WIT: Why the Trolls Are Winning the Internet: Ex-Reddit CEO Speaks Out

She sounded the alarm on Silicon Valley. Now the former Reddit CEO is finally seeing things start to change.

 

By Kimberly Weisul of Inc.com

Ellen Pao knows the startup world–and its skeletons–inside and out. The former venture capitalist and one-time CEO of Reddit is now the co-founder and CEO of Project Include, a nonprofit that advises tech companies on diversity and inclusion. Pao first rocked Silicon Valley in 2012 by suing her employer, legendary venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for gender discrimination. Though she ultimately lost, her lawsuit sparked a long-overdue reckoning about how the tech industry treats women and people of color, and helped lay the groundwork for the ongoing #MeToo movement.

In a wide-ranging interview, Pao explains why this is a critical moment for women in Silicon Valley, calls for greater regulation of the biggest internet companies, and warns entrepreneurs against the worst mistakes she sees founders make.

So much has happened in tech in the past year, from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to #MeToo. What, if anything, do you see changing?
We’re only starting to find out what can happen to our data on the big tech platforms, and how little control we’ve had over it–and even Facebook has had over it. It’s 100 percent clear the tech platforms cannot manage themselves. I’m not a fan of regulation, but that may be the only way to make things better. We’ve reached the last resort. Other options have failed.

For women in tech, this will be a really important year. We’ve had all these things happen, and now we have people who are actually open to change. I want to push as much change through as possible.

You’ve worked in venture capital, at startups, and at big tech companies. What value do you think VCs bring to startups?
They bring value in their networks. And they’ve seen a lot of things, so they can potentially help you troubleshoot. But they also bring a lot of baggage. VCs want a board seat. They may have giant egos and want you to do something a certain way. They may want you to go public, or sell earlier than you want to sell. They may be tracking metrics that you don’t believe in.

So do you advise founders to seek, or avoid, venture investors?
I don’t know that I would raise venture capital unless I really believed in the investor. I hope that in the future we can find alternative sources of funding, that it becomes easier to self-fund, and that people can get to profitability earlier.

When you invested in startups, what mistakes did you see entrepreneurs make repeatedly?
The worst was when entrepreneurs tried to postpone solving difficult problems, hoping they’d just magically disappear. That never happens. Especially the people issues–those get worse unless you have a conversation with those involved. And even then it’s 50/50–but if you don’t have the conversation, you can be 100 percent sure that it will get worse.

Also, don’t spend your money just because you have it. Be frugal, because your runway is really important. You don’t want employees who are there just because you’re spending a ton of money on events or on alcohol or on a fancy chef. You want people who are there to do their work and not for the fringe benefits. Focus on giving them great work to do and valuing the work that they are doing.

You left Reddit in 2015, after becoming interim CEO and trying to crack down on the site’s widespread hate speech. How have the large social-media platforms changed since then?
They’re more siloed, and more artificial. The idea of having authentic inter­actions on these platforms is less realistic. Instead, we see people marketing propaganda, or pushing for their idea in a way that might not be truthful.

It makes me really sad, because the internet is such a powerful tool, and it introduced this idea that you could connect with anyone. And it’s been turned into this weapon used to hurt and harass people.

What does that mean for the people who run these companies? How should they be responding to the abuse on their platforms?
You always have an obligation to keep your users safe, to make sure they are not going to be harassed or shoved off your platform for expressing their ideas, or attacked in real life by people sharing their private information.

Those should have been principles from the beginning. I do think the people who started the internet thought it was going to be a force for good, and I don’t think they anticipated the level of harassment and invasiveness and harm that people would use these platforms for. But at the minimum, you want to prevent bad things from happening on your platform.

What limits on free speech, if any, are acceptable in trying to curb online harassment and bullying?
The definition of free speech has become convoluted. It originally meant protection of the press from government intervention. Now it’s come to mean that people should be able to say whatever they want on tech platforms, which are run by private companies. This idea, that private companies have this obligation to allow any kind of speech, is actually not something that is legally required.

