'Justice League', Rotten Tomatoes, and DC Fans' Persecution Complex

The most recent episode of Rotten Tomatoes’ new movie-review series, See It/Skip It, opened not with a rave, nor a thumbs-down, but a semi-apology. “We’ve seen the conversations online about the Justice League Tomatometer,” co-host Jacqueline Coley told her Facebook Watch audience, “and we get it: You guys are passionate about this film. But we hope everyone understands the only thing we’re trying to do is add context and conversation around the Tomatometer, and not just give a number.”

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It was an odd, stilted start to what’s supposed to be a breezy movie-chat show (the phrase “context and conversation around the Tomatometer” sounds like something a drunken Babelfish bot might spit out). Yet it was an unavoidable one, given that Rotten Tomatoes, the review-aggregator-slash-Hollywood-agitator, had irked DC fans by withholding its Justice League score until Thursday night’s See It/Skip It premiere—even though a wave of reviews for the film had already been posted online. The move was ostensibly a ploy to get viewers to tune in for the show, yet others saw a greater villainy at work: Was Rotten Tomatoes, which is owned in part by Warner Bros., actually trying to shield the studio from an inevitably bad grade that could help kill its opening weekend?

The See It/Skip It pushback—which involved a lot of Tweet-screaming—was a reminder of just how controversial Justice League had become. Not Last Temptation of Christ-level controversial, mind you; this is a film in which one character sounds like Rockbiter while another sounds like Rockbiter with IBS, and in which everyone says the phrase “Mother Box” very gravely. There’s not much protest-worthy content in Justice League, save for Henry Cavill’s new digitally enhanced, stupor-man smile. But just as Justice League (the movie) brings together a bunch of outsiders for a single cause, Justice League (the event) assembles a raft of heated debate topics—from the vision of Zack Snyder to the power of Rotten Tomatoes to the conspiracy-needling coziness of corporate media—under one garish, hastily CGI’d umbrella. And with Justice League having earned a less-than-expected $96 million in its opening weekend, the lowest ever for a DCEU title, the movie will likely be seen as a Flash-point moment for DC movies as a whole.

First, though, a quick origin story: Justice League is the fourth DC movie to be released by Warner Bros. in just under two years, and a crucial one, as it reunites the company’s key franchise players (Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman) while also introducing a few big-screen up-and-comers (Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg). Such a marvelous team-up collates various storylines while also serving as an excuse to spin off even more solo adventures, which the studio will release every year for the next few years and/or decades, until we finally get to Denis Villeneuve’s four-hour Mxyzptlk: The IMAXyzptlk Experience (slated for spring 2039). With so many characters and plot points to support, Justice isn’t so much a narrative exercise as it is a $300 million infrastructure project.

But there’s another reason for all the pre-release pressure on Justice League: With the exception of this summer’s Wonder Woman, the previous DC entries have all earned disappointingly low scores on Rotten Tomatoes, which in recent years has become the scorn of studio heads and DC-boosters alike. One studio executive told the New York Times that it was his mission to “destroy” RT; Martin Scorsese declared the site had “nothing to do with real film criticism”; and Brett Ratner said this spring that RT was “the worst thing we have in the movie culture.”

Ratner himself would become a quickly vanquished catastrophe a few months later, but his frustration was likely due to the fact that his production company helped finance 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which had been brutally dinged by RT’s critics (its score as of today is a v v disappointing 27 percent). That summer’s Suicide Squad didn’t fare better (it’s now at 26 percent), and even 2013’s slightly well-regarded Man of Steel could only muster a mere 55 percent. All three movies were either directed and/or co-produced by Snyder, the tableau-larding, dudes-and-broods auteur whose work is ferociously debated online; depending upon what time of day it is on Twitter, his movies are regarded as either enthrallingly grown-up, or laughably melodramatic. (Snyder is also credited as director on Justice League, although he stepped away from filming after a family tragedy, and was replaced by Avengers helmer Joss Whedon.)

For some fans, the low scores felt like a referendum not only on Snyder’s work, but the DC Extended Universe franchise as a whole—so much so, a few defenders even began to speculate as to whether Rotten Tomatoes was manipulating the DCEU data (or, at the very least, grading the reviews on a much steeper curve than the Marvel films). Such theories filled message boards and Quora discussions, and there was even a Change.org petition to shut the site down that collected more than 23,000 signatures).

