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Anonymous App Yik Yak On A Decline: What Went Wrong

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What Is Yik Yak?

If you were in college in 2014-2015, the students at your school were more than likely hooked on a little app called Yik Yak. The app connects members to a location based social network where they can chat with each other about various subjects, crack jokes, and interact freely, but anonymously. Created in 2013, Yik Yak was built on the premise that (ideally) if someone’s identity is masked, they’re more likely to freely engage in more transparent conversation. According to Yik Yak’s website:

“By letting you share news, ask questions, offer support, and interact freely with others who are in the same place at the same time, Yik Yak acts as a springboard for discovering, meeting, and connecting with people in your local community”.

The app’s creators, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, noticed that the only people getting the most Twitter views around the school were high profile students like athletes. They created Yik Yak as a way for the “common man” to have their voices heard without having to be super popular. Brooks Buffington stated that the app was made for the “disenfranchised”. Now everyone could feel like their opinions mattered.

Founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington (Image Credit: NY Times)

Yik Yak is specifically geared towards college students and uses geofencing to intentionally block out middle and high schools. In fact, you must submit the name of the college you attend in order to gain access to the Yik Yak members within that area. You cannot put in names of cities, restaurants, sporting locations, or tourist attractions. There are no user profiles in Yik Yak and does not have a concept of “friends” or “followers”. It’s more like a virtual bulletin board allowing students to post whatever they want. Because Yik Yak caters to college students, it became an ideal place for college students to vent frustrations with teachers, help each other with homework, or encourage others going through tough midterms or finals. At the height of its popularity, Yik Yak was the #2 most downloaded social media app and #3 most downloaded iOS app in the United States according to App Annie. In November 2014, Yik Yak secured about $62 million in capital from Sequoia Capital. Unfortunately, the anonymous aspect of Yik Yak became much more than venting and has led to a plummeting subscriber base and high level executive departures.

What Happened?

Due to users being anonymous, it allowed anyone to say what they wanted without fear of reprisal. The social network became a breeding ground for demeaning, insensitive speech, often including hate speech and sexually explicit images and language. Many students have complained of bullying and verbal abuse. An excellent 2015 article in the New York Times details many of these incidents. Per the article:

“Since the app was introduced a little more than a year ago, it has been used to issue threats of mass violence on more than a dozen college campuses, including the University of North Carolina, Michigan State University and Penn State. Racist, homophobic and misogynist “yaks” have generated controversy at many more, among them Clemson, Emory, Colgate and the University of Texas. At Kenyon College, a ‘yakker’ proposed a gang rape at the school’s women’s center.”

In May 2015, an outspoken feminist at the University of Mary Washington was killed. Months before, she and others complained of sexual harassment on Yik Yak and alleged that the university did nothing to curb the toxic environment of the app.

yik yak alert

What Can Be Done?

Unfortunately, little can be done to correctly identify purveyors of abusive and hateful speech on the app specifically because of the anonymity. According to the app’s privacy policy, Yik Yak will not reveal users without a valid subpoena, court order, or search warrant that specifically states imminent harm. While some schools such as the College of Idaho have outright banned it, other schools have asked Yik Yak to place a geofence around the school to prevent students from using the app. Technically, Yik Yak can be banned from being used on the school’s Wi-Fi network, students can simply use their cellular provider. However, even with banning the app on the school’s Wi-Fi, many civil liberties advocates have spoken out against potential First Amendment violations…even if that speech is offensive. Regarding actual threats, Yik Yak does cooperate with local authorities in emergency cases. Per the NY Times article:

“In cases involving threats of mass violence, Yik Yak has cooperated with authorities. Most recently, in November, local police traced the source of a yak — ’I’m gonna [gun emoji] the school at 12:15 p.m. today’ — to a dorm room at Michigan State University. The author, Matthew Mullen, a freshman, was arrested within two hours and pleaded guilty to making a false report or terrorist threat. He was spared jail time but sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $800 to cover costs connected to the investigation”.

Back in March, Yik Yak tried to force users to add “handles” to their posts and although the handles don’t have to correspond to the users’ real name, caused a spike in one star reviews in the Apple App Store. Yik Yak removed the requirement in November and kept it as optional. Yik Yak’s philosophy in policing speech within the social network is actually more libertarian. The app’s creators believe in a more “democratic” approach to policing the network. Users are allowed to upvote or downvote a post. If a post receives 5 downvotes, it is automatically deleted. Yik Yak founder Tyler Droll said, “Really, what it comes down to is that we try to empower the communities as much as we can”. In addition, certain keywords are flagged automatically and prompt the user to confirm that they want to post the yak.

Yik Yak isn’t the only social network to come under fire for allowing offensive speech on their networks. Websites such as Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter have all been criticized for not policing hate speech effectively, particularly during a very contentious U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on social networks to strike a delicate balance between free speech and hateful speech. One could argue that although one person’s speech may be offensive, unless it’s inciting violence, it should be allowed. Although Yik Yak still has millions in the bank, time will tell if Yik Yak will regain its former glory.

