Pando

Announcing "Don't Be Awful": A 24-hour conversation about making the tech industry less terrible

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on January 6, 2015

From The News Desk

At the start of 2014, Sarah Lacy wrote a revised mission statement for Pando: To speak truth to the new power. With the tech industry increasingly becoming a major political and economic force, it is more important than ever to call out the bad actors.

But investigating and reporting isn’t enough, and Pando in 2015 is determined to go even further, supporting and encouraging the good.

Throughout much of last year it seems like we focused mainly on Silicon Valley’s worst traits: companies like Uber, Secret, Google, Apple and the members of the Techtopus cartel which were accused of putting profit before ethics. Our reporting on those companies certainly had an impact, both in terms of raising awareness but also in forcing change.

And yet. The tech industry isn’t going away and neither are questions of safety, privacy, transparency and plain old morality. At some point merely pointing out the bad guys isn’t quite enough. If we’re really committed to making the tech industry less, well, awful, then we also need to help encourage good behavior too. I don’t just mean writing about un-awful companies, but also helping entrepreneurs, developers, investors and the rest of the tech ecosystem to build companies that don’t threaten to Disrupt us all the way to hell.

Obviously, fixing Silicon Valley’s culture of awfulness is going to take more than just us — but we’re keen to play our part. Call it Pando’s New Years resolution. Throughout 2015, we'll be hosting a series of events, editorial features, live broadcasts and more, all focused on the theme of “Don’t Be Awful.”

To kick off the year, we’re hosting a global 24-hour conversation, starting at noon on Jan 24th.

For a full 24 hours, on stage in San Francisco and streamed live everywhere else, we’ll be talking to people from both inside and outside the tech industry to debate, discuss and hopefully suggest answers to the question: How can we make the tech industry less awful? We’re also encouraging participants to actually start putting some of the solutions raised at the event into practice.

That might mean actually building a product that “disrupts” the world in a good way, it might mean drafting a manifesto or code of ethics for startups, it might even mean starting a whole new company. But this won't be a hackathon in a traditional sense — rather than insisting that everyone build something during the event we want to start a ongoing conversation from the stage, and provide some of the tools to put turn those words into actions.

Nor is the event a conference in the usual sense, either. The 24 hours will be divided up into 48 slots of 30 minutes, and anyone is welcome to request a slot to speak, individually or as an ad-hoc panel. And there’s no obligation to actually be in the room — the whole event will be livestreamed here on Pando and participants are welcome to Skype in or just call on a regular phone.

Pando editors including Sarah Lacy and me will be on hand the whole time to keep the conversation flowing. You can find details of how to suggest a topic and get involved here but you can also request a slot on the day.

The Don’t Be Awful kickoff event is being made possible by sponsorship from Braintree, who jumped at the idea as soon as we suggested it to them. To be clear: Pando is controlling all of the content of the event, but Braintree is generously providing a venue for the on-stage talks, off-stage space for continuing the conversation in person, and things like wireless networking to ensure everyone present can talk to everyone throughout the rest of the planet. Braintree has also offered $7500 in prizes for the best ideas hatched during the event.

Get involved!

We’ll be publishing more details of the event as we get closer to January 24th, but here’s what you need to know for now: The event is totally free to participate, and you don’t have to register to watch the live stream or to call in and get involved remotely. If you have an idea for a topic to discuss, email [email protected] and we'll send you details on reserving a slot.

If you’d like to show up in person in San Francisco and meet your fellow Don’t-Be-Awful-ers, you will need to register so you can get past security. It’s still free; just use the Eventbrite form here to secure your in-person place.