Goodbye and Thank You

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It is with heavy hearts—and eyes to the future—that we must announce that Friday, April 7, 2017, Siren will be closing our “doors.”

While it’s not unusual for a startup to run out of money, the way we ran out was as unexpected as it was devastating. At the beginning of 2016, we closed our round with a lead investor whose mission was to support female-centric companies and who saw the potential in Siren’s clear differentiation in a saturated market. Yet, as of this writing, a full calendar year later, they have not completed their obligation. Instead, we received small, unpredictable amounts, with the other investors courageously stepping forward. Through the dedication of these committed individuals we were able to continue development, however we could never plan beyond a few months, hindering growth, milestones, and new funding opportunities. 

Despite the uncertainty shadowing us, we did our best to build on our momentum, doing everything within our power to stay afloat. But without a way to harness and distribute funds for expansion, we simply could not grow fast enough. The efforts of two co-founders alone were not enough to compete with the well-funded companies in this space. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Siren showed strong traction—relocation and expansion to New York, the formation of key partnerships, and user success stories that let us know we were onto something special.

Indeed, we are enormously proud of Siren’s accomplishments and impact. One of our goals was to change the course of this industry—an industry historically run by men, rampant with harassment, objectification, and immaturity at every level. And as newer, better funded companies like Bumble and Hinge market themselves as relationship-friendly alternatives to Tinder, we can see how our early and persistent efforts to humanize the online dating space have influenced the conversation, and we hope this industry continues to grow in that direction.

Every day our Question of the Day (QOTD) hosts brought a creative new question to the table, and as a result, Siren has amassed one of the best repositories of quality ice-breakers in online dating history. At the end of our run, our QOTD hosts included Arianna Huffington, Anita Sarkeesian, and Esther Perel. Working with these inspiring women was a dream come true for us, and we only wish we had the runway to match the rest of our hustle. 

Siren was a lightning rod for progressive spirit in the tech community, bringing together a dynamic group of advisors and investors whose fundamental integrity and respect for women’s issues is unparalleled and unique. It was only after meeting hundreds of people in tech that we could truly appreciate the courage and forward-thinking determination of everyone who signed on to help Siren make the tech world a more intuitive, humane place. Our advisors and investors rallied us on and supported us in our darkest days, and here at the end, they are with us, restating how honored they are to have been part of this venture. 

Siren’s story inspired over 200 pieces of press, from the front page of the Seattle Times to CNN, NPR and the Guardian, to Bustle, the Stranger and The Establishment. Durex reached out to us to partner on a marketing campaign #Connect that garnered over 37 million views. We won Geekwire’s App of the year, beating Starbucks and Alaska Airlines in 2015. We presented at TEDx. We spoke at Grace Hopper, the world’s largest conference on women in technology, and we partnered with experimental marketing group Hello Velocity on a viral Tinder hack that satirized the objectification inherent in the swipe-to-reject model. We became entrepreneurs in residence at the New Museum’s incubator, NEW INC in New York City. And we accomplished all of this with a marketing budget of zero dollars and a team that never grew beyond 2-4 core members. 

Some founders of social networks have revealed that they began to dislike their members as they grew, a sentiment we found surprising, as we have always loved our community: a creative, optimistic, and thoughtful group who supported us from the very beginning, kindly reporting issues, enthusiastically sharing their beautiful success stories, and thanking us for helping them find someone who saw them in a real, intimate, and deeply human way. 

One woman told us that she had not been able to date for over seven years, and met a wonderful, kind man on Siren who had renewed her faith in relationships. 

Another wrote, “In March 2015, I introduced myself to someone. I'm happy to say two years later we're still enjoying each other's company and refer people to your app all the time. Thanks for a great, easygoing way to introduce yourself online.”

Some jobs require a leap of faith to imagine that you are doing something meaningful in the world, but every time our members share a success story or their wedding photo with us, we knew the work we were doing was important. These are the people we knew we were fighting for. It was their chance, unexpected encounters that let us know our mission was worthwhile, and it is for that community most of all that we grieve this loss.

Siren’s ethos of fostering real conversations in a comfortable space based on mutual respect will live on in our future projects forever. Follow us individually to hear what happens next, and thank you so very much for your enthusiasm, your partnerships, your hope for our success, and your sharing in our every triumph and struggle. We can’t thank our community enough for standing beside us and showing the world that Siren’s mission was a vital presence in the history of online dating.

Goodbye, and thanks for everything. 

