Top stories on FactorDaily this year
As we look back on one of the most important years in all our lives — 2016 is the year we started FactorDaily — we thought we would revisit stories we did in 2016 that defined us, challenged us, and brought us to together as a team. In this post, we’ve picked the best of our stories across different categories — not because WE are proud of them (we are), but because these deeply reported articles and opinion pieces and videos and interviews and newsbreaks also tell the story that we set out to narrate from the beginning of our journey with FactorDaily — how technology is changing, and how it is changing us.
The journey of entrepreneurship is an arduous but exhilarating one. While most stories on startups focus on funding, expansions, management changes and profit and loss, there are many stories to be told about the human aspect of entrepreneurship — of the dreams, struggles and sacrifices of startup founders and their families and colleagues.
At FactorDaily, we covered both the sides of entrepreneurship in 2016. While some of our stories focussed on the business of running a startup — from entrepreneurial ventures that are making a dent in the universe to a behind-the-scenes look at one of India’s biggest online retail sales — others were about the near-death experiences of startups, and an especially poignant story about the death of a startup founder.
Here are our five top picks from stories of entrepreneurship this year:
As technology continues on its eat-the-world rampage, disruption is all around us — from money to education, from entertainment to design, from food to ticketing, from manufacturing to development, from health to commerce, from artificial intelligence to connected devices…
Who are these disruptors? The stories of Mark Zuckerberg, Travis Kalanick, Brian Chesky, Sebastian Thurn and the likes have been told, as also those of Sachin Bansal, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Sridhar Vembu, Naveen Tewari, and peers.
Who are the new kids on the disruption block? Here are five among the stories we did in 2016 on disruptors and their journeys:
- Tanmay Bakshi, the youngest Watson programmer
- Dunzo! How a hyperlocal concierge app is killing it in Bengaluru
- Julia is killing it in the programming world. Meet its co-creator from India
- This Indian startup has made carbon capture and reuse sustainable
- Akshay Kothari, the 30 yo steering LinkedIn’s second biggest market
In 2016, we covered a lot of makers — people who’ve mixed technology with DIT and built interesting products. Some of them have been night and weekend projects that became serious startups and companies. Others are simply interesting products that were built for the joy of it.
In 2017, we’ll double down on our maker coverage simply because they inspire us. Given the right opportunities, we believe, they will do great things for the world. Here are the top maker stories we covered over the past year:
India has had only a handful of unicorns — companies that have a valuation of over $1 billion. We attempted to understand and write about these companies in 2016. Instead of piecemeal coverage about various aspects of these companies, we tried to see the larger picture. Most of the stories were longform. Expect more of that in 2017. Meanwhile, here are our best Unicorn stories from 2016:
Today, more than ever before, we think and talk about our future. We look at it in equal parts with fear and fascination. Fear, because we are witnessing the rampage of technology in breaking down the very ideas we’ve built our societies on. Fascination, because of the incredible positive impact we see and foresee due to the same technology.
The role of our Future coverage at FactorDaily is to address both these thoughts. The fear pushes us to approach the impact of technology with a certain scepticism and ask tough questions. The fascination drives us to connect the dots and see its bigger, more majestic impact, and sometimes even dwell in a dreamland.
Here are some of the pieces from 2016 that attempt to make sense of oncoming changes:
- We are heading towards a jobless future: is it good or bad?
- Biased bots: Artificial Intelligence will mirror human prejudices
- ISRO, it is time you outsourced to get to the next orbit
- Meet the space-crazed teenagers at India’s first private space mission
- Science fiction’s many realities: Elon Musk, Simulated Reality and why there may be no spoon
When we launched in 2016, tech and startups in India were already well covered by mainstream and niche publications. Only a few publications were vested in original reporting. The rest would spin the pieces, force an opinion, stuff it with keywords and push it out in a hurry. We steered clear of commodity news and noise. That gave us time and an opportunity to lead the news cycle in some cases. The last six months validated our view that fewer, impactful stories that aren’t already out there will give you the same results as many smaller stories aggregated from other outlets
We will spend most of our time next year doing that. We will also aggregate from other sources, with minimal human effort, to make sure that we cover the entire breadth of stories as technology goes mainstream in India. Here are some of our pieces that led the news cycle in 2016:
- Paid tweets: Twitter users offered money to praise demonetisation
- Exclusive: Interview with hacker group Legion
- Apple Stores to open in Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai before end-2017
- Amazon India will invest $300 million in original Indian content for Prime
- It’s confirmed: Hyperloop is in talks to run trials in India
- Alibaba in talks to acquire Snapdeal
In this era of constant, instant opinionating, we are rather old-fashioned in believing in ‘show, don’t tell’. Which means, we’d rather show you, through deep and incisive reportage, how technology is transforming our society, rather than hold forth on whatever the burning issue of the day is. Like Guardian editor CP Scott said, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”
That said, we do believe there are times when commentary is valuable as it allows us to pull back from facts and see the larger picture; it helps us make sense of things that are too complex to be narrated linearly. Some of our top comment pieces in 2016.