Tech companies created some confusion early on, because a lot of founders used “free speech” as a marketing angle. “Express whatever ideas you want!”

But when you make it a free-for-all, people unfortunately come out with their most terrible insults, and this horrible online harassment that we’ve seen get worse and worse over the past several years.

There has always been some censorship on platforms. They have always taken down spam and some child porn. It’s just when you get into certain types of content that people get really upset.

One of the big problems is that these platforms were built by homogeneous teams, who didn’t experience the harassment themselves, and who don’t have friends who were harassed. Some of them still don’t understand what other people are experiencing and why change is so important.

Is it possible to create a place where people can safely express any ideas online, no matter how controversial?
I don’t think it’s possible anymore except at very small scale, because the nature of interactions at scale has become very attention-focused: “The angrier and meaner I am online, the more attention I get.” This has created a high-energy, high-emotion, conflict-oriented set of interactions. And there’s no clear delineation around what’s a good or a bad engagement. People just want engagement.

Are any tech leaders taking this problem seriously?
I have been really impressed by [Medium founder and Twitter co-founder] Ev Williams’s coming out and saying, “Look, we didn’t understand back then what the internet was going to become, and we really need to rethink what we’re doing.”

Another problem is that employees who manage the behavior on these platforms are not valued. It’s hourly work, and the people who do it aren’t necessarily trained that well. So you’re expecting people who are clocking in and clocking out to figure out hate speech–which constitutional law professors are still constantly debating.

On top of that, you’re asking them to deal with hate and harassment directed at them personally. At Reddit, we had employees who got doxxed [had their private information published online]. So there’s a lot of fear, and it’s justified.

Meanwhile, the employees don’t see an upside; nobody really seems to be holding them accountable for making sure the platform rules are being followed. So any rules are not implemented well.

These platforms, especially Facebook, collect a large amount of data. Why did it take the Cambridge Analytica scandal to raise widespread alarm?
Because the data collection was marketed really well–a thumbs-up seems so innocuous! You don’t realize you’re sharing a ton of information–and it was very incremental. We had the Likes–and then all of a sudden the app was available on my phone, and that seemed really con­venient. It wasn’t explicit that all of this information, all of your actions on your phone, was going to Facebook, and that you were opening up your friends’ data. There were so many changes and new privacy policies that after a while people gave up tracking them–and Facebook didn’t wave it in your face. It’s not like the company said, “Hey, we’re taking all your data, and we’re doing all this stuff.”

Your trial, followed by Susan Fowler’s account of widespread harassment at Uber, helped lay the groundwork for the #MeToo reckoning about sexism, harassment, and sexual abuse throughout the business world. Is it worse in tech than in other industries?
In tech, there is such a concentration of power in a small set of venture capitalists and a small set of CEOs that people aren’t sharing all their stories–the #MeToo stories, the discrimination stories, and the retaliation stories.

Some of the stories I’ve heard behind the scenes are much worse than stories that have been shared publicly. People still want to be able to find jobs, and they want to be able to raise funding for their companies. It’s a rational decision not to share your story. And I don’t think we can really understand what’s happened in each of these industries without having heard all of those stories.

Do you feel you’ve been penalized for telling your story and for suing Kleiner Perkins?
There are people who won’t talk to me. There are people who believe the negative press campaign. A woman who runs a fund recently reached out to me, and she said, “I am sorry, because I really thought you were crazy when you sued. I see now why you did it and why it makes sense. I had pushed down all of my feelings and my experiences. I apologize, and I thank you for what you’ve done.”

But this is six years after I sued, and she’s finally saying something about it.

There are still a lot of people who believe that I was wrong to sue. It’s been such an uphill battle for so long. I don’t know if I’ve come out the other side yet, where I can say it’s been a positive. But it’s been very rewarding to see so many other people speaking up, and to see that shift from doubt and skepticism into empathy and belief. That’s happened in the past couple of years, and it’s been such a relief. 