Considering how some DC obsessives have reacted to the films’ bad reviews—there have been death threats in the past—the conspiracy theory is actually a somewhat measured response. Yet there is no damning, X-on-the-bench-style clue-bonanza to pore over here, aside from the reviews themselves. There’s also little in the way of motive: Why would RT want to intentionally and repeatedly crucify a franchise–especially one maintained by Warner Bros., which has held various financial stakes in the company? If RT did hold DC films to a harsher standard than Marvel films, why would movie critics acquiesce to having their opinions misrepresented? And how would the site’s anomalous 92 percent critical score for Wonder Woman play into this supposed RT v DC secret war?

The simple answer to all of these questions is that the DC Extended Universe is, even its better moments, a wobbily constructed franchise-in-flux, and that the critics have responded accordingly. Yet it’s hard not to understand why so many DC fans look at these RT scores and feel as though they’re under attack, as well. In the social-media era, the lines between our personal lives and the pop-cultural ones have been erased, and the heroes we once adored and/or doodled in private have become literal public avatars. DC fans very much do not want these movies to suck, and when their very suckitude becomes a semi-objective truth—something that can be “proven” with a measurement like the Tomatometer—it can become the Mother Box of all insults. Even if the See It/Skip It ratings-ruse wasn’t some Warner Bros.-dictated corporate maneuver (as an RT spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune), dangling the verdict in front of fans, and putting off the inevitable, felt like a misuse of power.

Which may be why, by Monday morning, another Justice League score had begun to draw attention on Rotten Tomatoes: The movie’s audience score, which collected more than 100,000 votes, and is currently standing at 85 percent. Maybe those competing numbers speak to a larger divide, and that the critics who disliked Justice League are simply unaligned with the average moviegoer (a complaint that goes back decades now, and feels as pointless as ever). Perhaps there’s a minor DC-fan counter-rebellion underway, with some users amping up their score a to send RT a message (or to encourage others to see the movie for themselves). Or maybe the future of movie discussion will simply come down to a numbers game, one in which viewers stake out a position, find the stats that seem to back it up, and stick to their own league.

Y Combinator Has Quietly Cut Ties With Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist as famous for his controversial activism as for his savvy tech investments, is no longer a part-time partner at Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator. The parting of ways comes after a year in which Thiel’s politics, including vocal support of Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions, put Thiel at odds with many of his peers in the tech world.

Y Combinator and its president, Sam Altman, have declined to comment on the matter to multiple news outlets. But a 2015 blog post announcing Thiel’s arrival has been updated with the announcement that “Peter Thiel is no longer affiliated with Y Combinator.” The change was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

Thiel was a relatively uncontroversial addition to Y Combinator in 2015, when Altman praised his involvement with massive tech winners including PayPal and Facebook, and called Thiel “one of the two people . . . who has taught me the most about how to invest in startups.”

But Thiel has since courted controversy on at least two fronts. In May of 2016, it emerged that Thiel had funded a lawsuit against the news website Gawker over its publication of a sex tape featuring wrestler Hulk Hogan. The move was apparently in retaliation for Gawker’s 2007 public outing of Thiel as gay, but many saw it as a disturbing use of wealth to silence the media.

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Then Thiel made a large campaign contribution to then presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that Trump “rejects bubble thinking.” Altman at the time said that while he personally opposed Trump and disagreed with Thiel, that disagreement was not a good reason to end Thiel’s role at Y Combinator.

That seems to have changed. A source told BuzzFeed that Y Combinator ended its part-time partners program last year, but that while some other participants remained with the incubator in different roles, Thiel did not.

The reality of a Trump presidency clearly made Y Combinator’s association with Thiel more complicated. When the incubator joined forces with the ACLU, which had fought Trump’s travel ban, full-time partner Kat Manalac had to clarify that Thiel “will definitely have no interaction with the ACLU.” More broadly, Silicon Valley execs have almost uniformly opposed Trump’s stances on immigration, which stood to seriously throttle their access to global talent.

