Serena Williams Is Adding Another Feat to Her Resume—Joins SurveyMonkey’s Board of Directors

Tennis star Serena Williams has fought many battles on the courts during her legendary career—amassing over 39 Grand Slam titles and countless other accolades, but she’s about to embark on a journey of a different kind. A boardroom deep in the heart of Silicon Valley. Online poll-taking company SurveyMonkey announced her appointment this week, in an attempt to push their environment (and in turn the makeup of Silicon Valley) in a more diverse path. They certainly couldn’t have found a better representative.

In a statement to the Associate Press, Williams said that she feels like “diversity is something [she speaks] to, adding that “Change is always happening, change is always building. What is important to me is to be at the forefront of the change and to make it easier for the next person that comes behind me.” There are no open specifics of what her time as a board member will entail, or what she’s being compensated but this is certainly more of a statement by the company more than anything else. The tech industry has been under an enormous amount of pressure to display diversity among the hundreds of companies that reside in Silicon Valley—especially considering that their culture has been playing up this very fact. For example, of the 650 people that work at SurveyMonkey, only 14% of them are African American, Latino or people identifying as another race and only 27% of those employed there are women. To them, hiring Williams could be the start of an increased focus on diversity, something that has been a struggle for Silicon Valley for years. “My focus is to bring in change agents around the table who can open our eyes,” SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie said of the move.

Williams, who is connected to the company through her friend Sheryl Sandberg (who is also on the board of directors at SurveyMonkey), is already set to hit the ground running. Her interest in the tech industry has only grown more frequent due to her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohania, and now she’s ready to jump in “the deep end of the pool,” she said in a statement. “When I do something, I go all out.”

‘Silicon Valley’ Reflects the ‘F*cked Up’ Real World

The cast and executive producers of HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ hit up South by Southwest (SXSW) to promote the show’s upcoming Season 3 premiere. During the panel discussion, exec producer Alec Berg tackled the criticism directed at the show regarding the lack of diversity happening on screen.
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Gender Diversity in Tech

Gender diversity in tech has always been a serious issue, but with it becoming more in the spotlight in recent times, there are a few points that need to be made about the topic.

“I don’t think people are anti-women in the Valley. I just don’t think there are enough good examples that we know about out there.”

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Intel Leading The Charge

The inclusion of women and minorities in the tech sphere is the talk of 2015, so the biggest tech firms from Facebook to Google, are on high gear to diversify their workforce – or so it seems. As Marcia Wade Talbert of Blackenterprise.com reports,

Black and Latino employees at Google saw no changes in their representation among leadership, tech and non-tech jobs.

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Re/code Offers Up Their Solution To Diversity In Tech

In 2015 business is booming for the tech industry and continues to pop up everywhere you look. It is a topic that we have covered extensively, but a recent report came out that we felt was important. 

Despite the fact that we are far removed from the era of “Jim Crow” laws – a time when segregation of schools, restrooms and drinking fountains was the norm – justice for racial equality in the workplace continues to be a lingering struggle.  Though companies like Facebook are making strides to diversify their workforce, their recent internal report illuminates the reality of their diversity which raises questions about leveling the playing field.  Tony Luckett, shared his perspective on ReCode and from his experience explains how the issue can be addressed.  Click here to read more.

Looks Like We are Getting Racially Diverse Emoji’s

As it currently stands, all emoji’s are the same yellow color. Although there are a few slightly different ones such as the an with the mustache, the headdress, and Gua Pi Mao that are all clearly supposed to be represent Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Asian respectively, there is still a real lack of color among them. Well it looks like that is about to change.

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Did Racism in Gaming Culture Drive Flappy Bird Offline?

Was the creator of the biggest game of 2014 hounded off the Web because of racism?

If a game made by a white American or European developer was earning $50,000 a day, regardless of how maddening the contents might be, it would have been hailed as a sweeping, perhaps even groundbreaking success rather than a freakish oddity of gaming culture. It might even have been a rags-to-riches story of the triumph of capitalism.

Instead, Flappy Bird saw the media level a number of unfounded and baffling criticisms at the game and its creator, Dong Nguyen. Not content withslamming it as “an ad-riddled mess,” Kotaku accused Nguyen of plagiarizing Nintendo. Others followed suit, accusing him of cribbing Flappy Bird’s gameplay from other titles. Developers accused him of artificially inflating the rankings of his game on the App Store using bots.

But Nguyen was adamant that he hadn’t stolen his game elements. Nintendo agreed. Others pointed out all the ways Nguyen’s game design was distinct from its predecessors. And after a careful analysis of the data from Flappy Bird’s App Store listing, Mashable could find no evidence that the game had come by its No. 1 ranking dishonestly.

Yet despite Nguyen’s having been vindicated as a developer, the insults persisted. BuzzFeed called the game “borderline crappy.” NDTV wrote that the game’s success “leaves experts baffled.” CNet added dismissively, “We’ll do anything for a quick fix these days.”

“Not only is the visual language of Flappy Bird almost entirely re-appropriated from early NES games, but it seems to be engineered and designed by someone still learning how to create games,” Polygon wrote.

Except Nguyen is a programmer with 10 years of experience, four of those spent developing games, all of which have been carefully tailored to do exactly what Flappy Bird does.

Slate got it right by noting that all of these dismissive approaches to the game carried the underlying assumption that it must be a bad one. “On the contrary,” Slate argued: “Flappy Bird is an outstanding game.” Vice likewise called the game “unflappably brilliant,” after consulting with gaming strategists who pointed out that despite its simplicity, the game nonetheless delivered all the essentials of addictive gaming.

Why, then, was a game this successful, this brilliant, so maligned?

Flappy Bird is a game where the user has only one job to do, with an infuriatingly low success rate. It might be simply that this kind of game is easily dismissed by reviewers.

But other, similar games, have fared much better. Adult Swim’s popular flash-based game Robot Unicorn Attack, is a comparably simplistic game that involves leaping over things until the user crashes and dies. Like Flappy Bird, the user must dodge obstacles, and like Flappy Bird, without constant attention and repetitive jumps to keep the unicorn in the air, the player falls and loses.

“The aesthetic is a good gag for a few minutes, but the game itself is addictive enough to last much, much longer,” wrote UGO of Robot Unicorn Attack. “I can’t wait to press Z to chase my dreams again,” gushed ABC Australia. “This feels like a game you’ll put on your phone, then pull out to play again and again,” cooed CNN. So it’s not Flappy Bird’s gameplay that’s the issue. Not really.

But this might be. Creator Nguyen is a developer from Vietnam who told TechCrunch that his one-man game development company in Hanoi didn’t have the resources to do any maintenance on the game. In an essay titled “Our Flappy Dystopia,” game developer and critic Mattie Brice argues convincingly that Nguyen positioned himself opposite a powerful Westernized success narrative: “The standard success story of someone in the games media is a person who can afford to keep up with the newest products and has the resources to write for free or low-wage for about two years,” she wrote.

The idea of success outside the conventional method of capitalism, which is intersectional in its effects, is met with contempt … Dong is considered an outsider. Who is he? From Vietnam? Oh, that explains this ‘knock-off’ rhetoric people are using. Indie creators are notoriously capitalizing on the nostalgia of the late 80s and 90s gaming culture, with difficult puzzle platformers and action side scrollers as far as the Steam library can go. No one is accusing these devs as stealing from Nintendo and Sega, despite the lineage being extremely clear and borrowed as homage. It’s because the gaming community set up a success narrative for certain indie, mostly white, mostly men, mostly from English-speaking countries, developers who strive to make smaller games competitive with the big dogs.

Read the rest of the article here.