I don’t think of it as about me personally. It’s more that the industry needs to change, and we’re making progress, and that’s a good thing.

How much progress have you seen for women in Silicon Valley?
Things are incrementally better. You can actually talk about an experience that you’ve had and not be met with skepticism or told that you’re crazy. People who have reported problems have gotten attention in a way that was not as negative as the attention I got.

Now there is a feeling that we need to change. The mindset at first was, “We don’t believe there’s a problem.” Then people admitted there was a problem, but it wasn’t their problem. Then they understood that they needed to make changes, but said they couldn’t because it was a pipeline problem. And now we’re at a point where people admit we need to change, and that they have some responsibility to do it. We’re just now starting to see companies say, “I want to change and I want to be revolutionary.”

This is going to be a critical year, because now people are willing to do some work. This is the best chance we have. We can see the move toward true inclusion–meaning not just women, which a lot of efforts are only focused on today.

The important part of this next wave of change is to try to keep people working together. It’s very easy to have people fracture and say, “There’s only one spot allowed for diversity, so we’re all going to fight for it.” But we need to be more supportive of one another. We need to understand that if we all work on inclusion together, it’s going to be faster, broader, better, and more thorough than anything we can do on our own.


Companies often cite the “pipeline problem,” the argument that there aren’t enough women or people of color with the degrees necessary to succeed in tech. Is that a real problem or an excuse?

There is a pipeline problem, but a lot of it is self-manufactured. Companies use the same recruiting firms. They have a process where it’s easier for a certain type of person to get through, so then the recruiters bring in that type of person, and build a huge pool of only them.

There are fewer women with computer science degrees, but that’s also an excuse. You don’t necessarily need a computer science degree. A lot of people are self-trained, and a lot of people who are successful in tech aren’t engineers. But it’s not only engineering that has a dearth of women. It’s across the whole tech industry, so it’s a much bigger problem.

I’ve heard people say #MeToo hasn’t helped women, it has just made men scared of hiring women.
Of course it helped. People said the same thing about my lawsuit–that VCs would never hire another woman, that it was going to prevent people from meeting with women, and that it was going to destroy any kind of gender progress that had already been made. That’s just sensationalistic–and also a little bit pissy, for lack of a better word. It’s like, “We don’t like this change, so we’re going to dig in our heels.”

Plenty of longstanding research shows that diverse teams perform better. So why do we still see so many all-white, all-male partnerships?
Some of these companies are so data-driven, so metrics-oriented–yet once the data is staring them in the face, their emotions override it, and they think they don’t need to change. I think there’s a comfort zone, and there’s a fear of women in the workplace. Sometimes they’ll say, “Our culture is so inappropriate that we can’t bring a woman into this environment.”

So how do you change an entrenched culture, like Uber’s?
It is so hard. You have to be vigilant about every interaction. You have to make sure if there are violations of values that you’re on it. Uber’s culture is in its DNA now, and I haven’t seen all the courage required to do the tough changes. The company is going to have to fire more than 20 people. It’s going to have to really dig in and spend time on it. The change agent needs to be the CEO.

There are some signs that Uber is not quite there. I don’t understand why it doesn’t have the diversity and inclusion lead reporting directly to the CEO. Chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John’s leaving is not a good sign–especially when Uber is putting $500 million into branding. That’s not good.

What do you tell the well-meaning CEO who hasn’t thought about inclusion or diversity a lot but wants to be one of the good guys?
There are a lot of very basic things: Make inclusion either an explicit value or part of all your other values. Make sure you step back and look at all of your processes: How are you recruiting people? How are you building your pipeline?

Are you rewarding people for bringing in their friends, who probably look like them? Are you getting a look at as many candidates as possible, or are you looking only at candidates who are on your homogeneous radar? Are you then going through a fair process to bring candidates on board? Or are you using trick questions that people with friends in the company will be able to answer, because they get a heads-up?

