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iPhone 7 Rumors, No Man’s Sky and the Olympics’ digital disaster

iPhone 7 Rumors, No Man’s Sky and the Olympics’ digital disaster

Grover the gadget rental service

Grover the gadget rental service

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Snapchat’s repeatedly racist filters

The Engadget Podcast Ep 1: Your Racist Friend

Transcript of this episode:

Terrence:    Hello Internet and welcome to the new and improved Engadget Podcast. I am your host, Terrence O'Brien. Joining me this week, over on the far left, Nathan Ingraham, senior editor.

Nathan:    Good morning, afternoon, or evening.

Terrence:    Whenever you happen to be listening to this.

Nathan:    Yes.

Terrence:    Next to him, Cherlynn Low, reviews editor.

Cherlynn:    Good day.

Terrence:    To my right, Devindra Hardawar, senior editor.

Devindra:    Hello, hello.

Terrence:    Welcome everybody, thanks for joining me. This is a relatively early morning for us. We had our a little bit of a fire drill first thing this morning.

Nathan:    Oh yeah, it was great.

Terrence:    Which was a lot of fun, but we are now here in the studio and it is time to get right to the fun. We are starting off with Flame Wars. For those who don't know how this works, Nathan, Devindra, you guys are going to debate four of the biggest stories from the week. You will have exactly 20 seconds to make your opening statements. I will allow you a brief rebuttal. After that, Cherlynn will declare a winner, and we will move on. If you go over your allotted time, this 20 seconds is a hard cap, I will greet you with one of these.

Nathan:    Save yourself the embarrassment.

Terrence:    Be economical with your words is what I would say. Let's start off with everybody's favorite topic, iPhone rumors because that is a thing that literally never ends.

Devindra:    We are Engadget.

Terrence:    Well I mean, from the moment an iPhone is announced, the next one is already getting-

Devindra:    They're usually talking about the next one even before ... Like right now there are rumors for next year as well. Yeah it is terrible.

Terrence:    Great. This is why did we choose this industry again?

Nathan:    We love the rumor mill.

Devindra:    Yeah, always changing.

Terrence:    So the rumors are that the iPhone 7 will have no headphone jack, like the ...

Devindra:    Moto Z.

Terrence:    Moto Z. There are too many phones, and they are going to redesign the home button. Nate, I want you to tell me why this is a good thing.

Nathan:    All right are we starting?

Terrence:    Yeah, begin.

Nathan:    I don't think taking away the headphone jack is a good idea. I can't defend that, but a haptic home button, I think that is one less moving part to break.

Terrence:    That is it? Wow.

Devindra:    I am just going to ride out the 20 seconds now, and stare at you awkwardly.

Nathan:    I think I made my point.

Devindra:    I am just going to stare at Nate and build up my rage.

Terrence:    Okay, I will skip the buzzer and we can go. Right to you Devindra.

Devindra:    Well yeah, I am glad you agree. Losing the headphone jack, doesn't save us anything really. That is a really dumb decision, but the home button, yeah it is another button to break, I don't like the haptic feedback buttons feel on the new MacBook. I kind of prefer the feel of a real button.

Terrence:    You guys are both coming in way under.

Cherlynn:    You guys are so boring.

Terrence:    I know.

Nathan:    You're boring.

Cherlynn:    Your face is boring! It is too early in the morning for this.

Nathan:    Put a Snapchat filter on it.

Terrence:    We will get back to that later. Nate do you have any rebuttals here?

Nathan:    I mean have you used a MacBook with the haptic track pad? You get used to it in a day, it is not a big deal, and I feel like every year I read about how oh my freaking home button is breaking. It is the thing I think breaks the most. If they can avoid that, a lot less repairs on Apple's end. Seems like a smart business decision.

Cherlynn:    I want to hear both of yours, especially yours Nate on the headphone thing because you never really talked about it.

Nathan:    I think it is an incredibly dumb idea, I can't defend it. There is just no reason to take it away. It is the single most supported port, also the longest amount of time for decades. I mean I don't even think of statistic, I am just thinking about reality right. It is supported across so many devices, so many things. The fact that we are losing that for no real reason-

Devindra:    If there was a good, if they could articulate a reason besides make it thinner, and maybe Apple will, but right now it sounds like it may make room for a second speaker on the iPhone which could be cool, I don't know.

Terrence:    So the disagreement between you two is not over the headphone jack, it's just about the home button.

Devindra:    Yep. I'm sure there will be more once we hear about this thing. They did announce, well there's a rumor, for the announcement date of September seventh.

Nathan:    We will know much more very soon.

Terrence:    All right. Cherlynn?

Cherlynn:    In the meantime, Nate's the winner.

Devindra:    Congratulations.

Cherlynn:    Devindra, try other phones with the capacitive home button some time.