More recently, Altman, who has said he is a Democrat, has announced that he will support a slate of candidates in California elections in 2018. That could put him in more direct conflict with Thiel, who has denied plans to run for governor there, but still seems likely to be politically engaged.

IBM could be set for gains after long slump: Barron's

NEW YORK (Reuters) – International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) could be the next blue-chip company with a rising valuation, according to a report in financial publication Barron‘s.

The logo for IBM is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren – RC14185AA8E0

Some analysts expect IBM to return to growth this quarter, Barron’s said in its Nov. 20 edition.

IBM reported higher quarterly revenue from social, mobile, analytics, cloud and security technology last month, and a long decline in gross profit has slowed already, Barron’s said.

Shares are trading at about 11 times this year’s earnings forecast, well below that of the S&P 500 .SPX, Barron’s said.

Investors could get their first clear sign that IBM is turning the corner in January, when the company will probably give its 2018 outlook, the publication said.

Even with just some upbeat news, investors could make 30 percent or more over the next year, Barron’s said.

IBM’s shares shot up 8.9 percent on Oct. 18, the day after the company reported quarterly results, but have since given back most of those gains.

The stock closed on Friday at $148.97 and is down 10.3 percent for the year to date.

Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Twitter Will Ban User Ties to Violent Groups ‘Both On and Off the Platform’

Early Friday, Twitter announced changes to its policies on violent and hateful speech, some of them dramatic. Users will no longer be able to use “hateful images or symbols” in profile images or headers. And, in a step with few recent parallels, Twitter says users “may not affiliate with organizations that – whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform – use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.”

The ban on violent affiliations, even when violent views aren’t promoted on Twitter itself, raises a number of questions about enforcement. Among those is whether or to what extent Twitter staff will monitor questionable groups’ behavior outside of the platform; whether only formally organized groups will be impacted; and where the line will be drawn between ‘official’ group stances and activity by group members.

Given the constantly-evolving way Twitter has enforced its existing rules, answers to those questions are only likely to be clear well after the new policies go into effect on December 18 — if ever.

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The ethical case for the new restrictions is likely straightforward to many – Twitter, along with Facebook and YouTube, have in recent years been accused of giving extremists including both Islamic terrorists and white supremacists a vast new platform. Under mounting public pressure, all three sites have taken increasingly stringent steps to limit access to extremist content or ban users who promote it.

But the business case for those moves is at least slightly more ambiguous. Earlier in its development, Twitter took an uncompromising free-speech stance, but over time it has become clear that such permissiveness bred harassment, which in turn may have alienated some users and throttled growth. By that logic, policing user affiliations could help build a larger, more mainstream user base.

On the other hand, at least some Twitter users have reveled in their ability to say whatever they wanted on the platform, for better or worse. Tighter restrictions could push away such users, and small upstarts – including the Twitter copycat Gab – are poised to poach them.

raceAhead: Apple’s Diversity Chief Leaves, Homeland Security Official Resigns After Racist Comments, We’re All Nigerian Now

Your week in review, in haiku

1.

Dear public servants:

No touching. Stop race-baiting.

Be welcome at malls.

2.

The sexiest man?

At Cracker Barrel, maybe.

“If that,” sniffs Twitter.

3.

Got any Russian

backdoor overtures lying

around? Just asking.

4.

One leaky Keystone.

Two hundred thousand problems.

No Native respect.

5.

Kicking the tires:

Wherefore art thou Koch brothers?

Reclaiming our Time.

Reclaim your weekend, everyone.