Susie Lee & Katrina Hess
Co-founders of Siren
 

Siren Declares March #WomenMakeHistoryMonth

Siren is partnering with some of the most inspiring women in media for #WomenMakeHistory Month! (Clockwise from top left): Arianna Huffington, Siren co-founders Katrina Hess and Susie Lee, Anita Sarkeesian

Siren is partnering with some of the most inspiring women in media for #WomenMakeHistory Month! (Clockwise from top left): Arianna Huffington, Siren co-founders Katrina Hess and Susie Lee, Anita Sarkeesian

March is Women's History Month, and while on the surface that seems like a wonderful thing—who doesn't love celebrating women's accomplishments?—it also means that plenty of companies that ignore women the rest of the year are coming out of the woodwork to rack up points by declaring themselves great feminist allies.  

Here at Siren, our feminism is built into our mission 365 days a year, so we've decided to create our own campaign that takes things one step further. As the only feminist dating app founded by women of color, we've declared March #WomenMakeHistoryMonth: a time to not only celebrate the accomplishments of diverse women in business, media, and culture, but also shine a light on ways we can all be more supportive of the women who are creating history right this minute.

Feminist dating app SIREN declares March #WomenMakeHistoryMonth [Tweet this]

Media maven Arianna Huffington—whose newest venture Thrive Global has been in the spotlight for its positive approach to sustainable productivity—kicked off the month of March as Question of the Day host on Siren. This week she is followed by Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian, a culture critic whose brilliant deconstructions of women in pop culture narratives led Time Magazine to name her on its 100 most influential people list and earned her an honorary PhD from the New School.  

We couldn't be more thrilled to partner with these extraordinary women who are shaping the future with their outstanding vision, drive, and relentless audacity, and we'd love to partner with you as well! Use the hashtag #WomenMakeHistoryMonth to share your inspiring stories with us and download Siren for iPhone/iPad orAndroid now to respond to Anita's questions and make connections with other like-minded, progressive individuals.  

Can an artist-founded, feminist dating app help change the world? That's the plan. Welcome to our community!

 

 

Isabella Huffington on the The Art of the Everyday

New York artist and Siren Creative Advisor Isabella Huffington

New York artist and Siren Creative Advisor Isabella Huffington

Isabella Huffington is a New York-based artist interested in exploring the question of art and accessibility. A graduate of Yale University in art history, she's always been drawn to everyday materials and processes—sharpies, stamps, stencils, hole punching, and embossing—and inspired by everyday life. It is this interest in the art of the everyday that makes her a perfect creative advisor for Siren, a capacity she has served in since 2015.

We asked Isabella some questions about her creative process, politics, and dating as an introvert as part of our #WomenMakeHistoryMonth series of conversations. Enjoy!

How did you get into art-making — what were your inspirations?

I was a really lucky kid. My mom let me turn my bedroom walls into giant canvases. I painted them, collaged them, drew on them, glued objects to them. And as soon as I had completely covered the them, I would start all over again. I was really able to mess up and experiment over and over again. And it was never about the final product but about the process to get there. And that was really lucky because so much of my art today centers around deadlines and finished pieces. So there isn't as much time for experimentation.

Isabella Huffington, "Queen." Collage and paint on wood, 2017. Via isabellahuffington.com

Isabella Huffington, "Queen." Collage and paint on wood, 2017. Via isabellahuffington.com

How would you describe your art practice now? How has it evolved since school?

My art practice now is a lot more disciplined. I'm really type-A, so I thrive on schedule and routine. I'm a morning person, which is endearing to no one. So I like to start work by eight. That way I can take lots of breaks in between and still feel like I had a productive day. At school my practice was much more haphazard. I had to work around my classes and other commitments so it was sometimes hard to make the time. But I've found that if I don't do at least a little art each day I get a bit irritable/anxious. Art centers me. 

 

There is an unabashed feminist perspective in your recent work. How do you approach this? Is the feminism distilled from your daily life, or something else?  

I'm really interested in making work that undeniably and, at times, stereotypically feminine. I was raised by three incredible women: my mom, aunt, and grandmother. So the feminine has always signaled strength and perseverance for me. Because of them I've never questioned whether I can't do something because I'm a woman. That ideas completely foreign to me. I typically select a stereotypical feminine thing—flower, pearl, ladybug—and repeat it over and over again. Until there's an incredible strength and intensity to it.

Has recent politics and social movements affected how you think of the art world? If so, in what ways? 

