properties—like, say, Whatsapp—there are 66 partners that Facebook lists off as having the key to its Business API. Even if you can’t get your hands on it, Facebook’s essentially promising that your ads will be safe in these third-party players’ hands if you promise to give them a little monetary something-something.

The encryption-busting maneuver these BSP’s are allowed to do is, as always, openly available, courtesy of Facebook. If your brain hasn’t smoothed over reading about this API until now, I’d recommend flipping through those docs. For my fellow smooth-brainers, here’s the basic gist: When a BSP or any Facebook-approved partner downloads the Business API, it comes packaged with a port that directs data from WhatsApp conversations onto an external database that this partner controls. When that partner gets buddied up with, say, a pizza place that wants to use WhatsApp for customer support, every message that they get asking about the status of their slice ends up in this unencrypted bucket, along with a slew of contact info about the person who put that request in.

A sample of some of the data these partners can get their hands on, according to Facebook’s documentation.

A sample of some of the data these partners can get their hands on, according to Facebook’s documentation.
Screenshot: Facebook (Gizmodo)

Once that data’s under a third-party’s purview, ultimately it’s no longer Facebook’s responsibility, even if it’s used to target ads on one of the company’s own platforms. WhatsApp cheerfully described this setup in yet another FAQ (emphasis ours again):

Some businesses and solution providers will use WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, to securely store messages and respond to customers. While Facebook will not automatically use your messages to inform the ads that you see, businesses will be able to use chats they receive for their own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook. You can always contact that business to learn more about their privacy practices.

In other words, if I’m using WhatsApp to ask this imaginary pizza place why my eggplant parm and diet coke haven’t gotten to my apartment yet, whatever data falls out of that conversation could be used to target me with more ads for parm and parm-adjacent products just about anywhere that pizza place’s trusted partner is able to do so. It’s just a happy coincidence if that means advertising on Facebook.

So just to recap, what WhatsApp (okay, mostly Facebook) is saying at this point is:

  • There’s tons of juicy consumer data in WhatsApp that marketers aren’t tapping into, but accessing it might mean paying a not-insignificant-fee to Facebook and to one of these trusted third parties (which, yep, also pay Facebook as part of terms for their title).
  • Once they have their hands on enough data, they’re free to pay Facebook again for the privilege of advertising against these same users. If you read between the lines, though, the decision to advertise on Facebook or not is pretty much made up for them before they even asked.
  • This exact cycle repeats likely thousands of times per week.
  • ???????
  • Somewhere down the line, Mark Zuckerberg gets rich enough to get those ass implants we’re sure he always wanted.

On one hand, I don’t really blame WhatsApp for flubbing this announcement. Like all things in adtech, explaining the specifics of WhatsApp’s Business API—or any of its specific data-sharing practices—is a mind-numbingly dull exercise that almost certainly couldn’t fit onto people’s lil phone screens. But by ignoring a lot of these nuances, the company’s left with hordes of people that filled this update with their own theories about what these seemingly sweeping privacy changes actually mean.

There’s got to be a happy medium somewhere. Until Facebook’s execs find where that is, they’re going to be left posting harried Twitter clips citing the same vapid privacy promises we’ve been seeing from the company until now. But if the WhatsApp debacle should teach us anything, it’s that peeling away at these platitudes can leave you with something deep-rooted and disturbing—and sometimes, older than you’d think.

Update 2:58pm ET: Added response from Facebook.

How to Manage Your Childs Pet Allergy

Illustration for article titled How to Manage Your Childs Pet Allergy

Photo: Yuliya Evstratenko (Shutterstock)

Discovering that anyone in the home—but particularly one of the kids—is allergic to the family pet can be upsetting. Our pets are members of our family, so discovering that their mere presence is negatively impacting the health or physical comfort of your child creates a stressful situation. But if it happens, and provided the allergy isn’t severe, there are steps you can take to ease your child’s symptoms without resorting to rehoming the animal.

If you have young kids and you’re still deciding whether to bring a new pet home—and you have a strong history of allergies in your family—you may want to wait until they’re old enough to confirm whether they have a pet allergy themselves. If an animal allergy is suspected, it’s a good idea to expose the child to the pet a few times to watch for symptoms before committing to an adoption. Keep in mind, though, that it can take months of exposure before allergy symptoms appear.

If you already have a pet that is causing your child to sneeze and wheeze, there are some things you can do to help manage the situation.

Make sure the animal really is the problem

Pet allergy symptoms are caused by proteins found in the animal’s skin cells (dander), saliva, or urine. They can include sneezing; coughing; a runny nose; itchy, red, or watery eyes; nasal congestion; itchy nose, roof of mouth, or throat; postnasal drip; facial pressure and pain; and swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes. According to The Mayo Clinic, a child might also frequently rub their nose in an upward motion. But pets are sometimes blamed for causing an allergic reaction in kids when the offending allergen is something else entirely.

If your child is displaying allergy symptoms, it’s best to first consult with their pediatrician or allergist to have them tested to confirm what is causing the reaction. As the American Academy of Pediatrics says:

Occasionally, symptoms that seem to be caused by an animal may be, in fact, due to other allergies, such as to pollen or mold. What happens is that Fido and Felix explore outdoors, then come back into the house with a load of pollen granules and mold spores in their coats. Every time the hay fever sufferer pats the pets, he stirs up an invisible cloud of allergens that triggers symptoms.