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Elon Musk’s Boring Company’s proposed Fort Lauderdale transit loop receives mixed reactions

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Elon Musk is the one guy you can turn to for the craziest ideas. But is his proposed transit loop in Fort Lauderdale really happening? 

Boring Company, the brainchild of Elon Musk, provides low-cost transportation, fast-to-dig, freight, and utility tunnels. To date, the company has only dug three tunnels, one of which is the Los Angeles test tunnel. The other two are the underground 0.8-mile Las Vegas Convention Center tunnels. 

Now, Boring Company is looking into building another transit loop connecting Fort Lauderdale’s downtown to its beach. Passengers will be brought from point A to B in standard Teslas. Although Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said it’s an “innovative and unprecedented” way of alleviating street-level traffic, many people are still skeptical about Musk’s proposed transit loop.

It appears that this transit loop project called the “Las Ollas Loop” is just one out of the many proposed tunnels by Musk. The Boring Company had announced projects such as the Chicago loop system and the DC-to-Baltimore tunnel. However, both have seemingly been cancelled, with the latter eliminated from the company’s website. 

This makes everyone wonder: Is the proposed transit loop hot air?

Transit loop drew flak

Although the Boring Company and Fort Lauderdale are in the works of materializing the said plan, engineers, experts, and people concerned are still dubious of the tunnel due to Florida rising sea levels. In addition, many people fear that due to the city’s location, the “Loop” might cause flood risks. 

Climate change might have a huge impact on the fulfillment of the transit loop. Some say if it indeed pushes through, then engineers would have to find a way to use technology and features that fight the impact of climate change. This would have to involve extensive investigation from an engineering and structural perspective. 

Another concern is Florida’s limestones, which make it hard to optimize tunnelling machines due to the natural holes. Moreover, the city dons many underground aquifers, which experts claim need to be protected as well. However, the Boring Company is open to studying the geological aspect on which path to dig that leads to the beach. It can avoid risks and drastic environmental impact.

But one of the valid concerns from transportation planners is why Fort Lauderdale would settle for standard Teslas? With that, they’ll need to drive hundreds of passengers from downtown to the beach when a bus or train can accommodate more. 

Mayor Dean Transalis stays positive

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Transalis is nothing but excited about Musk’s proposed transit loop. Aside from solving traffic in the most congested streets in the city, this project will also relieve parking stress at Fort Lauderdale’s beaches. 

The city of Fort Lauderdale is now seeing an expected $30-million budget for this transit loop. This is despite the Boring Company’s promise of faster construction times and lower costs. However, this promise received criticism from tunnel industry experts and engineers. They say the company doesn’t have new technology for building tunnels. 

Talks from Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor and Governor are now looking into opening the transit loop by the end of 2022. 

Regardless of the skepticism from transportation and tunnel experts, the Boring Company remains optimistic about the project. They said a ride in standard Teslas that brings people from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach would cost each person $5 to $8. This is in comparison to a similar route with Uber, which will cost $10 per person. 

But Mayor Dean Transalis hasn’t yet closed the deal on the Boring Company’s proposal. Instead, he offered other tunnel-digging companies to submit better and more innovative tunnelling methods within 45 days.

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Top 10 Best Meal Delivery Services to Try

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Many people have been trying to stay at home amid the coronavirus disease pandemic and grocery delivery services have come to save the day. But if you want to take it up a notch and also save chopping and meal prep time, meal delivery services will be more your jam.

Here are the best meal delivery services to check out the next time you want a convenient home-cooked meal.

1. Freshly 

First on our list of best meal delivery services is Freshly. This platform offers single-serve fully-prepared meals. That means you won’t have to saute, boil, or anything else that would require more than three minutes to do. The plan costs $11.49 per meal for four meals per week but if you order 12 meals per week, the price goes down to $8.49 per meal.

2. Dinnerly 

If you want to feel like a cooking whiz, Dinnerly is one of the best meal delivery services to try. Instead of delivering cooked meals, the platform offers meal kits with all the ingredients you need. The best part is, they offer it for as low as $4.69 per person. Their products cost a lot less than other providers because they use digital recipe cards and spend less on marketing.

3. Sunbasket

If you can’t decide between fully-cooked meals or meal kits, Sunbasket can give you both. They have fresh and ready meals that you can buy and heat up. Or if you want to flex your muscles in the kitchen, you can also try their meal kits. Their dinners start at $8.99 per serving.

4. EveryPlate 

EveryPlate is a good choice for those who want to practice their cooking skills without tiring themselves out too much. The meals only take six steps to make and are ready within 30 minutes.

5. Gobble

If you can only handle 15 minutes of cooking, then check out Gobble. Their chefs do all the tedious work, from peeling and chopping to marinating. So you’ll spend less time preparing and more time enjoying your meal.

6. Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh says it’s “America’s Most Popular Meal Kit” and it’s surely worth checking out. Each of their boxes contains pre-portioned farm-fresh ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes with nutritional info. The kit also fits perfectly in the fridge so you can order it in advance.