If your leadership team is not diverse and inclusive, then clearly this is not a priority for you. It also means that you have a limited circle. It may be because of your recruiter or it may be because of your board. But if your executive team doesn’t have much diversity, that’s going to be a problem, because the company won’t be able to attract people. And if you do, you’re not going to get them to stay, because they won’t see anybody who looks like them in the top ranks.

The early results from the first group of companies to work with Project Include show some progress in creating gender diversity but not racial or ethnic diversity. What can we learn from that?
Diversifying by race can be harder than diversifying by gender, from an emotional perspective. A lot of men will say, “I want to bring women in, because I want my daughter to have a chance.” It’s very oriented toward the people they have a direct connection with. When it comes to somebody from a different race or ethnicity, they may not have that connection.

And companies are still doing one thing at a time: They focus on gender first, and then the next group. Or they’re going to attack it one phase at a time because it’s so hard. That is not inclusion. That means you may be widening the group of people included, but you’re still excluding all these other people and your processes are still not fair. And the people whom you are theoretically including are probably still treated differently, because your culture is based around exclusion. That’s the piece people sometimes don’t get, because they don’t want to. There are specific problems for specific groups, but the focus and end goal is change, of the whole industry, for everybody.

App of the Week: DuckDuckPro

A Year of DuckDuckGo – a review

 

By Tom Wood of designwithtom.com

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my default search engine instead of Google for about 12 months. This is why I could never go back.

1. Privacy

The main reason I switched over in the first place was a privacy concern. Spawned from a talk by the irrepressible Aral Balkan, the notion of corporatocracy was first lodged in my brain. Google weren’t just storing all my search history, but they were using it for all manner of things except for the one thing they assured me it was for; improving my searching.

With a Privacy Policy written in clear English, DuckDuckGo are all about you.

2. Quality of Search

Using Google you’re subject to what is known as the filter bubble. The filter bubble is where your search results are conditioned by the history of your previous searches. That means that different results are shown to different people. Not everyone who searches for Donald Trump (or guns) sees the same thing.

There is no filter bubble on DuckDuckGo. The ability to switch which local region you’re searching in gives you more options and ultimately, a truer search.

3. Design

Look at it. Look how clean it is! Don’t like how it looks, then head straight to part 4!

Lose the visual clutter of Google, and the mismatching styles and enter some gentle alignment and you get DuckDuckGo. Search for a topic like Airbnb and you’ll get a tidy summary (from Wikipedia of course) at the top of the page, and some genuinely related links to the right. All of this in your search results.

Search for an HTML snippet like <td>, and you’ll get an HTML table in correct syntax ready for you to copy and paste. Occasionally a StackOverflow answer will even appear up there!

4. Customization

So you don’t like how it looks and you prefer Google. Why?! Only joking.

You can change how DuckDuckGo both looks and behaves. You can change the default ProximaNova font to Helvetica Neue, or the colour to pink. You can change the way links open, or stop the favicons from displaying. You can truly cater it to your tastes.

5. Instant Search

You know how Google can give you the results to basic arithmetic, or tell you the weather without having to leave your search results? Well DuckDuckGo have been doing that for longer, and arguably, they do it better.

The weather is supplied by the wonderful and gorgeous Forecast.io (now renamed DarkSky), the clean strokes and bold lines are a breath of fresh air.

But perhaps the cleverest thing, is DuckDuckGo’s ability to play a song from within the search results. Try it. You can play a Soundcloud tune without ever having to leave your search results.

Oh, and if you search for “Stopwatch” you get (you guessed it) a working stopwatch.

6. !bangs

Bangs are the most useful part of DuckDuckGo. A bang is when you type an “!” followed by a letter, and then type your search query to instantly search on another site. Directly. Use wikipedia right from DuckDuckGo; “!w trainspotting”, or thousands of other sites.

You can use it to search Google if you need to, !g or !guk or even !maps. It’s such an intuitive way of searching. Visit DuckDuckGo for the full list (or submit your own)

It’ll work with !wikipedia, or !stackoverflow, !verge, and so on and so on (9,088 at the time of writing. Wow).