Devindra:    I have!

Cherlynn:    It's a good thing.

Terrence:    Have you tried double-clicking, triple-clicking on something like that?

Nathan:    You shouldn't have to triple-click [cross talk 00:04:28].

Terrence:    iPhone has that. It's there.

Nathan:    Steve Jobs would never have let that happen.

Terrence:    By the way, we are keeping score and whoever has the most wins at the end of this will get something.

Nathan:    I did not hear about this.

Terrence:    Well, you'll get a pat on the back from me and maybe the commenters will say something nice about you.

Nathan:    Unlikely.

Devindra:    That's never going to happen.

Cherlynn:    Now Devindra's gonna make an effort.

Terrence:    Next up, the Chromebook 13 from HP. This is sort of a premium Chromebook device, I guess a competitor to the Pixel in a certain way.

Nathan:    That's a fair assessment.

Terrence:    So is this actually a worthwhile device? Should people go out and buy it?

Nathan:    At $819, which is the price I reviewed it at, no. They also have one that starts at 500, I haven't tested yet, but everything that I can tell, it would also be a really capable machine. Great keyboard, great screen. Not so great battery life. If you're into Chromebooks and want one that doesn't suck, it's worth checking out.

Terrence:    I'm doing it anyway.

Nathan:    Do it.

    Terrence just really likes to do that.

Cherlynn:    He had about 3 seconds left.

Terrence:    See, you guys were worried about this 20 second time limit. You're coming in under it. It doesn't take that long to-

Nathan:    I like 30 seconds.

Terrence:    You get a little bit of-

Devindra:    I would bramble too much in 30 seconds.

Terrence:    All right, Devindra, why is this a device that nobody should purchase?

Devindra:    I don't hate Chromebooks. I like the lower-end ones. More expensive Chromebooks, I don't get it. Even at $500, you can get a tablet and good keyboard and have access to a whole bunch of apps and a functional machine. There are plenty of Windows computers around 500 bucks, run Chrome, and real apps, its a better deal.

Terrence:    I'm not passing up an opportunity to use it. Sorry. Do you have any rebuttal there, Nate?

Nathan:    My rebuttal is that most $500 Windows laptops are hot garbage.

Devindra:    That's not true.

Cherlynn:    What can you say that's not hot garbage?

Devindra:    Even though the Surface 3, which is not the Surface Pro, that one starts at $499, it runs full Windows 10, you do have to add a little more for the keyboard. But there are other, cheaper, lower-end laptops. Windows 10 works really well on low-end-

Cherlynn:    You also said there's no real apps on Chromebook, but there are, because they're going to support Android apps soon.

Devindra:    Soon? When? We've been hearing that for years.

Nathan:    No we haven't, it's actually happening.

Devindra:    It's cool, but even then, an Android app on a desktop. I've used that before on Windows BlueStacks. It's a cool thing. It's not as useful as having something actually integrated into the OS.

Nathan:    I'll just say that you should give it a shot. It really did make me change my opinion of Chromebooks.

Devindra:    Okay.

Nathan:    They're going to be a lot more useful once that rolls out.

Terrence:    All right, Cherlynn, who's the winner?

Cherlynn:    I like Chromebooks, that's the thing. I don't think I want to spend $500 on one. Devindra. You got it.

Terrence:    All right, so it's one-one.

Cherlynn:    I'm very fair you guys.

Nathan:    Impartial.

Terrence:    Let's move on to probably the biggest story of the week. In general, not just in the world of tech, but the Olympics.

Nathan:    Oh yes.

Terrence:    So this year, this Olympics kind of went all in on the digital thing. There's all sorts of ways to watch it. Weird stuff, which I'll let Devindra talk about in a minute, but they also have a very weird restriction in that you're not allowed to make GIFs. I don't care how you pronounce it.

Nathan:    We are not having this discussion.

Terrence:    I'm going to go and just steal Mike Rignetta's "GIFs" and just go with that. Thanks Mike.

    So, Devindra, why are these the most exciting and digital Olympics ever?

Devindra:    There have been some issues, but I like that there are so many apps out there, every TV provider is giving access to the Olympics on their apps. There are even things like Sling TV, which is what I'm using, that if you're subscribing to the sports channel, you get pretty much every Olympics event. Much more access than before, that's a good thing.

Terrence:    Once again, right under the wire. I'm going to have to get somebody who rambles a bit more on the show.

Devindra:    I've done too much radio, that's it.

Terrence:    Nate, how have the Olympics dropped the ball when it comes to digital distribution?

Nathan:    The apps, in my experience, have just not been very good. I was trying to watch an event and it kept on starting from the beginning. I had not idea if it was live, it said it was live, but it definitely didn't feel like it was live because I kept seeing the same thing over and over again. That was a really bad first impression. Also, no GIFs is just a terrible decision. Get with the now.