7. Blue Apron

If you’re the type of foodie who likes to keep things exciting, this service is for you. Blue Apron keeps dinner interesting by offering a wide variety of meals – from healthy options to premium plates. The service costs $9.99 per serving for two recipes per week (each one serving two people).  

8. Purple Carrot

Who says meat-eaters have all the fun? Purple Carrot offers plant-based meals that are good for you and good for the planet. Best of all, their menu options are anything but boring – you’ll get all the flavors and nutrition you need sans the guilt.

9. Green Chef

Green Chef is another favorite for foodies trying to eat clean and stay lean. They offer three menu categories – balanced meal, plat-powered, and keto + paleo. That means you won’t have to go astray from your diet to enjoy delicious meals.

10. Home Chef

Last but not least on our best meal delivery services list is Home Chef. This platform offers weekly meal kits starting at $6.99 per serving. Whether you’re cutting down on carbs, calories, or animal byproducts, they have the plan for you. You can also upgrade, double up, or swap items according to your preferences.

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Coinme: Financial Services Crypto-Enabling Legacy Raises $10M Funding

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Coinme, a cryptocurrency startup based in Seattle, raked in $10 million worth of funding from investors. Although fluctuating, cryptocurrency is still a powerhouse this 2021. It’s no wonder why Coinme managed to raise a $10 million grant from its existing investors.

What is Coinme?

Coinme is a cryptocurrency startup founded in 2014. Since day one, the company has made it its mission to be one of the world’s trusted cryptocurrency gateway. The legacy started with the most well-known digital currency— Bitcoin. Using the most relevant digital currency back then, Coin me started a few Bitcoin ATMs. It offers an enterprise “application programming interface” or API to provide Bitcoin’s secure sale. 

Between 2017 to 2020, Coinme experienced an overwhelming 2,200% revenue growth. Due to the consumer’s demand for bitcoin and the pandemic’s uncertainty, their revenue skyrocketed. 

Fast Forward to 2021, Coinme managed to build up and grow thousands of kiosks. The company believes that cryptocurrency provides an equal opportunity for everyone. Therefore it needs to be more accessible.  

Coinme is supported by the following: 

  • Pantera
  • Blockchain
  • Digital Currency Group
  • Xpring
  • Coinstar
  • Hard Yaka
  • Nima
  • Percival Capital

How to Use Coinme

For those who are not aware of how to use Coinme, you can buy Bitcoin with four simple steps. First, you’re required to create a Coinme account. Next, you must be able to locate the nearest kiosk to your place. After that, you can insert cash into the kiosk. 

However, it would be fantastic if you kept in mind that coins are not accepted for Bitcoin transactions. Finally, you can redeem and receive your Bitcoin in an instant. Another thing you need to remember is Coinme’s daily purchase limit.

‘Crypto-enabling’ Feature

Coinme allows the buy and sell of bitcoins with cash for its customers. Currently, the startup has more than 15,000 locations through partnerships such as Coinstar and Moneygram. Coinme had its bitcoin ATM. However, it’s focusing on its cryptocurrency cash network. 

Using the digital currency cash network allows financial services such as Moneygram to be “crypto-enabled” via an enterprise API. 

Although the market is volatile, most of Coinme’s consumers are not speculating about its price. Instead, they take advantage of Coinme to acquire cryptocurrencies at store value. There are a lot of ways to take advantage of Coinme’s services. It includes using cryptocurrencies as payment for services and goods or sending it to your friends and family.

$10 Million Worth Funding

As the largest licensed cash network for cryptocurrencies in the US, Coinme raised $10 million for strategic funding. The funds were raised by Coinme’s existing investors, including Digital Currency Group, a capital market company.  

Coinme Expansion

The startup plans to expand internationally in the upcoming months. Currently, the company has 58 people in total and managed $30 million to date. Neil Berquist, Coinme’s CEO and co-founder shared expansion plans later this year. He announced that the company would dive into various markets, starting with Latin American.  

El Salvador recently became the first country to adopt bitcoin as a legal tender formally. Yes, that means history was marked during cryptocurrencies’ most crucial time. Meanwhile, politicians of Latin American countries share support for bitcoin’s adoption as legal tender. The politician’s active support drives a more favorable opinion of locals. 

Specifically, politicians from various nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Paraguay, and Panama have expressed their interest and support for cryptocurrency. 

Other than penetrating the international markets, Coinme plans to add multi-coin support to its system. It means we get more digital currency offering aside from Bitcoin. It also plans to add a type of payment to buy and sell digital currencies on Coinme’s products. 

According to Bergquist, people want different types of payment. Consumers want to buy using their bank account. He especially pointed out how consumers expressed their demands to access different cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin. Well, now, all your demands are being fulfilled by Coinme, one step at a time.  

Final Thoughts

According to PR News Wire, by 2023, the blockchain market, as expected, will rise to $23.3 billion. With the continued growth, investors are sure to spread investment to promising cryptocurrency startups. Since 2017, cryptocurrency startups like Coinme have raised funding. Overall, startups reached a whopping number of $20 billion to date.

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