I feel like Trump's win really changed the way I look at things. He's essentially an amalgamation of everything parents teach there children not to be. I feel like you either get to be an idiot or an asshole. You don't get to be both. But specifically in terms of my work, I have a show in May that centers on women in politics. We decided on the theme before the election. So it was meant to be a celebration now it feels a bit more like a wake. And it's honestly been hard to strike a balance between pessimism and optimism, when I feel really pessimistic. But the way I look at it every time one glass ceiling holds another one breaks and visa versa. Progress will always be a slog not a sprint.

We've spoken at length about introversion and the challenge of meeting people (both in dating and the art world)  — what are your suggestions in navigating these worlds as an introvert?

I would say don't feel like you need to jump in head first. Start with baby steps. And once you get comfortable with those push yourself to go a little farther. Some people can go to a few events or dates a week. But for me that'd be totally exhausting. If you push yourself too hard to be social, you'll end up like Boo Radley not wanting to leave your house. Set a reasonable goal for yourself and once you reach it don't judge yourself for saying no to everything else. Life is meant to be enjoyed. And if I'm constantly judging myself for not being social, well that's not enjoyable.

As one of Siren's creative advisors, what drew you into the Siren model?

I love that it's conversation based. And even more importantly the conversations are genuinely interesting. I think the reason people are so fed up with dating apps is because they're boring. The conversation feels repetitious and canned. You get asked the same things over and over again and you give the same stock answers. So it's really hard to actually learn anything substantive about the other person.

And what's next for Isabella? And what's one of your "Reach for the Sky" dreams? 

I'm really interested in art and accessibility. So I want to combine fine are and everyday objects. Essentially putting my art on the most mundane things. I think it would be really magical if everything around us could be seen as art. I think the barrier between art and people is so steep that a lot of people never cross over it. And that's such a shame.

"I think the barrier between art and people is so steep that a lot of people never cross over it." [Tweet this]
 

Download Siren 5.3.0 for iPhone/iPad or Android now.

 

"Connection is a Radical Act of Resistance" - Karyn Schwartz on Love as Action

Karyn Schwartz of Love is Action at SugarPill, her herbal apothecary shop in Seattle's Capitol Hill

Karyn Schwartz of Love is Action at SugarPill, her herbal apothecary shop in Seattle's Capitol Hill

Today is Valentine's Day, a holiday defined by emotional complexity. For single people, it can be a reminder of our aspirations toward romance and the connections we have yet to discover. For people in relationships, it can be a day of lofty expectations, which may or may not be reflected in our real lives. But there are many ways to think about "love" beyond our romantic relationships, and these are what inspires this week's Question of the Day host Karyn Schwartz into action.

Schwartz is the proprietor of SugarPill, an herbal apothecary in Seattle's Capitol Hill. She is also a driving force behind Love is Action, a campaign for visible resistance and community activism. We asked Karyn some questions about her projects and couldn't be more inspired by her responses. Enjoy!

Tell us the story of SugarPill! How did you decide to become an apothecary, and how did you come to make this your life's work?

I never set out to do what I do - but after seeking out alternatives to conventional medicine for my own personal health challenges, and following that thread of interest after it made such a huge difference in my own life, I just kept getting led farther down that road. When I first started out in the 1980's, I was also working in the domestic violence advocacy community, and doing a lot of activism work, particularly around issues like reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and AIDS. There are so many intersections between the kinds of work I was doing and deeper issues around health and access to healthcare. Natural medicine appealed to me not only because it worked for me, but because it is based in traditional and evolutionary knowledge and practices that are safe and effective, and which, when used properly, can make people much less reliant on the conventional system of medicine that excludes so many people from care and healing. Working in an apothecary model makes it possible for me to share what I know with anyone who wants to learn more, and to empower people to try simple methods of self-care that will support the strength, resilience and wisdom of their own bodies. Certainly there are many concerns that people bring to me that are not what I would consider "over-the-counter" questions, but even for those issues that require more in-depth care and attention, I can still help people to find the kinds of help they are seeking and prepare them to advocate for themselves within the conventional healthcare system. 

In addition to all of this, I am a fierce champion of our need to actively support the independent brick and mortar businesses that are still the bedrock of neighborhoods and communities. As quixotic as it is to keep a small retail shop open in the technological age, I think it is more important than ever to have places where people can gather and talk in person and look one another in the eye. For me personally, the ability to come to work every day and have actual conversations with so many different kinds of people is what makes me feel hopeful. Connection is the antidote to the fears and prejudices that drive people farther apart, and in the present political climate, feels like one of the most radical acts of resistance we can collectively perform every day.