Terrence:    Right under.

Nathan:    You're welcome.

Cherlynn:    I don't know. Now that I have to make my decision, it's always difficult for me. For someone like me who's never seen the Olympics, just not really big on the hype, but wants to maybe catch some clips here and there-

Nathan:    Wait, wait, wait, I need to interrupt this.

Devindra:    She wasn't alive to see the Olympics.

Nathan:    I can understand you're not huge on it, you don't watch it necessarily, but like never walked through a room when it happened to be on?

Cherlynn:    You mean this year or-

Nathan:    Just in general.

Cherlynn:    My dad used to make me watch some of it on TV.

Nathan:    Okay.

Cherlynn:    I don't get the big fuss.

Devindra:    I didn't really care until a few years ago to be honest.

Cherlynn:    The World Cup, now that's exciting, but anyway.

Nathan:    This is just the World Cup for every sport.

Cherlynn:    Just too many. So lets go back to-

Nathan:    There's too many sports?

Cherlynn:    Ya'll it's okay, it's too early.

Nathan:    We should debate about golf. Golf being back in the Olympics.

Devindra:    Is it back in the Olympics?

Cherlynn:    Guys, we're digressing!

Nathan:    Yeah, we're getting really off track, golf is not a sport.

Cherlynn:    The app, is it free to access for everyone?

Nathan:    Most of the apps, you have to be a cable subscriber, you have to log in with your cable account. If you don't have cable, you can watch on NBC over the air, but it's usually only at prime time and it's an edited, condensed version. It seems like all they do, they show volleyball, they show gymnastics, they show swimming, and couple other things, but its definitely only getting a small portion of the experience.

Cherlynn:    So access doesn't appear to be like super widespread right now. Sling TV you said, do you have to pay for that?

Devindra:    Yeah.

Cherlynn:    Okay, so the winner's Nate.

Terrence:    All right, two-to-one.

Devindra:    It seems like the lack of free and easy access is the defining factors.

Nathan:    Also, GIFs. The GIFs is a problem.

Terrence:    The only argument in favor of the Olympics banning GIFs is these people are working their butts off and competing really hard then they get turned into a meme and it's a little unfortunate I think if you're an athlete that's really working for it and then they've gotta show your grimace on the podium. That's kind of a crappy way to be remembered.

Devindra:    Yeah, but you decided to compete in something and show yourself on a world stage. You accept the possibility that you will be a meme.

Cherlynn:    So Terrence, what if one day you're a meme?

Terrence:    That's fine.

Nathan:    It's going to happen.

Terrence:    If you're out there, make a meme of me.

Nathan:    Turn him into a Muppet.

Terrence:    Do whatever you want. No shame. I have a complete lack of self respect.

Devindra:    I know you prep for tech conferences just like Michael Phelps. Doing the full on Anikan.

Cherlynn:    You're right.

Terrence:    So let's talk about our last topic for the week, which is No Man's Sky, one of the most hyped games, I'd say, in recent memory. For those of you out there who have not played it, or weirdly don't know what it is, it's basically a survival sandbox game in space.

Nathan:    Start out on a planet, you can go into space, visit other planets.

Terrence:    Devindra, tell me why people need to buy this and does it deserve the hype? Does it live up to the hype?

Devindra:    I haven't played it yet, I'm still waiting on my PC copy, but this is a large scale game that does more than most big titles, from a small indie team. I think that is something I'd like to support. The idea of it, the grandeur of it, looks amazing.

Terrence:    Nate?

Nathan:    Yeah?

Terrence:    Why should people skip this?

Nathan:    I think that unless you have untold amount of hours to devote to this game, it's going to be hard to get a really good experience from it, based on that scale. I just don't know how someone can drop in there and play casually and get a good experience. That said, I haven't played it yet, and there is something really impressive about what they're trying to do.

Terrence:    Okay, again, under the limit.

    I want to ask a question here, before we decide who the winner is. I think we kind of skipped over what makes the game so impressive. There is an underlying thing here that's the reason everyone got so hyped up about it.

Devindra:    It's a universe that's growing. It's a universe of itself. Over 18 quintillion planets and it's procedurally generated stuff, so when you go there, the game creates something, but what you do kind of impact is the greater world too so people can end up visiting a planet that you've named and see the species you've named and stuff like that. That's pretty cool.

Terrence:    You've got to admit Nate that that's pretty impressive, at least from a technical perspective.

Nathan:    It absolutely is, especially given the small team. It's interesting to see a small indie developer turn in a title that's gotten this much hype and is that impressive in scale. I have a hard time really hating on it to be honest, it looks beautiful. As someone who doesn't have as much time as I'd like to play video games, I'm not sure I'm gonna really get to feel like I'm impacting this universe, unless I'm going to sink hundreds of hours into it. Some people can do that. I feel like a lot of people can't. They might be missing part of an audience by not making it a little more accessible.