Create an “allergy-free” zone

The child’s bedroom is the most important room to keep as clean and clear of allergens as possible, so start by keeping that room off-limits to the pet. You may also consider dust mite covers for their bedding, as dust mites are another common allergy trigger.

Beyond the bedroom, the fewer rooms you can limit the pet’s access to, the better. Maybe you can gate off the upstairs of the house, particularly if the floors on the main level have hard surfaces and the bedroom floors are carpeted. Pet dander sticks more to surfaces like carpet, drapes, curtains, and upholstered furniture than it does to hard surfaces like wood, tile, or laminate. As Beth Orenstein writes for Everyday Health:

Plus, the latter are easier to clean. For this reason, you also shouldn’t let your allergic child sleep with stuffed animals, Dr. [Mervat] Nassef, [a pediatric allergist and immunologist at NewYork-Presbyterian in New York City], adds. If you must have carpet in your child’s bedroom or elsewhere in your home, select a low-pile one and have it steam-cleaned regularly.

Even doing all of this will not fully prevent the spread of allergens throughout the home—air currents from forced-air heating and air conditioning systems will push allergens from room to room. However, you may be able to outfit them with an air purifying system or HEPA filters.

Become a total clean freak

If your child (or someone else in your home) is allergic to a pet, you will need to clean, clean, clean—and then clean some more. Pet dander is notorious for its ability to linger on any number of surfaces, so while frequent vacuuming of the floors might be obvious, you’ll also want to make sure you’re keeping walls, furniture, blinds, ceiling fans, and curtains clean. Your pet’s bed and toys should also be washed regularly.

Clean your kid, too. If your child has physical contact with the pet, such as by petting or being licked by the animal, encourage them to immediately wash their hands or any area that came into contact with the pet with soap and water. Teach them to avoid touching their eyes after interacting with the animal, and if they’ve been playing with it (preferably outside!), have them change their clothes. Showering before bed can also help reduce the amount of allergens a child brings into their bedroom at night.

Talk to your vet about food and bathing

Bathing your pet regularly can help reduce the amount of allergens it sheds. However, you don’t want to overdo it and cause its skin to dry out and shed even more dander. Aim for a weekly bath, and consult with your veterinarian about the best shampoo to use on your specific pet. Regular brushing will also remove dander—but do this outside so you don’t send the dander into the indoor air.

Your vet may also have suggestions for changes you can make to the animal’s diet that may help its skin retain moisture and reduce shedding. A diet with a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can support healthier skin.

Treatment or (gulp) removal

If you’ve tried all of the above and it simply hasn’t been enough to manage your child’s symptoms, you can talk to their allergist about whether there are any over-the-counter or prescription treatment options available.

Many families will consider rehoming a pet as a last resort. If your child’s allergies cannot be managed and doing so becomes necessary, The Humane Society has tips for finding it a new home.

Mix Protein Powder Into Your Yogurt

yogurt in a bowl

Photo: Fortyforks (Shutterstock)

Protein powder is gross in most things, I’ll be honest about that. It makes oatmeal gooey, and it’s an acquired taste in almost everything but smoothies (where it’s mostly hidden by the ingredients). But there’s one dish of actual food where it’s truly at home, and that is a bowl of yogurt.

If you’re trying to get more protein into your diet, whether to build muscle or support weight loss or athletic endeavors, you’re probably familiar with the humble protein powder. There are many kinds, and personally I swear by a giant jug of unflavored whey that sits under my kitchen counter. I’ll mix it with water for a quick dose of protein to make my macros at the end of the day, or with almond milk for an easily digestible pre-workout snack. But sometimes a person just wants to eat real food.

Join me, then, in mixing the powder into yogurt. The flavor and texture are excellent, and the numbers are good, too. Here’s what I mean: the protein content of yogurt varies by brand, but let’s take for an example the 2% Greek yogurt that I have for breakfast most mornings. It has about 16 grams of protein in a six-ounce serving. Add a scoop of whey powder—mine has 24 grams of protein per scoop—and you’re up to 40 grams for the whole bowl. That’s roughly a third of the amount of protein I need in a day (accounting for muscle growth, hi, I’m a meathead) in only 247 calories. I top it with berries, honey, and sometimes nuts.

How to make protein yogurt

All you need is a bowl, some yogurt, and a scoop of protein powder. (Don’t expect to mix the two ingredients in the little cup the yogurt comes in; they won’t fit.)

The first time you try it, you may think for a moment that you have made a terrible mistake after you dump in the scoop of protein. The volume of powder rivals that of the yogurt; the powder is so dry, and the yogurt so thicc (especially if you choose a nice Greek yogurt like I do) that it may seem like the two will never meld. But keep stirring, and a miracle occurs. After just 10 to 15 seconds, the powder disappears into the yogurt and you’re left with a uniform creamy mixture.

I find the whey mellows out the flavor of the yogurt a bit, making it less tangy. In fact, I prefer the mixture to straight yogurt; it’s creamier, too. I use a plain, unflavored, unsweetened whey powder, so I can’t guarantee that this will work as well with other types or flavors of protein. But I can report that the unflavored whey mixes satisfyingly into any flavor or type of yogurt, so give it a try for your next breakfast or snack.