On Point

Apple’s diversity chief is leaving her post after six months
Denise Young Smith, the company’s most recent vice president of diversity and inclusion, is leaving her post and the company. The 20-year Apple veteran will be replaced by Christie Smith, a longtime Deloitte human resources executive. While Denise Young Smith reported directly to CEO Tim Cook, Christie Smith will report to Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s human resources officer.
Fortune
Department of Homeland Security official resigns after racist comments come to light
Jamie Johnson, director of the Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), resigned last night after a CNN report revealed public comments he made disparaging African Americans and Muslims during numerous talk radio appearances. On one occasion, Johnson blamed black people for turning “major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity.” During another appearance he said, “all that Islam has ever given us is oil and dead bodies over the last millennia and a half.” Johnson, who is a pastor, apologized on his way out. “I regret the manner in which those thoughts were expressed in the past, but can say unequivocally that they do not represent my views personally or professionally,” he said.
The Hill
Some DACA applications were lost in the mail and rejected, despite meeting a crucial deadline
Though the administration now says it will reconsider some applications that it processed incorrectly, it’s not clear how they’ll be able to keep that promise. At least 4,000 out of more than 130,000 renewal applications were rejected for barely missing the deadline, but advocates think the true number could be much higher. The Trump administration plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects nearly 700,000 young immigrants from deportation, in 2018.
NPR
The Nigerian women’s bobsled team is going to compete in the Olympics
The three women, Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga finished their fifth and qualifying race yesterday, and are officially heading for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next February. They are the first African bobsled team in Olympic history, and their remarkable quest has already delighted an exhausted and cynical world. We are all Nigerian now, o.
Deadspin

The Woke Leader

For your weekend viewing pleasure: Mudbound
Mudbound, an extraordinary film by Dee Rees with co-writer, Virgil Williams, debuts today on Netflix. The film was adapted from Hillary Jordan’s 2008 first novel, “Mudbound” and is the story of two families during World War II, one black and one white, whose lives are intertwined on the same dusty, brown patch of farmland. It also features a resplendently bare Mary J. Blige, in a performance that is sure to generate buzz. Even the reviews are epic: “The radicalism of “Mudbound” thus lies in its inherently democratic sensibility, its humble, unapologetic insistence on granting its black and white characters the same moral and dramatic weight,” says film critic Justin Chang. “In a film industry that has only begun to correct its default position of presenting black suffering almost exclusively through a white gaze, this is no small achievement.”
LA Times
What sexual harassment looks like
The Washington Post has collected stories from women who were harassed at work and then reported the incident. The employers are not named, and the women are identified by first name and age only. But what becomes quickly apparent is how diverse and widespread the behavior is, and how economically vulnerable female employees often are. If you were a person who laughed off or misunderstood the meaning of “hostile workplace” in the past, consider this a painful primer. Oh, and the kicker? When women report, things often get far worse.
Washington Post
On the meaning of macaroni and cheese
If you think of mac and cheese as an easy, weeknight side dish that starts in a blue box, then you’re probably white. But if you think of macaroni and cheese as a made-from-scratch culinary event, then you’re probably black. And that’s part of the fascinating difference between a black and white Thanksgiving celebration.  “In black culture, for the most part, macaroni & cheese is the pinnacle, the highest culinary accolade. Who makes it, how it’s made and who’s allowed to bring it to a gathering involves negotiation, tradition and tacit understanding.” A delightful look at how a “simple” dish defines a culture.
Charlotte Observer

Watch SpaceX's Top Secret Zuma Mission Launch Today

Usually, when a SpaceX thing unexpectedly goes boom, it grounds the company for months and raises questions about safety and reliability. On Sunday, November 5, SpaceX was preparing for an experimental engine test at its facility in McGregor, Texas when a propellant leak ignited, damaging the test stand.

But despite the explosion, Elon Musk’s spaceflight company will push on with its planned launches uninterrupted. The first mission following the failure will fire off on Thursday night from Kennedy Space Center during a two-hour window opening at 8pm Eastern time—and it’s a notable one. The payload, codenamed Zuma, is yet another covert mission for the US government. And this one is even more hush-hush than before, squeezed into the end of SpaceX’s 2017 launch slate with just a month’s public notice.

Veteran aerospace manufacturer Northrop Grumman built the payload, according to a document obtained by WIRED and later confirmed by the company. The company says it built Zuma for the US government, and it’s also providing an adapter to mate Zuma with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. But that’s where information starts tapering off. A typical SpaceX mission on the manifest would tell you exactly what the payload is and where it’s being delivered. Northrop Grumman simply says Zuma is bound for low-Earth orbit—or a destination between 100 and 1,200 miles above Earth’s surface.