Cherlynn:    Devindra, how much time do you spend playing games in general?

Devindra:    It depends. It comes in waves as new games come out. If I'm not busy reviewing things for Engadget and doing other work, I like to spend around five or six hours a week. It's not that much.

Cherlynn:    Do you think that'll give you a good experience with No Man's Sky?

Devindra:    I mean yeah. It's a game you can keep playing for a while, hop in and out whenever you need to. It seems like there's a lot of grinding involved, but I take a casual approach to a lot of this. I've been playing the Witcher 3 for how long? Since it came out. I'm still playing it.

Cherlynn:    I think Devindra's got a very convincing argument. As a non-gamer, this even speaks to me because I'm a science fiction freak so I really want to go explore this world, even as a non-gamer.

Devindra:    It's pretty much the encapsulation of every science fiction fan's dream to be able to explore-

Nathan:    If they can make it so you can drop in and out like that, play for a few hours, leave it for a few weeks, and not feel like you're lost or not getting the full experience, then it'll be a win. We'll just see if that actually happens.

Terrence:    So the winner?

Cherlynn:    Devindra.

Terrence:    That means we end with a tie, it is two-to-two and that means that nobody wins?

Nathan:    Fight to the death.

Devindra:    I think we should just keep an on-going tally.

Cherlynn:    That's true.

Nathan:    I think we can do that. Update the standings every so often.

Terrence:    I think that's actually a really good idea. We're going to have a leaderboard.

Terrence:    I think now it's kind of time to turn our attention to you, Cherlynn.

Cherlynn:    Hi.

Terrence:    For a little segment we are calling Open Sourced, because we have to name things.

Cherlynn:    Sure.

Terrence:    We need a catchy name. We need these little bits. This is where we're going to talk a little bit about what goes into the stories that we publish. The story behind the story if we want to be trite about it.

Cherlynn:    [inaudible 00:00:25].

Terrence:    I will avoid using that phrase in future episodes because it hurts me on the inside. But you're ... It did not go up yet at the time that we're recording this, Thursday morning.

Cherlynn:    I just turned it in, yeah.

Terrence:    We still have to edit it and all of that stuff. All the fun things that go in behind the scenes, the formatting, the editing. You checked out this service called Grover.

Cherlynn:    I did.

Terrence:    Tell us a little bit about the- like what is it and tell us your thoughts.

Cherlynn:    Grover is basically a rental service for all of the devices you can think about. For example, this MacBook over here, is something that I took out to test the service with, and I have it for a month. The rental price for it is like $109 for the month, but then the street or the retail price is at least $800-$900, so that's a good deal to me because for me ... Well, first of all, Grover sponsored the 1 month trial so that we could test it out. I didn't have to spend money to have this, but I'm probably going to keep renting this little thing because it's cool. There's a lot of devices you can rent. You can try a fitness tracker, the Apple watch, or a smart phone or even drones and camera stuff.

    I think it's a really nice idea that has existed before. There Rent-A-Centers around and there's Lumoid, another service, but Lumoid doesn't have the extensive library that Grover does and Rent-A-Centers are just, money sucks, so don't do it. 30% of what you pay for each month's rental through Grover goes towards your eventual purchase of the device if you choose to, so that's pretty neat.  Siri is just listening in on everything.

Terrence:    One of the things that I think people probably- maybe they do realize, but maybe don't realize is we get an inordinate amount of pitches from PR people from companies and stuff. Our inboxes are just slammed. I'm pretty sure you said that Grover was not one of those things that immediately jumped out to you?

Cherlynn:    No, I was like, I looked at it. I was like, I've heard of this before, skip. Every day you have to make decisions like this. I was like, "Nah, I'm not going to pay attention to it," but the PR person was obviously persistent and was like, "Hey, I really think you'd be interested." I was like, "Okay, I'll float it by Dana and Terrence" because that's what I do. I'm responsible. Dana was like, "Hey, this is actually kind of cool." This is like Rent the Runway. She came over to my desk and was like, "Rent the Runway for gadgets."

Terrence:    We should clarify, we're talking about managing editor Dana Wollman.

Cherlynn:    Dana Wollman, yes. She was like, "This is for people like Vee Volasko, who will just throw all their money at all the gadgets and buy stuff nonstop." But this is a more budget-friendly way of doing it, so she was like, "Let's try it out."

Nathan:    Budget friendly up to a point though.

Cherlynn:    To a point.

Nathan:    So, actually, whey you try to- how did you narrow down. I looked at the site quickly today and just saw that they've got consoles, they've got cameras, tablets. They've got a lot of stuff there. How did you manage to narrow it down, like, "Oh, these are the things that I actually want to spend some money on and try."