"It's more important than ever to have places where people can gather and look one another in the eye" [Tweet this]

Visitors to Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood might have noticed your "Love Is Action" graphics in the windows of your building. Can you tell us why you decided to make these messages visible in this way?

Love Is Action was born out of my own desire to make it clear that the only way out of the danger that we are collectively in — not just because of the recent nightmare of an election, but certainly made exponentially worse as a result of the horrifying new "administration" — is to take all of the feeling that you have about the world and put it into unapologetic action. Love is necessary. It is powerful, and it is fundamental to making lasting, meaningful change. But on its own, it is not going to get us out of any of the mess we are in, and more immediately, it is not going to keep people safe when there are real, tangible, immediate threats to so many people's lives. I wanted to do something very visual that would make a statement in my own little corner of the world that hatred would not be tolerated here, and also that Action is a vitally necessary component of Love. I wanted people to know that they are welcome to bring all of their humanity in here, and to know that this is a place where conversations about what is happening in the world, and how it is affecting you, are not only welcome but encouraged.

"Action is a vitally necessary component of Love." [Tweet this]

Who are the collaborators behind Love is Action. (In particular, who designed those lovely graphics?)

The collaborators on this project are my amazing upstairs neighbors at Substantial, who invited me to their all-hands meeting a few days after the election to discuss how they could be more actively engaged as individuals and as a company in the needs of this community, this city and the larger world. I was having to pivot from the aftermath of the election to preparing for the holiday season, which felt very awkward but also necessary, as it remains true that those of us in retail still do make an inordinate percentage of our annual incomes in the few weeks leading up to Christmas. I wanted to put something in my windows that was positive but also challenging to people during the holiday season, and also have something to hand people to help guide them in their desire to do something tangible. Substantial put a whole team of people on this project with me, in particular the amazing Flo Truong who did all of the graphic design, and Heather Griswold who coordinated the production of the project as well as helped me to identify and gather the resources that we linked to as an invitation to action that we hope people will be encouraged to take. There is now a also a website associated with the project that not only has links to all of the resources we suggested as starting places, but also offers the design files for anyone to download and make their own posters, flyers or other print items to use as you wish. We are hoping that other businesses and residents in the neighborhood will use them freely to create a visual expression of unity here, and to remind people to stay engaged.
 

Here's one of the questions you wrote for Siren this week: If flowers and trees could talk to you (and maybe they already do), what do you think they would tell you?

Flowers tell me to insist upon hopefulness and beauty; that no expression of creativity is frivolous, and to remember that everything is fleeting but also cyclical, and what is lost comes around again, just in new ways each time. Trees remind me of the resilience that comes from being deeply rooted, and of the interdependence of everyone and everything. They remind me to breathe when I feel like it is all too much, and that there is possibility in everything.

See Love is Action in action by visiting them online here download Siren for iPhone/iPad orAndroid now to read and respond to Karyn's questions.

Modern Valentine - The History and Future of Online Dating Converge at Living Computers: Museum + Lab

Shamika Cardozo-Acuna and Matisse Fletcher of Living Computers: Museum + Labs are planning the tech Valentine's party of the year!

Shamika Cardozo-Acuna and Matisse Fletcher of Living Computers: Museum + Labs are planning the tech Valentine's party of the year!

This week's Question of the Day hosts are Shamika Cardozo-Acuna and Matisse Fletcher of Living Computers: Museum + Lab, the world's largest collection of restored and usable supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers and microcomputers. 

This weekend, they are hosting Swipe Right: Modern Valentine, a program at LCM+L that will include the story of online dating pioneer Joan Ball, a keynote address from Siren's Susie Lee, and finally, a tech & love burlesque show.

Tickets to Swipe Right: Modern Valentine are $12 at the door. Half-price tickets are available for the first 10 Siren members to RSVP by email

We asked Shamika and Matisse some interview questions in advance of this exciting event. Enjoy!

Tell us a bit about the mission of Living Computers: Museum + Labs!  How did the collection get started, and how did you get involved? 
 
