Monthly Archives: April 2016

The DeLonge Con

Former Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge has a new project: telling the world the truth about UFOs. DeLonge has always been interested in the supernatural, and he’s been researching and reporting the topic as part of a multimedia project called Sekret Machines that involves books, movies, music, and other moving parts. His first book, co-written by bestselling author AJ Hartley, is a pageturner novel called Chasing Shadows about a skeptical journalist who runs a UFO debunking website, a Holocaust survivor, an heiress whose father mysteriously dies, and a Marine pilot who gets recruited into a secret government technology project at Area 51. Somehow, their stories all intersect.

Motherboard talked to DeLonge about this project and whether he really believes all this stuff about aliens. We also dive into the weird and wonderful world of conspiracy theorists in the longest Radio Motherboard episode to date.

The Silicon Divide

We often talk about the gender gap in Silicon Valley—there are far too few female computer engineers and startup founders—but there’s one field where women do dominate Silicon Valley: public relations.

Most research suggests that about 70 percent of all public relations professionals are women, and that number seems to hold up when you look specifically at the breakdown in tech PR. Anecdotally, when I deal with press people at tech companies, they are overwhelmingly women. In the vast majority of cases, these women are pitching startups founded by and dominated by men.

After a spirited discussion with the Motherboard staff, it turns out I’m not the only one who noticed this. I decided to do a little experiment. I went to the SXSW Interactive festival in early March—a Super Bowl for tech startups and for the PR people who represent them. I checked all of the emails I got from PR people for the first 10 days of March, which were the first few days before I got to the festival and the first few days after I left. I got emails from 127 different women PR people, and just 48 men.

I deal with public relations professionals on a daily basis, but I rarely think about what their job actually entails behind the scenes. After I started thinking about it, I wondered if it was weird for women in the so-called “pink collar” PR profession to primarily represent male clients and work in-house at companies that are primarily men. And so, I called some women who are in the profession and talked to them about their jobs.

It’s impossible to generalize the experience of an entire profession, but I quickly learned that, for a lot of women, working in tech PR is a way to get into tech—if you work at a small startup, you’re often wearing lots of different hats and, at companies with smart founders, they’ll be involved in major decisions at the company and will have the opportunity to climb the ladder.

There are, of course, lots of challenges as well, which the women I spoke to can articulate much better than I can. As always, thanks for listening to Radio Motherboard.

Border Lines

In this very special edition of Radio Motherboard we travel to the US-Mexico borderlands to gauge the viability of “remote control,” a new smuggling tactic in which smugglers guide migrants across the border by phone.

Fronterizas (en español)

En esta edición muy especial de Radio Motherboard, viajamos a la zona fronteriza entre los Estados Unidos y México para evaluar la viabilidad de “control remoto,” una nueva táctica de contrabando en que los migrantes guía de contrabando a través de la frontera por teléfono celulares.

Song Exploder, Exploded

Ever notice that the piano part from “Dancing Queen” is tucked into the end of MGMT’s song “No Time To Pretend”? Or that The Album Leaf kept the squeaking of an old piano pedal in the final recording of their song “The Outer Banks?”

These are just a taste of the sonic details most listeners would miss before they’re revealed by Song Exploder, a podcast by Hrishikesh Hirway that has musicians like Bjork, Wilco, Ghostface Killah, and Iggy Pop peel back the layers of their songs and talk about how they’re made.

The process is obviously appealing to aspiring musicians or fans of the artists, but that’s not why we’re devoting this week’s episode of Radio Motherboard to talking with Song Exploder’s Hirway. What’s really interesting is why the show is compelling if you don’t know anything about music or haven’t even heard of the bands.

By stripping away anything but the isolated sounds, it’s bringing awareness to our sense of hearing, which is often overshadowed by the visual world. It basically opens up your ears, and the end result is you hear music in a richer, more enjoyable way, which is pretty awesome if you think about it.