PIE Day 2

Good morning. I’m guessing that exactly zero people are reading this, which is why I feel free to pivot from the trials and tribulations of a new tech startup to talking about teens and broken condoms.

So yesterday I went to this meetup sponsored by GigaOM. And no, I had never heard of their site until last night. Also, these events have delicious food. I’m sorry I forgot to take a photo of the pulled pork sandwiches.

I struck up a conversation with Connie. I was like, “Hey, Connie. I do not understand what you do or why I am here.” And she was like, “Uh, almost 6 million people read our tech news site and buy our research reports.” Useful.

We started talking about what Connie did in her previous life (protip: really good question for people new to tech) and she mentioned the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) which has programs for underserved youth. We got to talking about ISIS (Internet Sexuality Information Services). If you want to read a totally incomprehensible description of what it is that involves women’s underwear, go here. If you want to spare yourself the dozen clicks it takes to figure out what they actually do, go here

Basically: BAVC works with teens. Teens have sex. Horrible things happen during sex like condoms breaking (pictured above?). So BVAC partnered with ISIS’s SexINFO so teens can text to a phone number and then sex counselors answer their question. Connie underscored that for low-income communities feature phones (also called “dumbphones”) not smartphones, are the norm (and that goes for the rest of the developing world and also, surprisingly, 60% of the US market).  

I arrived at the office this morning amped from my conversation with Connie and I was like, “Sean, we should allow Switchboard notifications to arrive via text.” And then he was like, “Yes, I will put that at the bottom of my much more urgent list of things to do” and looked at me with His Particular Look of Dread When I Start a Sentence with “We Should.” (Should I come up with an acronym for this now because it happens so often? HPLDWSSWS?)

Very often we get the question, “Is there a mobile app?” and for college students and 40% of the US, this makes sense. Mobile! App! All the rage! But if you are thinking down the line of how Switchboard can be used in, say, Africa (or an Oakland high school, or for migrant workers) often there are simple features like “can I get notification by text?” that are easy to lose sight of. Even Facebook is expanding to dumbphones. 

Day two also consisted of me eye rolling at this Tom Friedman piece, “Welcome to the Sharing Economy.” (Welcome? Really?) and listening to this Design Matters interview about Le Corbusier. My favorite part is where Cohen talks about how shells and snails appear everywhere in Le Corbusier’s work that he gathered on beaches of France. He started to collect “objects of poetic reaction…objects that had a poetic potential that could generate thoughts…When he died in 1965 his apartment was cluttered with bones, stones, shells, pine cones which at some point appear in his paintings.” My object of poetic potential from yesterday to inform what we are making was a text from a teen that might say, “I think I have herpes.”