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, mission payloads have three levels of security restrictions for pre-launch processing. Zuma is categorized at the highest level, sharing the designation with two other SpaceX payloads this year: the secretive X-37B spaceplane, launched for the Air Force, and a clandestine surveillance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. Northrop Grumman acknowledges that its payload—the documents obtained by WIRED mention that it is a satellite—was built for the government, but it did not specify which branch.

Weirdly, Northrop Grumman will be a direct competitor to SpaceX come July, when the company will complete the acquisition of spaceflight company Orbital ATK, which also delivers cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. Regardless, Northrop praises SpaceX’s prices and reliability; Zuma’s launch date was crucial to the success of the payload, and while the public acknowledgement only came in October, Northrop established a rigid November launch slot with SpaceX earlier this year. “This event represents a cost-effective approach to space access for government missions,” says Lon Rains, communications director for Northrop Grumman. “As a company, Northrop Grumman realizes that this is a monumental responsibility and has taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.” Such praise from an old-school space systems company (and especially a future competitor) is pretty rare, especially for SpaceX.

Increasingly, SpaceX’s future is tied up in the success of federal contracts, regardless of their provenance. Having the ability to launch space missions is so important to the Air Force that it pays companies like SpaceX to develop new launch systems—anything to keep them from relying on the Russian-built RD-180 engine, the main power behind orbital military missions over the last few years.

Right now, the Air Force is sharing costs with SpaceX as it develops its Raptor engine, which was test-fired last year days before Elon Musk gave a talk at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico where he presented how the Raptor would enable deep space missions to Mars. The original agreement allocated nearly $33.6 million to SpaceX under the conditions that they will provide double that amount for the Raptor development. Following an update on SpaceX’s plans for interplanetary travel at this year’s IAC in Australia, the Air Force awarded the company an additional $40.7 million.

SpaceX’s model of accepting development cash and completing contracts that lead to bigger ones has been a lucrative business model. Before it was a serious launch provider, the company was awarded almost $400 million to develop the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule. After SpaceX spent nearly $450 million of its own cash to complete the vehicles and reach developmental milestones, they were awarded a $1.6 billion contract by NASA to deliver cargo to the ISS.

With so much riding on the success of those partnerships, last week’s explosion—the first after 16 non-problematic launches—was a justified scare. The engine failure originally reported by the Washington Post was actually a failure of the test stand, and sources familiar with the incident tell WIRED the explosion occurred before SpaceX actually fired the engine. A report published in NASASpaceflight points to a leak of liquid oxygen which was then ignited by a still-unknown source.

Housed on that test stand was an experimental Merlin engine, similar to the ones used to power the current fleet of Falcon 9 rockets. But this one in particular is a qualification unit for the upcoming Block 5 Falcon 9—a meaty upgrade that will increase the rocket’s thrust and cut down on refurbishment time between launches. SpaceX hopes to use the Block 5 Falcon 9 achieve its next big goal: flight to reflight of a single booster in 24 hours.

While that explosion doesn’t affect any federal contracts directly, it does call operations at the McGregor testing facility into question. When SpaceX wraps up its investigation, it may need to make upgrades to the test stands to avoid future problems—especially in the months leading up to human spaceflight returning to American soil. The Block 5 Falcon 9 rockets and accompanying Merlin engines will be used to lift humans safely to low-Earth orbit. Any incidents involving that hardware will raise serious questions.

Any further incidents, given SpaceX’s twin disasters in 2015 and 2016, will undoubtedly cause delays when the FAA and NASA require full investigations. Questions about SpaceX’s fueling procedures have been raised before, especially after the 2016 explosion that took out an entire rocket, an expensive customer satellite, and a launch pad. That, too, happened before a test fire and involved the ignition of leaked propellant.

This final version of the Falcon 9, the Block 5, will make its debut in late 2018 in time to fly astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX is still investigating the McGregor explosion to find its “root cause” and says it will stick to the upcoming launch schedule, including a resupply mission to the ISS, an Iridium satellite delivery, and—in the final days of 2017—the much-anticipated test flight of the Falcon Heavy, the linchpin in SpaceX’s crewed and interplanetary ambitions.

