Offbeat

This subsection of the Need to Know newsletter offers news and ideas from unusual sources or other industries beyond journalism.

Virtual reality cafes are bringing niche technology to the masses in China

Two years after Facebook bought virtual reality company Oculus for $2 million, virtual reality remains a niche technology in the West. But in China, the niche technology is becoming more mainstream thanks to hundreds of virtual reality cafes, where people can pay a fee to go to wear a headset and experience VR. One Chinese startup, […]

‘We gave four good pollsters the same raw data. They had four different results.’

Nearly every polling articles mentions the “margin of error,” but what’s rarely explained is that the “margin of sampling error” doesn’t capture the potential for error in surveys, Nate Cohn writes. Two pollsters looking at the same raw data can come to widely different conclusions, Cohn says, because of the decisions pollsters have to make […]

When ad agencies focus on culture in the hiring process, a culture of exclusion can instead be created

Interview questions such as, “What’s your favorite TV show?” may seem innocuous: If you’re hiring someone, you might want to make sure they have things in common with other people at the company. But Shareen Pathak writes that ad agencies that have emphasized culture in the hiring process through similar questions are actually excluding people […]

‘Algorithms could save book publishing — but ruin novels’

Studying 5,000 book titles published over the last 40 years, Jodie Archers and Matthew L. Jockers have created an algorithm that can predict with 80 percent accuracy which novels will become bestsellers. Traditional book publishers are paying attention to algorithms too — Simon & Schuster hired its first data scientist last year, while Macmillan Publishers […]

Instead of focusing on your end goal, focus on what you need to do on a regular basis reach that goal

Goals aren’t a great way to ensure you get things done, James Clear writes. Instead, Clear says you should focus on the systems, or the things that you need to do on a regular basis that lead to the goal being reached. For example: If you’re a coach, and your goal is to win a […]

Facebook isn’t the only platform that’s growing live video: YouTube says its live video views grew 80% over the last year

Facebook may be paying publishers and celebrities to use its live video tool, but live video is growing on other platforms, too. YouTube says its live video views grew by 80 percent over the last year, while the number of live streams grew by 130 percent. YouTube’s dominance in online video means that it has […]

How Nextdoor implemented new features to reduce racist posts by 75 percent

“Erasing racism through technology alone is impossible,” Kashmir Hill writes, but neighborhood social network Nextdoor found that a few changes to its interface reduced the number of racist posts significantly. Those changes, which were rolled out to all of its users last week, include requiring users whose posts in the “crime and safety” section mention […]

Two years after it was bought by Facebook, WhatsApp will start sharing user data including phone numbers with Facebook

When WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, users worried what the acquisition would mean for privacy on the platform. At the time, WhatsApp said the sale wouldn’t change anything: “We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we […]

Clay Christensen explains his ‘jobs to be done’ theory: When we buy a product, we’re hiring it to help us do a job

Knowing more and more about their customers through data is often taking businesses in the wrong direction, Clay Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon and David S. Duncan write. With so much information about their customers, businesses tend to lose sight of what actually gets people to buy their products. Christensen’s “jobs to be done” theory […]

If you’re an effective ‘thought leader,’ you’re helping solve a problem or a fill a need with your ideas

Business leaders tend to think of being a “thought leader” as a marketing strategy — a way of promoting your own ideas and work. But that’s a narrow way of thinking of it, John Rampton writes. A good “thought leader” is helping their audience solve a problem or fill a need with their ideas, and […]