Cherlynn:    A huge part of the story that I wrote was about how difficult it was initially to narrow it down. I was like, "First of all, let's go hit the categories I know I was going to want something from." So I went to cameras because I'm working on a production on the site. I need camera equipment. Then I was like, "You know what? I've been thinking about this MacBook and getting it for a while, to get a feel for it, so this is a good way to try it out." And then I just went nuts. I just went in like, frickin' looked at Netatmo's weather station. I was like, "I don't have a yard, but I'll try it." I was like, "This key tracker thing is only $3 a month, I will get it!" But then, a key tracker, you can buy one for like 20 bucks, so that did not make sense. I eventually had to ... You know, the worst thing was they were like, "You can check out basically whatever you want." I was like, "I'll get everything. Thank you."

Nathan:    Just add everything to your cart and then cull it down from there.

Cherlynn:    Everything. $1000 worth of things, but I was like, "Nah, I've got to narrow it down to 4." MacBook, camera, I got a pair of Parrot Zik headphones and that's because I just needed one, and then I got a ring flash, so I was very practical.

Nathan:    This sounds like a recipe for disaster though. So are were the restrictions for this whole thing?  Especially fitness trackers, right? I don't want to rent a fitness tracker.

Terrence:    Oh yeah, I don't want somebody else's sweat. Ugh.

Cherlynn:    Yeah, it sounds ... all that sweat. I was surprised when the stuff came to me that it was so pristine. It came in like a brand new condition.

Nathan:    Oh sure.

Cherlynn:    But sure, like you said. First of all, as reviewers I'm always suspicious. "You gave me a special experience. You gave me this nicer version of it."  It's also because Grover's only in its first month in the U.S., so all its inventory is still new. If you want like a new, non-gross fitness tracker, do it now. Then afterwards, ...

Nathan:    Like, "Sorry, everybody else."

Cherlynn:    But they do refurbish everything, they say, and they re-package and wipe all the devices clean. One of the things I was weirded out the most about was that I'm not going to use any credit card information on this MacBook because if I give it back, who knows who's going to get it next. Some hacker guy or girl is going to be like, "Yeah, I'm going to go into your hard drive." Or porn.

Devindra:    Just to clarify, you're not using this computer for porn?

Terrence:    Are you more concerned about them finding your porn or finding your credit card numbers?

Cherlynn:    I think my ... You know what? Check out both. My porn library is great as is my credit card is empty, so ... It's fine.

Nathan:    They should have a button, like once you send it back, like self destruct.

Cherlynn:    They should. I asked the CEO. I was like, "What kind of reset do you do?" They were like, "Oh, we just go to the factory reset options." I was like, "I could do that myself." They're like, "We're not doing any CIA level stuff."

Devindra:    They give the option to overwrite it 7 times on there, I think.

Cherlynn:    Really? Oh, so only 7 times?

Terrence:    Only 7. That's pretty good, I think.

Nathan:    That's not bad, but still.

Cherlynn:    But if it changes hands like 10 times, then ...

Nathan:    You can't trust them that they'll do it. As a consumer, I'd feel better if I hit this button and this thing happens.

Cherlynn:    Well, you're supposed to do it before you send it to them and then they'll do another check to make sure, but again it's not like top level. There are people that will do that. Another thing that I was really concerned about, was so- I talked about this to our colleagues and Mona was like, "I want to try an Apple Watch. She very astutely went and looked at their terms and conditions.

Devindra:    Who does that?

Terrence:    Mona apparently.

Cherlynn:    Mona. It says I'm liable for all the damage. I was like, "No, they told me they'll pay for 50% of any damage." This was where it got really thorny for me. I pointed it out to the PR people and Grover CEO and I was like, "This is weird. You're making people enter a legally binding document that says that they're going to be responsible for the full amount of the damage, whereas you told me on our interview that you're going to cover 50% of it." In an email, replied to my query, saying, "Yeah, we're still going to waive 50% of it." His reasoning for not putting it in the terms and conditions were that they didn't want to make it sound like they're providing insurance.

Nathan:    Yeah, that could be a problem too. But even then, going running with a device that you could end up ...

Cherlynn:    Paying for.

Nathan:    ... smashing.

Cherlynn:    You can do phones, right? People break phones easily.

Devindra:    I've never seen anybody outside of this office with a fully functional, clean unshattered phone. Even most of the people in this office have [crosstalk 00:07:55]

Nathan:    Yeah, at this point.

Cherlynn:    Mine is shattered.

    Anyway, that part was prickly for me, but of course if you go into it with the understanding that you're going to be liable for the damages, it's something just to be aware of.

Terrence:    Which, I mean, makes sense.

Nathan:    You shouldn't be able to rent something and smash it, like, "Oops, sorry." That's not great either. It's all your problem.

Devindra:    Just break it in half.