Elon Musk has casually floated the idea of a spectacular explosion during the Falcon Heavy test flight, and acknowledges the complexities of test-firing 27 of the Heavy’s Merlin engines. As the company gets closer to actually sending humans on the top of that rocket, you can bet that attitude will change.

Putting All Your Data in One Smartphone Basket

This content was produced by WMG Brand Lab in partnership with Samsung Knox

If your smartphone isn’t within arm’s length right now, feel free to start to panic. We’ll wait while you tear apart the couch, office, car, or your bag to find it.

Everyone has had that moment of dread when we reach for our constant gadget companion and it’s not there. Usually we find it, wedged under a driver’s seat, or abandoned in some restaurant or yoga studio. Other times our smartphones are just gone, and it’s time to deploy the kill switch.

That reaction, emotion – however you want to describe it – is proof of our reliance on these powerful and powerfully convenient devices. Losing a laptop is no treat either, of course, but most people don’t have them with them all the time. Your phone is easier to lose. And as smartphones keep leveling up in performance and capabilities, most of us are fine leaving the bigger machines behind more of the time, especially when it comes to work.

For the people that run your corporate IT world, smartphones are also a constant companion, though persistent headache, might be a more apt description.

Kevin Baradet is the Chief Technology Officer and Facilities Director at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business. That means he is responsible for managing the technology infrastructure and needs for faculty, staff, and graduate-level students (think a lot of MBA candidates). At the end of every semester, Baradet is presented with a box full of lost phones from students, faculty and staff, no owner in site. Typically, none is ever found.

“I don’t know if they have great insurance plans,” Baradet says, “but how could they not miss them?” Especially if they knew what can be divined from a single smartphone.

Former federal agent turned private investigator Thomas Martin, president of Martin Investigative Services out of Newport Beach, CA, describes your mobile phone number as the “new social security number.” With just a smartphone number, Martin says, investigators and information brokers have a window into “private information that is stored by almost all business corporations, financial institutions and – thanks to us – social media networks…It is like looking into your living room of life.”

And that is with just a number. Now what about having the phone itself?

“Depending what you have on the smartphone you are putting your reputation at risk, you may have a contractual obligation to a third-party for consulting or research you are doing, and if you expose that information, well, what is the cost there?” Baradet says.

The question of who bears that cost at Baradet’s school is straightforward – it’s the owner of the phone. Cornell doesn’t offer job related allowances for smartphones, but at the same time it’s a work tool that most people need to do their jobs. That puts Baradet, and many others running IT shops in a delicate spot. They can recommend approaches, but without helping to foot the bill for a phone they don’t have a lot of leverage with people. What Baradet does is resort to what he calls a “light touch” approach, providing best practices with an understanding that it is the user who is ultimately responsible if a phone is lost and breached.

“If you don’t want to be responsible for the information you access on a smartphone, then don’t access it,” he advises his people. “And if you want, for example, a Microsoft client on your phone so you can access Office, well then know if you lose your phone we may send a silver bullet down the wire and kill it – photos and all – so are they backed up?”

Baradet offers his best advice: use a PIN, the longer the better; turn on your consecutive failure feature; encrypt the data on any removeable storage; backup sensitive or important data; and have some way to locate your phone if it is lost.

For the truly lazy among us, biometric security is getting better and better. Gone are the days when you had to sweep a finger across the fingerprint reader over and over only to eventually enter a PIN. And the really attractive thing for users about biometric verification? It makes security something we have to think less about. You just want to make it hard when that phone goes missing, Baradet says.

“You want to put some speed bumps in the way of anyone who may get their hands on your phone,” he says. “Think about what is on your phone, and if I were to walk up to you and take it, what would happen? What would be the consequences?”

Of course, most people ignore his advice, Baradet says, until someone loses a phone and important data along with it. “I would say for the vast mean population of people – plus or minus two Sigmas – they will only adopt whatever doesn’t get in their way. They don’t even think about these sorts of risks.”

Until something happens to themselves or a colleague. Then Baradet gets a flood of calls about what to do, and how to take pre-emptive measures. At least while the details of the hassle, or cost of losing data is still making the rounds.

“Look, Mark Twain had it right, now it just applies to smartphones.” Baradet says. “If you put all your eggs in one basket, you better watch the basket.”