But the best part? DuckDuckGo does all of this anonymously, and if you don’t know why that’s a big deal (or if you don’t care) then I implore you to watch Aral’s talk below.

 

Download DuckDuckGo for iOS here
Download DuckDuckGo for Android here

 

Do you have a favorite browser you use for security? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Tips & Tricks: You’re Not Using a VPN? Bad Idea

A PCMag survey demonstrates that most people are aware of the privacy risks on the internet, but most aren’t doing anything about them.

By Max Eddy of PCMag.com

In the past few years, PCMag has seen VPN services go from being fringe security utilities to red-hot, must-have cyber accessory.

The popularity (and necessity) of the once-lowly VPN is certainly due to the ever-growing legal and technological challenges to individual privacy. Virtual private networks are a tool whose time has clearly come. That’s why it’s so surprising that a poll conducted by PCMag found that, despite understanding the threats to their privacy, the vast majority of respondents don’t use VPNs and never have.

Unsecured Traffic

 

Of the 1,000 people polled by PCMag between Feb. 7-9, 71 percent have never used a VPN.

That struck me for two reasons. First of all, the search volume we receive at PCMag for VPN-related articles is enormous. Second, many companies require the use of a corporate VPN when working remotely. That might explain why 15 percent had used a VPN in the past, but don’t currently log on.

Most people, I assumed, would have crossed paths with a VPN at some point. And yet, the vast majority of respondents not only do not currently use a VPN, they have never laid hands on one.

New (and Old) Threats to Privacy

What’s interesting about the recent interest in VPNs is that it hasn’t been tied to a single issue, but rather an avalanche of privacy and security concerns. An awful lot has happened in the last few years, the answer to which has often been “use a VPN.”
One of the first news items that seemed to spur VPN adoption was the decision by Congress to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to sell anonymized user data.

That’s reflected in our survey data, where 25 percent of respondents (correctly) identified ISPs as the biggest threat to their individual privacy.

In our survey, 24 percent of respondents also listed Facebook as a threat to their privacy. This was despite the fact that our survey was in the field back in February, before the Cambridge Analytica scandal raised nascent privacy concerns about the social network to a new level. I imagine that if we ran the same survey now, even more consumers would be concerned about Facebook, and rightly so.

Admittedly, a VPN won’t do much when it comes to the kind of surveillance carried out by Facebook, but it’s still spooky to learn that the company is even tracking users who don’t have Facebook accounts.

These issues haven’t been limited to the US. Russia and China have introduced new rules that make it much harder for VPNs to operate within those countries. Furthermore, Russia recently banned popular encrypted messaging app Telegram, reportedly driving more users to adopt VPNs.

Another threat reflected in the survey is the dangers in using public Wi-Fi networks. There’s no way to know that the network labeled “Starbucks_Wifi” is legit and not a network created for the express purpose of nabbing people’s personal information. Fortunately, 43 percent of respondents said the main reason they would use a VPN was to access public Wi-Fi.

And then there’s net neutrality. Many hoped that the ongoing fight to ensure that ISPs must treat all web traffic equally in terms of speed and accessibility would end with updated FCC rules during the Obama administration. Unfortunately, a new FCC chairman decided (incorrectly) that these rules were unnecessary and successfully dismantled them.

This is where our numbers seem a bit out of step with reality, as we found that 55 percent of respondents who agreed with the concept of net neutrality had never used a VPN. Although 46 percent said they supported it, 32 percent didn’t know what it was. That’s disappointing on its own.

Is Privacy Dead?

Also disheartening were the responses about voluntarily surrendering personal information.

A dismal 62 percent of respondents said they’d willingly hand over personal information for free Wi-Fi. Another 23 percent said they would hand over personal info for exclusive content on video streaming platforms, and 13 percent said they’d do it for exclusive content in video games.

A staggering 7 percent said they would surrender personal info for free adult content. I find this particularly mind blowing, as there is not (last I checked) a dearth of free porn on the internet.