Terrence:    It sounds like in general, though, you were pretty happy with your experience with it, but it is also a relatively new service. I'm sure not everything is super rosy? I think this is a good opportunity for you to offer said start-up some advice on how to improve their service. Just like straight talk to 'em.

Cherlynn:    Hey, fix your terms and conditions. Fix your website. It needs to work better, look better. I need all of my information up top, not scrolling down to realize, "Oh, this is a flash." A picture's not often at the top. Another thing that was really cool was when I talked to the CEO he mentioned that they were going to add unlimited pricing. So, basically, you could pay say $100 a month and you could check out any 3 gadgets you want.

Devindra:    That sounds a lot more compelling to me.

Cherlynn:    I really would do that. If that were the case, I'd be like, "Yes, I'll pay $100 a month every month for the rest of my life just to get any 3 gadgets all the time." I dunno.

Nathan:    For the rest of your life?

Cherlynn:    For the rest of my life, I would. That $100, I don't know if 30% of that will go into the purchase of the device eventually?

Terrence:    This isn't launched yet, right?

Cherlynn:    This hasn't launched, but he said around Christmas they might have something like that available, so that, to me- because the company keeps touting itself as like, "We're like the Spotify of gadgets." I'm like, "I don't get it."

Terrence:    I'm completely lost.

Nathan:    Pro tip: better tag line.

Cherlynn:    I did not get it. I think Dana's idea of Rent the Runway for gadgets makes a lot more sense.

Terrence:    Only in New York City right now, though, right?

Cherlynn:    Yes, it's only in New York. It will come to other cities soon, though. Hopefully.

Terrence:    Okay. I guess, be on the lookout for that. That piece should hopefully be out before a podcast goes out.

Cherlynn:    Oh yeah, it should be.

Terence:    I want to move on now to our big topic of the week and do our group chat, our panel discussion.

Cherrilyn:    We need a new name for that.

Terence:    Yeah, well, whatever, I'm not bothering to change the name right now.

Devindra:    These things are in flux.

Terence:    Yeah, these .. Who knows? Who cares? I want to dig in a little bit on one particular story, and I'm sure it's one that everybody is super excited to talk about, and that's Snapchat.

Devindra:    Yay.

Terence:    For those who maybe missed this, Snapchat released a filter, lens or whatever it's called, a selfie lens, I think that's the proper terminology.

Cherrilyn:    It's a ...

Devindra:    Sure.

Cherrilyn:    Filter.

Devindra:    Whatever.

Terence:    Or selfie filter, who cares? That is essentially yellow face. If you've seen Breakfast at Tiffany's and you are familiar with Mickey Rooney's character, it basically does that to your face. It is crazy offensive, and this is not the first time that Snapchat has gotten in trouble for releasing what I think is a pretty blatantly racist filter.

Devindra:    For sure, yeah.

Terence:    I'll just start with you, Devindra, because you're there, and I'm looking at you. Is there any world in which any of this is okay?

Devindra:    No, I don't think so. The sad thing is that after the Bob Marely filter, that was stupid, incredibly stupid and we gave them a lot of crap for that, I cannot believe that this is still happening, again. Clearly, Snapchat hasn't learned from the mistakes it's made, and I wonder if this speaks to the diversity of people on staff too. Anybody, anybody, who looks at this and is not a white person may be like, "Let's not do this. Let's not go down this road." I don't know.

Cherrilyn:    I don't know, I feel like I need to step in here as the only outwardly yellow person on this panel.

Devindra:    But un-American.

Cherrilyn:    Not America, so ...

Devindra:    You don't know our tropes of racism yet. You'll learn, don't worry.

Cherrilyn:    I know.

Terence:    As we discovered in the lead to the episode, you have not seen ...

Cherrilyn:    Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Terence:    Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Devindra:    She didn't recognize the trope either.

Cherrilyn:    Right, looking at the pictures that were provided, I wanted to try this filter myself but it was taken down already- obviously, but looking at the pictures, I wouldn't have caught on immediately that this was, so-called, yellow face. I didn't know, if maybe like you said, someone on Snapchat's staff or everyone was just as dumb as me.

Devindra:    They're explanation was that they were going for anime style.

Cherrilyn:    It does look very anime style except for the whole Bugs Bunny thing.

Terence:    The buck teeth thing is not anime style. I mean, I would argue that nothing about it is anime style. I mean, I'm not the hugest addict of anime, but I'm pretty sure that most of it is like big eyes ...

Devindra:    Big eyes ...

Terence:    It's very ...

Devindra:    Big hair ...

Terence:    Yeah.

Devindra:    Spiky hair ... Well, South Park has done great anime like tropes, like making fun of that.

Cherrilyn:    Princess Skinny.

Devindra:    Yeah, so, that's South Park. South Park does this better than ...