Work And Play…With Your Phone

This content was produced by WMG Brand Lab in partnership with Samsung Knox

Professional life has a funny way of asking us to behave like different people. We use different vocabulary and body language when we disagree with a coworker versus a friend. The tone for the simplest questions –– “Can I get you anything?” –– changes, if ever-so-slightly, when put to a manager compared to a partner. We might even laugh differently with the same coworker, depending whether we’re at the office or getting coffee. Most of us hope for a job where those divisions are the narrowest, where we’re able to feel like ourselves in either environment. And only recently have phones helped to narrow that gap.

The balance between work and life is as old as, well, work. In 1968, happiness was described as the smallest gap between a job and everything else. But phones have caused an unexpected bridge between the two. We now want phones that feel personalized so we can live two lives through one device. Every week we see new lists for keeping the two worlds separate –– what are the best practices? Phones still ding and ring at inopportune times, causing people to shift from child-care to client-care mentalities in seconds. That changes the way we operate with our families and jobs.

But the device itself is the best place to start looking for help. A recent survey from Frost & Sullivan showed that almost forty percent of respondents felt pressure to stay connected to the office during their free time. A third of respondents said that their phone caused a major impact on their work-life balance.

This has generated a huge mentality shift in which people are reaching for the power button to create division. In May, The New Yorker parodied the trend with story about a faux-unplugging retreat. “You’ll be assigned a locker for your phone and any other electronics upon your arrival,” Diana Vilibert’s satire read. “They’ll be returned to you immediately before your departure—your Candy Crush score a little higher than you remember.”

As mobile devices began spreading into the workplace in the early 2000s, employees had to balance their personal phone with the one from IT. Many of us remember (or still deal with) the added weight in our pockets and purses of two devices –– the stress of remembering either for dinner, assessing whether you only need one, or worrying you’re going to grab the wrong one. It was like having two wallets with different currencies and credit card accounts, and you couldn’t mix expenses.

So what features help keep the separation just right?

There has always been one obvious fusion point between the two lives: the calendar. Managing your life from separate calendars invariably causes catastrophic omissions, whether missing a client call or your turn to grab the kids. Now any worthwhile calendar app can integrate the two, automatically pull in details from email and even integrate with maps for the next appointment.

Then there’s the fusion between files accessed on the phone. IT departments typically put their core focus around security. What policies will ensure people have the easiest access to company data without jeopardizing business strategy or information? Operating systems now leverage containers that let employees split access to their work and personal life from the same device –– without either overlapping or giving an employer access to an employee’s life. And yet, people still need to text pictures of the kids or arrange a weekend away. But attach the wrong file and you could be sending proprietary data to a friend, giving the IT manager a heart attack.

Devices are also becoming modern day journals. Users easily capture notes, ideas or doodles –– it’s important not to lose those little moments of inspiration or insight, whether about the band’s next gig or a better engineering strategy. Phones have been moving into bigger screens, too. That means greater detail in watching hi-def movies but it also means not getting out the hammock when someone emails you a new slide deck. Pause the movie, mark some feedback, check your email at the same time from split screens –– from the back yard not a computer in the office upstairs.

Even though it’s “just a phone” we all recognize how these small features add to bigger improvements. The balance of partitions and overlap allow us better focus, in either life. It’s a fast-paced world. Healthy balances become imperative for navigating it.

How to Get Your Sales Teams Pumped Up, According to Science

The moments leading up to a major event can be terrifying — for you and your team. Just before an important sales pitch, presentation or other high-stakes situation, you can hear your heart pounding in your ears. You take a few deep breaths because you know this meeting can be a game-changer. You don’t want to blow it.

We’ve all experienced it — that anxious moment just before a crucial meeting we know has the power to change everything. The cruel irony, of course, is that right when we need to feel our best, we often feel our worst. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Research shows there are things we can do to pump ourselves up in the moment we need it most to deliver a killer performance.

Daniel McGinn is a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review and author of Psyched Up: How The Science Of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed. Daniel spent years researching and interviewing top-performing athletes, soldiers, comedians and entertainers on the tactics and techniques they use to ace make-it-or-break-it moments. He recently shared with me what science says about motivating yourself and your team to deliver a stellar performance.

