What it’s like for black people to rent/host on Airbnb

This was such an interesting story.

Quirtina Crittenden was struggling to get a room on Airbnb. She would send a request to a host. Wait. And then get declined.

So she ran her own experiment—she shortened her name to just “Tina” and changed her photo to a picture of a landscape.

“Ever since I changed my name and my photo, I’ve never had any issues on Airbnb,” Crittenden said.

#AirbnbWhileBlack: How Hidden Bias Shapes The Sharing Economy {npr’s hidden brain}

Why do we follow the news?

I think I follow the news for two reasons.

1: The lofty reason people like telling themselves. “It makes me a more informed citizen” and so “I can vote smarter.” As pointed out in this great podcast episode about it from Freakonomics, Why do we really follow the news?, it doesn’t really affect my life one way or the other if I know certain facts. As journalist Mitchell Stephens said:

I think very little of the news actually today is of practical value. For one thing, we don’t live in a society that has all that many threats encroaching upon us. You know, most of us live pretty safe lives. And most of us know where to find food in the supermarket. Most of us know where to look for romance, where to live our social lives. So I think a lot of the functions that news used to perform way back when in hunter-gatherer times, in preliterate societies, it’s no longer performing regularly. Yet our itch to be aware, to know what’s going on around us, remains.

2: For the story. As economist Matthew Gentzkow touched put it:

There’s a lot of research in psychology about the importance of telling stories and building narratives for people. People like to look at their own lives as a story. They like to see kind of the arc of the challenges that they overcame and define themselves as a character in that story. And to me that makes a lot of sense of why we care so much about news, because if what I’m thinking about all the time is my own life story and my own role in it, then you know, what’s happening in the world around me is the context that that story’s happening in.

So there ya go. Give it a listen.

The Naming of Things

Fascinating article about the product naming industry {new york times}:

He administered a questionnaire to 150 Stanford and Berkeley students, asking them questions like: Which sounds faster, “fip” or “fop”? Leben found a consensus. “Fip” was faster than “fop.” Why? Because of the way the sounds were generated in the mouth, Leben says. “Fip” feels lighter and faster because the vocal tract is open only a small amount. There is less acoustic substance for “fip” than there is for “fop,” the pronunciation of which causes the jaw to drop and the tongue to lower, creating a heavier, more powerful sound.

Reminds me of this episode from the Startup podcast, How to Name Your Company, in which business partners Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber talk with friends, family, and professional namers to come up with a name for their new podcasting company.

NPR One

New today from NPR: a great new way to experience public radio. It’s called NPR One. Upon opening the app for the first time, one confirms their local NPR affiliate and presses play. If you like what you hear, tap the “Interesting” button. If not, skip it. (You can also teach the app what you like by searching for topics and shows you enjoy.)

The more you use the app, the more it will learn about your interests. And the whole thing looks gorgeous and works great.

I’ve been using NPR One for about an hour so far, and it’s already provided me with an interesting mix of stories ranging from local news to a story from the NPR archives about why mammals need sleep.

It functions in a manner similar to Swell, the podcast app Apple has just reportedly purchased {tech crunch}.

It seems like a very forward-thinking move for NPR. It fulfills an emerging trend analogous to the gradual switch in listener habits moving from listening to music on iPods to streaming it on Spotify. Why bother managing episodes on a podcast app when you can use a service like NPR One instead?

It’s also a great way to get exposed to local news and break free from the filter bubble.

Troll Target? Just Change Your Profile Pic

Mikki Kendalli {the guardian} is a writer, pop culture analyst and social commentator. And as an African American female doing that writing and social commenting, she is subjected to a ton of vitriol from anonymous Internet commenters and Twitter trolls.

She recently decided to fight back, sort of. She changed her profile picture to that of a white man. The difference was remarkable.

She didn’t change what she wrote about. She didn’t cover up her identity; she even still referred to herself as a woman. But the hateful comments stopped—for the most part.

Check out the episode {tldr} for her story and for more about how she conducted her research. (She also got some white men to change their profile pictures to black women so they could experience life on the Internet in her shoes—and the change had the effect you might expect.)