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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.

Business

How to Ask For a Favor

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Do you know how to ask for a favor? Asking for a favor might be hard especially if you’re the independent type. Like it or not, we need to ask favors now and then if we want to succeed. Favors have varying degrees from the very easy: “please come to the conference call tomorrow” to the onerous “please introduce me to your contact at Apple”. Lucky for you, people like doing favors. Studies show that people comply with requests to avoid awkwardness and it also suggests that favors are less of a burden than we think.

But regardless of studies, asking for favors can still feel strange. Therefore being deliberate in the way you ask a favor can make a big difference in the outcome. When asking for a favor, remember the following:

  • Set the stage: “I need to ask a favor”
  • Provide reason
  • Provide means of escape

The phrase, “I need to ask a favor” is a very powerful verbal contract. It also implies reciprocity. If you help me now, you can ask a favor from me in the future. This two way relationship of give and take acknowledges that the favor is not totally one-sided. But aside from this, it also makes the other switch gears into receiving mode. This will give your friend time to have an “uh-oh” or “happy to do so” moment. Consider these:

“Friend, can you cover my shift tonight? I’m not going to make it due to an emergency” or

“Friend, I have a favor to ask. Is it possible for you to cover my shift tonight? I have an emergency”.

In the first scenario, the friend is off guard and might feel that he has to do the favor. In the second scenario, setting up the stage to ask the favor gives your friend a second or two to decline or accept the favor.

The Reason

According to Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence; giving a reason to your favor increases the chances of a positive response. If you know how to ask for a favor be sure you’re providing a reason makes people react positively even if the reason is makes no sense to the request. People like to know that they are being asked something. If you’re asking a millennial for a favor, consider reading this article  about 5 things you need to know about Millennials. It’ll give some insights on what makes millennials tick.

The Escape Clause

When learning how to ask for a favor, it’s good to keep in mind an Escape Clause. People are inherently good especially when they are asked to comply with a request. This is because giving is better than receiving. However, when you ask a favor your goal is two-fold: getting what you want and making the giver feel good about helping. The best way to do this is to provide and escape clause so that your friend can graciously decline in the event that they cannot do you the favor. Remember you are giving them the choice to comply. You are not commanding them.

Good Escape Clauses Include:

  • “I understand if you can’t help. But I thought I’d ask”.
  • “I understand if you can’t come because you’re busy”.
  • “I would like an introduction to your friend from Apple but I understand if it makes you uncomfortable”.

Friends and colleagues cannot always come through when you ask them a favor due to a variety of reasons. However, you can always ask them favors with grace and gratitude so that you maximize your chances of getting what you want. Hopefully you will be able to pay back the favor once they ask something from you.

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5 Things You Need To Know About Millennials

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Millennials (aka: Generation Y) are an interesting breed.  We’ve experienced quite a drastic change within our lifetime and the way we communicate with one another is very different than the generation before us.  Unfortunately we’re not that easily understood and people tend to categorize us without knowing all the facts.  Below are 7 things you MUST know about millennials before you begin to make judgement.

It’s harder for us to get a job

Contrary to what others may think, our generation aren’t fortunate enough to get a job with just our high school degree.  For most of us, a Bachelors is barely enough to get accepted.  Our parents and grandparents had it much easier than we did in this department.  Demands for our education is increasing, our cost of living is higher, our student loans are piling higher than we’d like…and job opportunities are scarcer than before.

We’re not buying Houses

We’re considering many other alternatives as most of us still prefer to be in the cities where our job opportunities are highest.  And unfortunately that also comes with a very high rent, so we prefer to room with others to save on living expenses.  And we’re also marrying much later as well, so the need to have our own american dream house doesn’t need to be realize so early.

We’re not driving anymore

Again…back to the whole idea of cost of living rising.  It cost on average anywhere from $500-$800 a month to own a car in most cities, and that’s not even including the cost of parking and tickets you’re likely to rack up.  With Uber and Lyft in most major cities nowadays, we’re looking at other alternatives to driving.

