We’re Taking a Break from Slack. Here’s Why

Excerpt from this article:

Slack has been an indispensable tool. However, we noticed that more and more time was being diverted to Slack. It wasn’t just joking around, although there was plenty of that. We’d find ourselves spending 30 minutes in a spirited debate about a story we all seemed interested in, but then… no one would write something for the site. It was as if the Slack discussion had replaced the blogging process. Talking about a topic with our colleagues fulfilled the urge to publish.

The other recurring issue with Slack is that it’s just baseline distracting. People are always talking, often directly to you, and they usually expect an immediate response. Writers and editors need unbroken blocks of time to work. Slack makes that difficult.

This week, Motherboard is going cold turkey. That’s right—we’re cutting off Slack. Writers will talk directly to their editors. We’ll talk via face-to-face conversation, the phone, Google Hangouts, and Gchat. (Why is Gchat allowed?, you might ask. Because Gchat is optimized for one-on-one conversations, and doesn’t have persistent rooms.)

We’re hoping that cutting off Slack will give reporters a chance to refocus on writing stories and encourage more in-depth conversations with editors.


How WeChat Is Extending China’s School Days Well into the Night

Students file math homework in their virtual classroom on WeChat.
Excerpt from this article:

On a recent Thursday evening, Zhang Zehao, a seventh grader in Tianjin, China, braced himself for extra math assignments posted by his teacher on WeChat, a messaging app. At 7 p.m., his mother received a picture on her phone: a piece of paper with three handwritten geometry problems concerning parallel lines. He didn’t receive any other assignments that evening; after all, it was only the fourth day of the spring semester.

Since Tencent launched WeChat in 2011, the app has pervaded Chinese life. The company reported that it had 650 million monthly active users as of the end of last September. In a society that places paramount importance on academic success, WeChat has quickly become intertwined with education, tapping into a particularly Chinese cultural dynamic and in some cases exploiting it.

Chongqing, a sprawling metropolis of 30 million in southwestern China, has required all kindergartens, primary schools, and middle schools to open official WeChat accounts before the end of June this year to streamline communication with parents and students.

For Zehao, the app is a forum for extra homework and a billboard for misbehavior at school, and the group chat puts everything under the scrutinizing eye of the entire class. “The intention was good, because teachers wanted to work closely with parents to improve the children’s academic performance,” says his mother, Chen Zongying, 43. “But it stresses you out.”


Samsung’s Funny Mother’s Day Ad Reminds You How Bad Your Mom Is at Texting

Excerpt from this article, which details an ad that:

… looks at how your mom probably uses text messaging—or rather, misuses it. The whole thing is pretty funny, and nicely pokes fun without getting too mean. And it sticks the landing by reminding you that you shouldn’t be texting with Mom at all this [Mother’s Day].

You’ll also notice that some of the moms’ phone numbers are visible in the spot. If you dial them, you get to hear what they have to say in their voicemail messages.

You can also show off your mom’s funniest texts using hashtag #TextsFromMom for a chance to win a Galaxy S 6 edge.

How Not to Message a Woman Online

Young woman in domestic kitchen text messaging

Excerpt from this article:

Gather ’round, class! Today our lesson will be about all the things you should not do when attempting to hit on a woman online, as told through a single OKCupid message.

DON’T see on Twitter that a girl has an OKCupid account, then explicitly search for her, then admit that that is a creepy thing you did.

DON’T admit to Googling her, even if that is another creepy thing you did.

DON’T act overfamiliar…

DO consider that you’re sending an email to a real human being, not a mythical creature who can only be wooed with the proper combination of insults and cyberstalking.


Illustration by Sally Thurer

Excerpt from this article:

The creators of Zoobe intended to make their program cute, clean and simple: a mobile app that turns voice recordings into 3-D animated videos, starring woodland creatures with gigantic heads. It was introduced in 2013 as a playful alternative to text messaging and quickly became a hit on its home turf in Germany. Users record brief messages on their smartphones, and anthropomorphic beings recite them back, in a video that can be shared with friends or posted online…

While they talk, Zoobe characters dance and undulate in a disturbingly sensual manner, making the videos exploitable in a way that the Internet tends to quickly discover. Earlier this year, when English-language Zoobe videos began surfacing on American Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr feeds, the Zoobe menagerie adopted a saltier vocabulary.

…‘‘The juxtaposition between the character’s appearance and the horrible things I have it say makes it 10 times funnier… the language got more foul, because as it turns out, it’s hysterical to watch cute, fuzzy little characters yelling obscenities or spewing dark humor.’’

When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)

Excerpt from this article:

I went out with a guy based on his use of dashes once. Within moments of our first interaction — over text message — I was basically in love.

He didn’t just use the lazy singular dash (“-”) as a pause between his thoughts, or even the more time-consuming double-dash (“–”). Nope. This man used a proper em dash.

That is, the kind that required him to hold down the dash button on his iPhone for that extra second, until the “—” appeared, then choose it from among three options. I don’t remember what his messages actually said. But he obviously really liked me.

 …It’s also as if a kind of micro-punctuation has emerged: tiny marks in the smallest of spaces that suddenly tell us more about the person on the other end than the words themselves (or, at least, we think they do).

…“Digital punctuation can carry more weight than traditional writing because it ends up conveying tone, rhythm and attitude rather than grammatical structure,” said Ben Zimmer, a linguist and the executive editor of Vocabulary.com. “It can make even a lowly period become freighted with special significance.”

 And so we’ve begun to think our friends are angry when they respond with a period, or weird when they capitalize the starts of their sentences. We insert extra letters (“loooool,” “sooooo,” “hiiiiiiii”) — what linguists call “affective lengthening” — to convey intensity, and remove them when we want to be aloof.