That said, a key caveat of this particular set of questions was the phrase “willingly.” Too often, people aren’t aware of the information they’re giving up in exchange for a free mobile app or what companies can see when they share a post on Facebook. If we’re going to use our personal information as currency, it’s better that we make those transactions willingly.

You Should Definitely Use a VPN

In all my writing about VPNs, I’ve tried to stress their limitations. They won’t make you truly anonymous online (you need Tor for that), and there’s a risk anytime you use a for-profit company for security (you can roll your own VPN with Outline, but I digress).

Many of you have concerns about using VPNs in general, such as what kind of impact a VPN will have on internet speeds (37 percent), whether or not it will work with a particular online service (15 percent), and if it can be used to access Netflix (28 percent). Those are legitimate concerns, and ones that have only been partially solved by VPN companies.

But the last few years have shown that an economy based around gathering user data has real consequences. Between data breaches, foreign election influence, and the sheer volume of data being gathered by seemingly innocuous services, it’s never been more urgent to take control of our privacy online. A VPN won’t solve all those issues, but it’s a start and one that only 29 percent of you have so far used.

 

Do you use a VPN for your personal network? Sound off in the comments below!

Tips & Tricks: 13 Roku tricks you should try right now

Your Roku streamer can do a lot more than you might think. These are some of the coolest tips we’ve tried.

 

 

BY Rick Broida of CNet

Is there a more widely beloved tech product than the Roku streamer? Whether yours is a stick or box, it delivers virtually unparalleled video goodness to your TV: Netflix, Hulu, HBO and so on.

And, yet, it could be better. That onscreen keyboard? Bleh. The default interface theme? Room for improvement. Below I’ve rounded up 13 ways to improve your Roku experience, from organizing channels to watching iTunes movies to adding TV-control buttons to the Roku remote.

Use your phone as your Roku keyboard

Is there anything more aggravating than using a remote to operate an onscreen keyboard? Just signing in to, say, your Netflix account can be a slow, agonizing affair, to say nothing of searching for actors or movies.

Thankfully, there’s an easy fix: Use your phone instead. As you probably know, the Roku apps (iOS | Android) can take the place of your Roku remote, but they also provide a keyboard that makes data entry significantly faster and easier.

So anytime you land at your Roku’s onscreen keyboard on your TV, whether for a search or sign-in, just run the app, tap Remote and then tap the keyboard icon near the bottom of the screen. Now you can tap-type! Or, power tip, tap the keyboard’s microphone icon and “type” your entry using your voice. Speaking of which…

Use your phone for voice search

You know what’s even faster than a keyboard? The spoken word. If you’re lucky enough to have a current-generation Roku, you may have discovered the joys of voice search, which you can operate via the Roku remote.

Don’t own one of those models? No problem: The Roku app now offers voice-search capabilities of its own. So instead of tapping out, say, “Leonardo DiCaprio” to find his available movies (and risk spelling it wrong), you can just tap the Search option, then Voice, and actually say, “Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Stream media from your phone or tablet

Want to show everyone the photos and videos you took at the recent wedding, graduation, soccer game or zombie escape room? Don’t gather them around your relatively tiny phone or tablet; gather them around the TV instead. The Roku app lets you cast photos, videos and music from your mobile device to your streamer.

Just fire up the app and tap Play On Roku. Choose the kind of media you want to stream, then the specific media. Presto! Big-screen viewing from your small(er)-screen device.

Want to take this a step further? You can also mirror your smartphone or tablet to your Roku device.

Turn your Roku remote into a universal remote

I really like the design of the Roku remote, especially those that have shortcut buttons to the likes of Netflix and Amazon. What I don’t like: You can’t program a Roku remote to control your TV.

But you can program a Sideclick. Available for a variety of streamers (including Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV), this clever add-on (with the best name ever) clips to the side of your Roku remote and adds a row of handy programmable buttons: power, volume up/down, channel up/down, input and A/B (these last available for whatever functions you want).

The Sideclick starter kit for Roku sells for $30 and comes with four adapter clips to accommodate the majority of Roku remotes. It’s a pretty nice option for anyone tired of juggling remotes.