Start with a plan

The biggest mistake people make before entering a high-stakes encounter is not having a plan, Daniel says.

“If we think about what an athlete does before performing – whether it’s a professional football player or an Olympic athlete – chances are they have some sort of a plan before the game,” Daniel tells me. “Not only are they stretching their muscles, they’re focusing on certain thoughts and actions. They have a pre-performance ritual.”

This is how top-performing athletes psych themselves up before a big game. Whether it’s listening to music visualizing their moves, they’ve trained their minds to focus on something other than the butterflies in their stomach. When they’re consistent with those pre-performance rituals, they perform better. Likewise, sales managers who create rituals with their teams before every meetings stand a better chance of delivering in high-stakes situations.

“(Research shows) people who do the same thing every time before they perform — whether it’s kicking a soccer goal, or shooting a dart, or some kind of a mental performance activity — people who have a set of rituals they do before performing, generally do better,” he says.

Think good thoughts

While it may sound warm and fuzzy, research shows that thinking positive thoughts is beneficial to performance. Visualizing the moments you knocked it out of the park, almost as if you were watching a highlight reel of your life and career, can positively affect your outcome. 

“If I were a salesperson, and I were about to call on the client that’s going to make or break this quarter for me, I would think back very specifically – as vividly as I can, almost like you’re watching a highlight film on ESPN – about the time when you just crushed that sales call,” Daniel says.

Thinking of all the ways a sales meeting could go sideways is likely to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, research shows.

“Thinking about what you want to do, as opposed to what you don’t want to do, is going to generally lead to better outcomes,” Daniel says.

Reframe the experience

Not only is it good to think good thoughts, it’s good to reframe the experience as good. Instead of thinking how nervous you feel, reframe the sensation to, say, excitement. It’s always better to frame things in the positive. In talking with many public speakers, for instance, Daniel says the successful ones saw the glass as half full.

“Instead of looking at an event where they need to perform as a burden or a risk or a task, which they might fail at, they really embrace it as an opportunity,” Daniel said of the speaker he spoke to. “They look at the upside and they do just sort of naturally think about it as an exciting thing as opposed to a nervous-making thing.”

This is something you can do with your team. Find ways to reframe the moment as positive, not do-or-die.

It’s Your Turn

How do you psyche yourself up before an important meeting? How do you pump your team up before a major event? Share your thoughts on Twitter, LinkedIn, or in the comments.

Uber's South Asia policy chief quits in latest senior departure: sources

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Uber’s [UBER.UL] chief of policy for India and South Asia has quit, two sources familiar with the matter said on Monday, in the latest high-level departure at the online taxi company.

The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London, Britain, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Shweta Rajpal Kohli, a former Indian journalist who joined Uber last year, would join cloud-based software maker Salesforce.com Inc next month, the sources told Reuters.

Uber said it did not have an immediate comment. Kohli did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Kohli was mostly tasked with building Uber’s relations with regulators and government officials in India, a market where the firm has faced several regulatory and reputational hurdles.

One source said Kohli “was leading government engagements in the influential circles, so her exit is a step back for Uber.”

The sources asked not to be identified as the details were not public yet.

Uber was briefly banned in New Delhi after one of its drivers raped a woman passenger in 2014.

Uber hired a law firm this year to investigate how the firm managed to obtain the medical records of the rape victim, an incident that led to criticism of the culture at the U.S. firm, sources told Reuters in June. Uber declined to comment.

Kohli is the latest senior executive to leave Uber. The firm’s European policy chief quit in October, shortly after the departure of Uber’s top boss in Britain.

Uber has suffered a tumultuous few months which has seen former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick forced out after a series of boardroom controversies and other regulatory battles in multiple U.S. states and around the world.

Uber counts India as its second-biggest market after the United States. It operates in about 30 Indian cities and competes with Ola, a ride hailing service backed by Japan’s Softbank.

Uber said on Monday it had agreed with a consortium led by SoftBank and Dragoneer Investment Group on a potential investment.

Editing by Euan Rochaa and Edmund Blair

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