How Algorithms and Authoritarianism Created a Corporate Nightmare at United


“I was only following corporate algorithms” < Testimony given at a future war crimes trial (riff on the Nuremberg defense)

United Airlines forcibly removed a man from an “overbooked” flight. The incident was captured on video by other passengers and the story went viral on the social networks. United flubbed its response to incident, adding fuel to the anger. The story went global overnight, sparking massive outrage (hundreds of millions of views in China, an important market for United). The next day, United stock gets hammered, losing ~$1.4 billion off its stock price by midday. What happened? This incident is a pretty good example of how rigid algorithmic and authoritarian decision making can create corporate disasters in an age dominated by social networking.


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United Takes “Bumping” Passengers to a New Low


The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

Anna Zverera | Flickr

Will anyone ever again be able to recall the old United Airlines slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies” without a jolt of irony? There will be no quick fix for the furor over the airline’s handling of a now-notorious incident Sunday night, when security agents dragged a passenger, screaming and bloody, from a fully boarded plane. The airline had bumped him from an overbooked flight to Louisville, Kentucky; he said he was a doctor who had to get home to see patients, and complained he was being discriminated against as an Asian American.

Passengers captured the incident on video, of course, and it went mega-viral. Here are three of the many stories it tells.

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Green Is Gold: Forest Bathing in Guyana


What can we learn from steeping ourselves in wilderness?

Stepping off a flight into a wall of hot, humid tropical air is possibly my favorite feeling.

My Indian blood craves the tropics. I never got enough tropical air as a kid born in Buffalo and raised in the desert climates of Arizona and California.

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Save Money By Using Google Flights to Manage Your Ever-Changing Schedule


Get Shift Done: Tips and Tricks

We all know that the price of flights goes up and down in the days, weeks, and months before you board the plane. But did you know that you can track those changes in Google Flights? That way, instead of booking your flight right away, you can do it once you’ve got confirmation that the meeting is going ahead — and potentially at a lower price!

Here’s what to do.

1. Go to Google Flights and select where you’re flying from and to.

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100 Million Strangers Sleeping In Other People’s Homes


A conversation with Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and CTO, Airbnb

Airbnb co-founders Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczk (center), and Brian Chesky.

If Nathan Blecharczyk hadn’t moved out of the apartment he shared with co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb might have never existed. But when rent was increased on the friends’ San Francisco flat, Blecharczyk decided it was time to find cheaper digs. To cover the gap, Chesky and Gebbia rented out his vacant bedroom to several visitors, and a multi-billion dollar brand — which has served 100 million travelers and counting — was born. In this episode of Shift Dialogs, Blecharczyk shares his views on Airbnb’s rise, its frequent tangles with local, state, and national governments, and its mission of helping “anyone feel like they belong anywhere.” Below is a full transcript, edited for clarity, and the video interview, edited for length.

John Battelle: I like to start with founding mythologies. How did Airbnb come about?

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A Gap Year Around the World Taught Me to Appreciate Clichés


Elephants roaming in Damaraland, Namibia. Ben Huh

I am writing to remember what I learned in the last 12 months of our life traveling to 37 countries. I originally wrote this letter of stream of thoughts to myself, but I’ll take the risk of publishing it. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it is to me.


The word gratitude seems too small to describe how fortunate and thankful we are for our gap year.


I’ve come to understand clichés.

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Video Spotlight: Atlas Obscura Celebrates Curiosity With the Weird and Wondrous


In May 2015, people watched from the India Street dock in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as The Revolution, a World War II Yard Patrol boat, approached. After boarding, they set course for the city’s lesser-known islands, those that once housed undesirables: criminals, the diseased (“Typhoid” Mary), and what we then called lunatics. Those on the boat paid for the privilege. Between visiting the forgotten ruins of prison camps, psychiatric institutions, and sanatoriums within view of Manhattan and Brooklyn, they drank beer and had lunch while ferrying down the East River. The tour was just one of 150 events in 39 states and 25 countries, that took place on Obscura Day.

Riverside Hospital, a destination on Obscura Day in 2015, is where “Typhoid Mary” spent her last days. Photo by Reivax

Organized by Atlas Obscura, more than 35,000 people have turned out for its events. The events, however, are just a small part of what they company does. Working off the premise that you haven’t seen anything yet, Atlas Obscura is creating an online compendium of “the world’s most curious and awe-inspiring places.” Think of it asNational Geographic for the millennial generation.

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