Organize your channels

 

The more channels you add to your Roku library, the bigger a jumbled mess they get. If you’re forever scrolling all over the place to find the handful of channels you visit most, you’ve probably wished for some way to reorganize them.

This is that way: Find a channel you want to relocate — let’s say HBO Now — and highlight it with your remote. (Don’t actually select it, just move the cursor over it so it’s highlighted.) Next, press the Option button on your remote (it looks like an asterisk), then choose Move Channel. Now use the direction pad to move the icon where you want it, noting how others move out of the way as you go.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot, press OK to complete the process. Repeat as necessary.

Reorganize channels in the Roku app

A recent update to the Roku app added a great feature: a Channels screen, similar to what you see on your TV. It makes for much faster access to your favorite channels.
However, it’s not immediately obvious how to organize those channels. That’s because you can’t actually do so within the app: You have to hit up your actual Roku on your TV. Then just follow the steps outlined in Organize your channels, above. Or, if you want more detail, check out How to organize your channels in the new Roku 4.0 app.

Choose a new theme

Not a fan of Roku’s default interface theme? That’s OK, not everyone loves purple. If you venture into the Settings menu and choose Themes, you’ll see a handful of other options.

Even better, select Get More Themes, which will bring you to the Roku Channel Store’s Themes collection. (You can also browse them online if you prefer.) Here you’ll find several dozen other options, everything from golf to Garfield to Star Trek. Alas, these add-ons aren’t free: <ost range from 99 cents to $2.99.

Install a screensaver

 

Tired of that Roku logo bouncing around whenever your streamer sits idle for a while? Why not choose a screensaver that’s a little more interesting?
As with selecting a theme, you can head to the Settings menu and then choose

Screensaver for a handful of other options. (If you’ve already chosen a different theme, you may see other screensaver options already. Nebula, for example, offers a digital clock in place of the bouncing Roku logo.)

And, again, you can head to the Channel Store to find lots of other screensavers: aquariums, animated fireplaces, headlines from “The Onion,” even a Nixie Clock. A handful are free; most will cost you a buck or two.

Rename your Rokus

If you have more than one Roku device, it makes sense to assign each one a name — if only to simplify things when using the Roku app. It’s a lot easier to switch between, say, “Bedroom Roku” and “Living Room Roku” than it is “Roku 2” and “Roku 3.”

Curiously, however, you can’t do this from within the app. Instead, you need to sign into my.roku.com, then head to the My Account page. Scroll down a bit to see a list of your connected devices, then click Rename next to the one you want to change. Not sure which is which? You can actually refer to the app for this; tap Settings > Switch Device for a list of connected Rokus (and their convenient accompanying pictures), then look for the serial number. Match that to what you see on the Web portal.

Install private channels

Everyone knows about Roku’s Netflix, Hulu and other mainstream channels, but your streamers also support the addition of private channels.

Is that code for “adult”? Yes and no. Although adult channels do exist for Roku, you can find a variety of family-friendly options at sources like Roku-Channels.com, RokuGuide.com, StreamFree.tv and RokuChannels.tv.

One cool option: The Silent Movie Channel, which offers selections from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Rudolph Valentino.

To add it, head to Roku’s My Account page in your browser (as described in the previous tip), click Add a Channel, then enter the code ROLLEM.

The channel should get automatically added to your Roku device within the next 24 hours, but you should be able to force it by going to the Channel Store on your Roku, then exiting back out to the main menu.

Find a lost Roku remote

Much as I like the design of the Roku remote, the size can be a problem: It goes missing that much more easily. The Bermuda Triangle has nothing on my couch cushions.

Fortunately, if you own a Roku 4 ($63.99 at Amazon Marketplace) or Roku Ultra, there’s a fast way to find your remote. (Assuming, of course, you can still find the Roku itself. Gotta be somewhere near the TV.) Both models have a button on top; press it and your remote will make a sound.