Not all of us are Entrepreneurs

Yes…it’s true.  With the boom of entrepreneurs in the recent years, it’s easy to assume that most millennials are following similar footsteps as Zuckerberg and Jobs.  The truth is, although the idea of running your own startup is very appealing, most of us are actually straight up trying to create a profitable company.  We’re still for the same dream, except without the early-stage hustling and grinding.

We want to work for a cause

The work we do does define us, and as Millennials we’re NOT okay with settling for a meaningless job that simply pays the bill.  The job doesn’t have to be high paying, as long as the work we do is meaningful and we are apart of something that’s making waves.

 

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15 Business Ideas to Start Today

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Here’s 15 business ideas to start today. More and more people want to start their own business. The good news is that starting a business no longer takes months of market research and thousands of dollars in capital. In fact, there are business you can start today with little or no capital. Here are some ideas.

1. Freelance

There is an estimated 54 million Americans who have joined the freelance army. You can do anything from blogging to web design. Freelancing is attractive because hours are flexible and you can work from anywhere.

2. Buy and Sell

You can buy and sell anything with the help of sites like eBay, Etsy and Craigslist. You can start by selling stuff you no longer need and go from there. You can also check out drop shipping and affiliate marketing.

3. Tutoring

Start your own tutoring business at home or through the web. If you are good at something like math or science, there are people out there who need help. You can do this online or contact schools nearby to advertise your service to set up tutoring at the student’s home or a coffee shop.

4. Accounting/Bookkeeping Service

You would be surprised how many businessmen do not know how to do their books or set up an accounting system for their business. If you are an accountant and want to go into private practice, advertise your service through flyers or word of mouth. Tax accounting is a lucrative field since many businesses can do day-to-day accounting but don’t have knowledge regarding the tax aspect.

5. Repair Service

It can be computers, cars, gizmos, furniture, or TV. People are always surrounded by technology and chances are, they get broken. If you have talent in repairing, set up a repair shop at home or at a commercial space, and advertise your business.

6. Landscaping

If you enjoy being outside, plants, flowers, and gardening, start a landscaping business within your neighborhood. You start by making your front yard fabulous and people will come and ask about your landscape.

7. Interpreter

If you are fluent in another language, you can have a business as an interpreter or translator. Offer your services to individuals or start an online business transcribing books, letters, or manuscripts.

8. Social Media Manager

Managing different social media accounts can be a full time job and many businesses outsource these to the pros. If you have talent in managing and engaging social media accounts, this can be a business you can start at home.

9. Event Planner

This is a good business for somebody who likes planning and organization. You can organize events, weddings, and parties. You can expand this business by providing other service like invitation printing or cake baking or you can simply affiliate with vendors and take commissions through referrals.

10. Tour Guide

If you have local landmarks nearby, start a tour guide business. You don’t have to have prior knowledge about the site, but it can help. Do research to be familiar about the tourist spots to make the tour enjoyable.

11. Financial Planner

You need to be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), but if you already are, offer your services to people who need help in getting their finances in order. You can help them get out of debt or secure their future.

12. Music Teacher

If you play an instrument and have a love for teaching, become a music teacher. You can have people come to your house or visit theirs for a one-on-one session.

13. Cleaning Service

There are many different directions to this business. You can focus on offices and do cleaning after office hours. There are homes that require cleaning or small businesses that need help every now and then.

14. Personal Assistant/Errand Runner

There are many busy people today who do not have time to do their errands. The good news is that you can capitalize on their busyness and become their personal assistant. Check out sites like TaskRabbit or Care.com.

15. Babysitting/Petsitting/Housesitting

This job is not just for teenagers. There are many adults who do this kind of job professionally. We all know why babies need sitters, but some pet owners and homeowners do not like to leave their pets in kennels or houses empty. In cases like this, they want somebody present to personally take care of their pet or property. If you want to do this professionally, personal reputation is important.

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