Cherrilyn:    Snapchat.

Devindra:    ... a big tech company. Come on. I mean, South Park's been doing it for what, 20 years. Yeah, they're good at it.

Nate:    It's a crazy thing. The Bob Marley one was more interesting because I think Bob Marley's estate sanctioned it. I'm wondering who made that decision, but immediately, it was pretty obvious it was not smart. It looked horrible.

Terence:    Yeah, that one did not get pulled, I don't think, right? They left that up?

Nate:    I'm not sure.

Devindra:    I think it was ... yeah, I don't remember.

Terence:    Okay.

Cherrilyn:    I don't remember seeing the Bob Marley one, I wasn't sure if it one of those because ... okay, so ...

Terence:    Okay, I can pull it up for you.

Cherrilyn:    Oh, thank you.

Terence:    Hopefully, we can ... we'll embed a link to the post, at the very least in the description of the podcast, if we can't show a photo of this. This is ... those ...

Nate:    The definition of Black Face [crosstalk 00:03:40]

Terence:    Yeah, there are two photos of staff members with the Bob Marley filter applied. One of those is a white person.

Cherrilyn:    Oh.

Devindra:    Yeah.

Cherrilyn:    Oh.

Devindra:    Yeah.

Terence:    Yeah.

Cherrilyn:    I see. Okay, so that's like ... No, they're both not white people in that picture that you are showing me, Terence. What I thought was just that thing, the wig, the frame around the face, not like an actual color skin tone.

Nate:    If it was just some dreds like ...

Terence:    If it was just some dreds, I mean ...

Nate:    Adrian and Brody on SNL, right? That horrible ...

Terence:    Even that, I think is questionable.

Nate:    Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Terence:    It's not highly offensive. It's just like ...

Nate:    Don't do this.

Terence:    Dumb. But full on black face which is what that was.

Cherrilyn:    All right so ...

Terence:    And then they do it again, sorry, then they do it again! That's the most insane thing! How could  someone have possibly thought that was a good idea, after all the bad press they got, just four months ago!

Cherrilyn:    I think ...

Terence:    Go on.

Cherrilyn:    I think they were like, "This isn't actually changing the skin tone. We're just changing the look of their eyes and their teeth [inaudible 00:04:38]," because Snapchat has done this in their other filters. They have so many filters to do things like that, but no one's mad at the mermaid filter, and no one's mad at the gypsy queen.

Devindra:    They do exaggerate [crosstalk 00:04:48] a lot of facial features.

Cherrilyn:    They do that a lot!

Devindra:    But it's important ... I think the idea for presentation and how you handle the stuff is important, because we are at a point were they silly little apps can transform your face and that's actually dangerous territory for a lot of people. Especially if you are unaware of all of the cultural conflict going in. Cherrilyn, do you have a better sense of why people are outraged now, because ...

Cherrilyn:    I am, yeah I do.

Devindra:    We kind of pointed out ... You look at the history of World War II cartoons in America, I remember studying Japanese culture in stuff ...

Cherrilyn:    You're old.

Devindra:    ... in school. I am old. I'm so old. Also, I've seen the Olympics several times, you baby! Popeye, Mickey Mouse, Dr. Seuss- so many cultural icons doing strictly racist things against Japan in support of America during World War II, and a lot of that, yellow face was a big part of it, that whole caricature.

Cherrilyn:    For people with that kind of history, I see how it's very offensive. Yeah.

Terence:    Let's make clear. Snapchat is an American company. This is not like some company led by a bunch of people from a different country, or continent who are experiencing a different culture. These people should be aware of this history and even of just their own history. As we said before, this happened how ever many months ago now, at least once.

Devindra:    Four.

Cherrilyn:    Yeah.

Terence:    This is ...

Cherrilyn:    Racism hasn't been their only problem, too? They've also done filters were they've basically made a teen age look were there is braces and glasses and it's just like the ugly ducking look, and I'm just like, "Well, no." That to me was offensive, because as a kid I grew up looking that way. [crosstalk 00:06:25]

Terence:    Well that's one of the memes that was making the rounds. When they put that filter was people like, "I'm glad that I don't look like this," and put the picture of themselves normally next to the picture of themselves with the Snapchat filter. It literally didn't look any different. I don't think that the people at Snapchat, the CEO, the engineers or anything, are racist. I don't think that anybody [crosstalk 00:06:53] is necessarily suggesting that, right? Or is anybody going to suggest that?

Devindra:    I mean ...

Cherrilyn:    No.

Devindra:    ... well's the ... whenever you have this discussion be like, "Well we're not saying they're racist," but the idea that these things happen over and over again, it's about the systemic racism, right? The stuff that's there that they don't recognize. Maybe somebody did object to this and nobody listen to them and if that's ...

Nate:    Is an ultra problem in that area.

