Splainer

Tuesday, November 30 2021


Dive In

 

There are two pronouns: he and she… Our language is beautiful. And two pronouns are appropriate.

That’s France’s first lady Brigitte Macron weighing in on a leading dictionary’s decision to include the gender-neutral pronoun ‘iel’—a combination of the masculine ‘il’ and the feminine ‘elle’. Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called it an American “woke” assault on France. Reminder: The French are fiercely protective of the ‘purity’ of their language—especially keeping it safe from the nasty influence of the English language. 


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Big Story

Exit, Jack Dorsey; Enter, Parag Agrawal

The TLDR: The founder and CEO of Twitter startled everyone by suddenly quitting his job. An unexpected but more pleasant surprise for Indians: Dorsey’s successor is a former IIT graduate—who appears the total antithesis of his Buddhist boss. Was Dorsey pushed or did he jump? And what does any of this mean for Twitter?

 

The basic deets

The story first leaked to CNBC, and the company soon made it official. Dorsey made public his email to Twitter employees, where he said:

 

  • He doesn’t believe in founder-led companies, which is “severely limiting and a single point of failure.”
  • Parag Agrawal—who “leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily”—will make an excellent successor: “My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep.”
  • He will also quit his seat on the board around May—to “give Parag the space he needs to lead.”
  • He’s a super humble guy, ICYMI: “And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego.”

 

Parag who? The 37-year old IIT-Bombay and Stanford graduate joined the company as a software engineer more than a decade ago—after research internships at AT&T, Microsoft and Yahoo. He became the Chief Technology Officer in 2017—and has mainly overseen the strategy to use artificial intelligence to create an open social media platform (more on the Bluesky Project here). As Economic Times notes, the two most powerful people at Twitter will now be India-born—the other being Vijaya Gadde, its policy and safety lead director.

 

The quirky history of Jack Dorsey

Unlike many of his Silicon Valley peers, @Jack’s road to great success has been full of twists and turns:

  • He was a whiz kid from St Louis who wrote software for taxi services as a high school student. And like many tech titans today, he never graduated from college—dropping out of New York University to join his first startup.
  • Dorsey was soon fired and went back home to dabble in… botanical illustration. He even became a licensed masseur and only dropped the idea after returning to San Francisco and discovering that “everyone was a massage therapist.”
  • Dorsey first built the prototype of what would become Twitter in 2000—but his enduring obsession for the longest time was… fashion design!
  • A month before Twitter launched in 2006, Dorsey told his co-founder: “I’m going to quit tech and become a fashion designer.” And he cut out early from work to take “drawing classes, hot yoga sessions and a course at a local fashion school.”

 

Point to note: Much has been written about Dorsey’s eccentric lifestyle—which led New York Times to dub him as the Gwyneth Paltrow of Silicon Valley:

 

“During the year of soul-searching after his ousting from Twitter, he turned to meditation and the practice still remains an essential part of his morning routine today. He wakes at 5am and only eats one meal a day: dinner. His daily wellness rituals have been known to include ice baths, cryotherapy pods and infrared saunas. He journals and tracks his sleep. His life is spartan, almost monastic.”

 

The In & Out CEO: That sense of always being distracted by something other than Twitter has dogged Dorsey all through his career—and frequently cost him his job. 

 

  • He was first pushed out of his CEO job in 2008, when co-founder Evan Williams took over—uttering the famous line: “You can either be a dressmaker or the CEO of Twitter. You can’t be both.”
  • Down-but-never-out Dorsey used his time to found the payment services company Square—which he leads to this day.
  • He returned to Twitter in 2011 as executive chairman, got absurdly wealthy from the IPO in 2013—and was restored to the CEO throne in 2015.
  • But over recent years, the same old concerns about a lack of focus have grown. This time around, it’s Dorsey’s increasing obsession with cryptocurrency—which is the focus of his other company Square.
  • In 2019, he announced plans to spend six months a year in Africa, tweeting: “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!).”
  • The pandemic canceled that plan—but one of Twitter’s investors Elliott Management soon tried to push Dorsey out of his job in 2020.
  • A truce was reached… or perhaps not. A year later, Dorsey is once again out of his CEO job.


The big question: Did he quit or was he fired?

 

 
Headlines that matter

Mindblowing stats on pregnant women

In the United States, pregnant women are more than twice as likely to be murdered during pregnancy—or within 42 days after giving birth—than to die from any other cause for maternal mortality. Also: pregnant women are 16% more likely to be killed than women the same age who are not pregnant. One likely reason for this increased risk: domestic violence:

 

“A general explanation for the higher homicide risk that pregnant people face at this time is that their relationships face heightened stress, which might exacerbate an already dangerous situation. ‘Nobody who works in intimate partner violence will be surprised by this finding,’ said Penn State’s Penelope Morrison.”


BuzzFeed News has more. Read the original study here.


Welcome to Metaverse Seoul

The city’s plans to become the first municipal government with a full-service virtual world—and plans to inaugurate it on New Year’s Eve:

 

“In ‘Metaverse Seoul,’ according to plans, residents would be able to make reservations for city-run facilities, ride city tour buses, visit re-creations of destroyed historical sites, file administrative complaints with city bureaucrats and more. Residents would also be able to visit cultural heritage sites throughout the city by accessing the metaverse on their cellphones.”


Washington Post has more details. Also interesting: This Reuters video report on why young Koreans are rushing into metaverses to escape income inequality and soaring prices.

 

Barbados is ditching the Queen

The Caribbean nation is finally severing its ties with the British monarchy this week—and will declare itself a republic. Despite achieving independence in 1966, Barbados maintained the monarch as its titular head. Now, its governor general Sandra Mason will be sworn in as the first-ever president—and who says: “[T]he time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind.” Barbados is the first country in nearly three decades to cancel the Queen. (CNN)

 
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In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • CRED's latest animated ad

 

A list of intriguing things

  • The hottest new accessory for celebs: light therapy glasses
  • Ai-Da's latest gig: giving performances of her AI-written poetry
  • Did you know Sylvester Stallone is also an accomplished painter?
  • A cough syrup that is likely to invite a raid from the NCB
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