- Social media is a world of conspiracy theories, innuendo, gossip, paranoia, sheer craziness: Ram Guha
- The leaky bucket of Indian food delivery startups
- Computing pioneer Alan Kay on AI, Apple and future
- We are trying to become a cashless society — but is that a great idea?
- Brahman Naman: The kind of film that makes you question if you are an asshole
With technology going mainstream, the most interesting stories are the ones in which tech touches our everyday lives. We have read the story of a man finding his mother and his childhood village using Google Earth. Or, stories of adopted girls who found their birth mothers online. Or, how a murderer got caught thanks to his digital footprint (selfie, in this instance).
At FactorDaily, we were choosy when it came to picking stories where technology was central in a real life incident. We gravitated more towards stories that were leaving broadbrush strokes on life around us. Here are a few that made us smile in smug satisfaction:
- Puujita, 13, F… Found!
- The deadly addiction in your home that you are aware of — and comfortable with
- 'They killed Dabholkar, but they couldn't kill his ideas'
- Clean, good fun: Female Indian vloggers have found their identity in that cliché
- How Twitter is helping India reboot public services, publicly
More than 100 million people live with disability in India. When we started writing about technology that can help them (or tech that eludes them), it was only an experiment — mostly unplanned. However, we soon realised that our stories on challenges the disabled face while interacting with technology were far more important than we’d thought.
In 2017, we will strive to improve our reportage of accessibility (or the lack of it) and other issues surrounding disability in India. Moreover, we will try and make design and product changes that will make FactorDaily more accessible. Here are some of our best stories on accessibility from 2016:
- The moral imperative and business case for accessibility in technology
- Tech ninja B R Alamelu beats blindness to be an admired academic
- We tested 18 government apps, and most are not fully accessible to the disabled
- What made V Shakthi India’s most followed accessibility activist
- The demonetisation drive ignores India’s 15m visually impaired people
In recent years, gender equality has got a huge boost partly because of the many conversations that have been kickstarted in online spaces around gender issues. These conversations have encouraged many everyday feminists, who may not have had the opportunity to speak up in real-life environments, to talk about things that impact women the world over: from sexism in workplaces (even extremely regressive ones) and on social media, to normalising conversations about women’s bodies and bodily functions like menstruation.
At FactorDaily as well, we made a conscious choice to talk about gender issues through stories and opinion pieces that reveal the casual, unconscious sexism in our society. Here are some of these stories:
- Why are female entrepreneurship events always such weep-fests?
- A Splendid Revenge: A badass Bengali feminist from 116 years ago, and a land without women
- Tumse milke dil ka hai jo haal: Agents of ishq tell stories about love, sex, and desire in their own voices
- Uncleji, please stop sending sexist jokes on WhatsApp and take your Men’s Rights Activism elsewhere
- India’s only all-woman rural newspaper has a new challenge: cracking digital publishing
- Yet another artist’s work taken down: Why do FB, Instagram have a problem with women’s bodies?
- Changing Wikipedia’s (and society’s) male bias is work in progress
When we launched the ‘Lifestyle’ section on FactorDaily, our intent wasn’t to get into the milieu of gadget blogging. We wanted to write about products and services that help you live, work and play better. To that end, we brought to you stories about how Bengaluru’s geeks were losing weight or staying awake chasing deadlines with nootropics. As the year draws to a close, here are some of our best stories in life and living:
- Keto: Why Bengaluru geeks love this rad new diet
- How a smart drug helped me evade sleep and gave me superpowers. Well, almost
- VR porn will take you a big step closer to realising your sexual fantasies
- Inside Grindr: Indian users spill the good, bad, and ugly secrets of the gay hookup app
- The life and travels of a Digital Nomad: Not all those who wander are lost
Now that bots and artificial intelligence (AI) are infiltrating our lives every which way and aren’t quite the stuff of some nebulous future, geekery is not the same anymore. You are dealing with things that are real and happening now, and speculation just isn’t as much fun.
On the other hand, it’s a fallacious idea that geekery is only about robots and AI. Geeks, as somebody explained to me pretty succinctly this year, are people who are interested in the “underpinnings of things”; people who keep going deeper and deeper into topics that interest them. Some geekery stories we loved writing this year:
- Silk, India’s oldest general-interest mailing list, has been its Geek Central for 18 years
- The dreams our stuff is made of
- Biased bots: Artificial Intelligence will mirror human prejudices
- Mr. Robot is disturbing because its dark dystopia is pretty close to our reality
- The genius of Satyajit Ray’s little-known geekery