Devindra:    ... that's a bigger problem. That is institutional racism, right there.

Nate:    Well, there's also been a lot of talk about the lack of diversity at Snapchat. They haven't released numbers, despite people asked them for it. I believe their CEO has been rather cagey about those numbers and the number of interviews. I think I saw a screenshot, obviously, you see their board and it's white men down the line. There may be other people in the company who are more diverse that aren't represented in there. In any event, it looks from the outside that they are not ...

Terence:    Well, one of the ways I've always heard Snapchat described is that it's basically a company run by a bunch of frat dudes.

Nate:    Yeah.

Devindra:    Yeah.

Nate:    The CEO has said horrible things in the past. I try not to write them off entirely because of this. You'd like to see them grow up a little bit. I just don't think they realized how powerful of a platform they have right now. There are so many people using it. I don't know why they feel the need to focus on these ridiculous filters to the extent that they do. I think they should maybe do like fix the UI and not be racist.

Terence:    The UI is a different beast.

Nate:    Yeah.

Terence:    I guess there's really not much to say beyond what we've already said. I mean ...

Devindra:    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Is this changing how you guys view or use Snapchat.

Nate:    That's a good question.

Terence:    I don't use Snapchat really. I have an account.

Devindra:    Yeah. You got to save your name.

Terence:    Yeah. Literally, that's what I do is I sign up for every new service and claim my name. I was never a big fan of it. I never really used it that much. That being said, I will never use it again. This was kind of it for me. I'm done. I'm walking away. This is crazy.

Devindra:    I'm also not a big fan of the service. When it was [inaudible 00:08:50], it was completely pointless. I think Snapchat stories maybe made it a little more interesting, but even now, I can get a lot of that on Instagram. Hey, that's great!

Cherrilyn:    Look at that!

Devindra:    So I'm just going to stick to that.

Terence:    We got an alternative now.

Cherrilyn:    Wow. I'm going to keep using Snapchat. I know. I shouldn't. I know, y'all hate me.

Terence:    There is an age divide.

Devindra:    That is it.

Terence:    Us olds are not [crosstalk 00:09:13]

Cherrilyn:    I'm so not that much younger than you guys, but okay.

Devindra:    We'll talk about that later. [crosstalk 00:09:15]

Terence:    You've never seen the Olympics before, so I don't know.

Devindra:    Right!

Terence:    In terms of pure years, maybe not. Me and Devindra at the very least, are old souls, and I think Luke nay-ed on that one too.

Nate:    Sure.

Terence:    [crosstalk 00:09:27] Where our hearts probably have been a decade older than we are physically. [crosstalk 00:09:31]

Cherrilyn:    Oh, I'm out numbered.

Nate:    I'm not. No, I'm in the same boat as those guys. I've not used it a ton. I've played around with it a little bit. I'll occasionally see stuff that I think is interesting. I think the stories was a really good idea, there's some value there. I have been at the best of passive user and I don't think I will be using it extensively, ever, really.

Terence:    All right, so I think that about wraps it up. Guys, thank you so much for joining me. This was ... I want to say fun, fun is ...

Devindra:    Yeah, fun!

Terence:    ... is the word you would use to describe ...

Devindra:    I like yelling at tech companies, it's great.

Terence:    It actually is a lot of fun. I am going to go ...

Nate:    That could be the name of the blog.

Cherrilyn:    I like yelling at tech companies.

Terence:    I like yelling at tech companies.

Nate:    Be better!

Terence:    Be better! Oh, that's a good segment. Devindra, where can our loyal listeners and viewers find you on the internet.

Devindra:    I am on Twitter @Devindra and I have a personal website that I am rebuilding at

Terence:    Cherrilyn?

Cherrilyn:    On Twitter, I'm @Cherrilynlow. Try to spell that. I'm also rebuilding my personal website, too.

Devindra:    Personal websites are great.

Nate:    Wait, seriously?

Cherrilyn:    It is, yeah.

Nate:    That's awesome. I don't even have a personal website because I'm too lazy to make one. I'm on Twitter @Nateingram. Look it up.

Devindra:    It's a real train wreck.

Nate:    If you dare.

Terence:    You can find me on Twitter @terenceObrien or you can hit up the official engadget Twitter that's @engadget or email us at podcastsettinggadget. We want your feedback, we want your suggestion, your complaints, whatever it is. The only way this show is going to get better is if we do what you want and we won't know what you want unless you tell us. Thanks for joining us and don't miss next week's episode Before we go, I just want to leave you with the comment of the week, which comes from [inaudible 00:11:13] champion, "Until you need to take a canoe somewhere."

Nate:    Words to live by.

Cherrilyn:    Cheers!

Nate:    Thinking about the ...

Devindra:    Cheers.

Nate:    Yeah. Cheers.

Posted 08.11.16

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