Want to learn how to choose what sound it makes? Check out Quickly find a lost Roku remote with this trick.

Watch movies from your iTunes library

If you live in the Apple ecosystem, you know that owning a Roku means forgoing any movies you’ve purchased via iTunes. After all, it’s not like Apple offers a Roku channel.

Thankfully, there’s Movies Anywhere. This free tool puts all your movies under one roof, so to speak, meaning you can now use a single Roku app to access movies from your Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu accounts. Obviously you could already access Amazon, Google and Vudu movies on your Roku via their respective apps, but Movies Anywhere brings iTunes into that mix and saves you from having to remember which movie is located where.

Listen in private with private listening

One of Roku’s best features is private listening, which allows you to stream audio through a remote or your phone to your favorite headphones. That’s great for your half-deaf relative who would normally need to crank the TV volume to house-shattering levels, or for your elliptical workouts where you can’t hear the TV over the sound of the machinery.

The Roku 3, Roku Premiere+, Roku 4 and Roku Ultra all come with a remote that has a built-in headphone jack, by far the easiest option. (Pro tip: If you plug in, remember to unplug when you’re done. Headphones will continue to draw power even when you’re not using the Roku, making it quite likely you’ll return to a dead set of remote batteries.)

But all current-gen models, from the Roku Express to the Roku Ultra, also support private listening via the Roku app. This works with both wired and wireless headphones; just fire up the app and tap the headphones icon to switch from TV speakers to private listening.

And there you go! Thirteen cool ways to improve your Roku experience.

Hit the comments and share your favorite tips!

Weekly Round up 1/26/18

 

Montana?! Hey, Roy Cooper! Are you seeing this?
Montana Becomes First State To Set Its Own Net Neutrality Rules.

I’m guessing they haven’t done the obvious and hired more women…
What has Tech done to fix its harrassment problem?


See above…
The tech industry needs one million workers now.

What, was he all out of Tide Pods?
iPhone battery explodes after Chinese man bites it.

You know, if she and Angela Merkel were to team up, Trump would sh*t himself.
Theresa May warns tech firms over terror content.

Why haven’t we patented this?!
Cancer could soon be spotted by technology ‘several months’ before it occurs.

Oh sure, NOW they’re paying attention. After the racist, Russian loving idiot is already planted in the White House. Good thinking, guys.
Tech Is Starting to Lose Its War on Journalism.

 

I find it hard to believe Retail has come to its senses about anything…
The Retail Industry Has Come To Its Senses On Technology.

App of the Week: Firefox

 

 

3 awesome features coming to Firefox that you can get right now

By Matt Ellliot of CNet

The upcoming Firefox 59 will help you stop sites from asking for permission to send you notifications and know your location, but you can stop these right now in the current build of Firefox with a little digging.

When Firefox 59 is released in March, it will add controls for setting permissions for how the browser accesses your location along with your computer’s camera and microphone. It will also include a global setting for blocking sites from asking to be allowed to send you notifications.
These settings will be most welcomed — particularly the ability to shut off those annoying requests that sites pop up asking if it’s OK to send you notifications — but you can access those if you are willing to dip into Firefox’s advanced settings in about:config.

1. Disable notification requests

Have you ever answered “Allow” when a site asks if it can send you notifications? I have not. If you have grown tired of repeatedly answering “Block” to this question, there is a way to prevent sites from even asking.
Enter about:config in Firefox’s address bar and click the I accept the risk button. Search for dom.push.enabled and double-click it to switch its value from true to false.

 

2. Disable location requests

Many sites also ask for your location, which might be helpful for some types of sites (weather, mapping and so on) but certainly not for all that ask. If you want to disable all sites from requesting to know your location, go to about:config, search for geo.enabled and set its value to false.

3. Disable camera and microphone requests

You probably get fewer requests from sites asking to use your computer’s webcam and microphone, but you can shut off these requests in about:config, too. Find media.navigator.enabled and media.peerconnection.enabled and set the values to both to false.

What are your favorite Firefox features? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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