Matisse: The museum was around for years as a storage facility before it opened as a museum in 2012. Its founder, Paul Allen, wanted guests to interact with history and learn about the origins of technology that shapes our society. Since then it’s grown exponentially, to incorporate robotics, AI, and unique programming and events. As for me, I joined in December of 2015 as Events & Outreach Coordinator and have been working to create events that align with the museum’s mission around inclusivity and creative empowerment.
 
We're looking forward Swipe Right: Modern Valentine! Can you give us a little sneak preview of what you have prepared for this event? 
 
We’re really excited for our event for many reasons. I mean, there’s going to be a bacon bar. I might be looking forward to that a little too much… We have a great spread of activities as well; we have something for history buffs, tech heads, and burlies!
 
We’ll learn about the originator of online dating, Joan Ball. The story of how she was tracked down is just as fascinating as the story of her matchmaking! We’re honored to have your very own Susie Lee join us as keynote before we wind up the show with a burlesque performance about tech and love! Throughout the event there will be streaming podcasts and a chance for guests to test the original matchmaking technology from the 1960s, LCM+L style!
 
One thing we were surprised to learn is that Joan Ball was the first person of any gender to run a commercially viable computer dating service in either the US or the UK. Why do you think her contributions to the field aren't as well known as, say, Operation Match at Harvard?
 
Shamika: The reason Joan Ball's contributions to field aren't well known is the same reason why Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson weren't well known until Hidden Figures. History is told by the winners and as it turns out, many of the winners are white men. Joan ran three businesses from the early 60s to the early 70s and during the latter part of her career she only had one true competitor--Dateline, which was run by John Patterson. She did have a business partner, a boyfriend, and he provided the seed money for the business, but Joan oversaw all decision making. In 1973, Joan was a single woman in debt due to an economic recession, coupled with her ex-boyfriend taking most of the profits, she was forced to sell her business to Dateline. Dateline, with a better computer program and 50,000 new members, continued to grow and remained a successful dating service well into the 90s. 
 
Another reason why I think Joan was overshadowed is that Operation Match, in the U.S. and U.K., were run by men who were looking for sex and not partnership. With men running the show, the implication was that you would paid $3 and this computer program will show you a couple of people you should have sex with. What a deal! Joan's services were never about sex; they were about companionship. To quote Joan during our interview, "Sex is overrated. Everybody does it".  

OK, now we're gonna ask you one of the questions you wrote for Siren: What is your dream piece of technology that has yet to be invented? 
 
Matisse: This is totally cliché, but the dream tech I want is JARVIS. They’re already working on similar tech, and obviously we’re seeing the precursor in products like Alexa/Echo and Google Home. But unless I feel just like Tony Stark, it's not enough!
 
Shamika: I don't have a dream piece of technology. I do, however, have a dream for technology and that is biomimicry. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation by emulating or mimicking patterns and systems that exist in nature. Nature is the perfect design and only now our modern world is borrowing ideas. One exciting project that Qualcomm MEMS Technologies is doing is studying how butterfly wings reflect light and how to improve colored displays on e-readers. This technology will dramatically improve battery life and can be use in bright sunlight and wouldn't need LCD. It's a really cool concept.

Visit LivingComputers.org for more info on Swipe Right: Modern Valentinedownload Siren for iPhone/iPad orAndroid now to read and respond to Shamika & Matisse's questions.

Space and Other Truths: Questions and Answers from Sassyblack

"Space is the truth. It's the beginning and the end." - Sassyblack

"Space is the truth. It's the beginning and the end." - Sassyblack

Seattle musician Catherine Harris-White—better known by her stage name Sassyblack, and also formerly of the duo Thee Satisfaction—knows a thing or two about dating. In fact, it's the subject of her solo album No More Weak Dates, a collection of songs about looking for love, and loving yourself. 

We had Sassyblack answer her own questions from her week as Siren's Question of the Day host. Enjoy, and if you're in Seattle, don't miss your opportunity to hear this sexy Trekkie perform live in a LASER DOME on Thursday, Feb. 2!

 

You're a barista with a crush on a coworker. An old acquaintance comes in & tells an awful story about you. What do you do to their coffee?

I used to work at Starbucks and never did anything to anyone's coffee. I would still provide great service as well as take a moment to speak to the acquaintance and let them know I am a changed person. Then I would playfully refer to the awkward situation with my crush later in an attempt to woo them :)

 

A date drops a slur that doesn't pertain to them but is offensive to you and casually continues on as if nothing happened. How do you react? 

At first I would have to double check what they said to make sure I'm correct. From there I'd ask them why they think it's okay to say and point out the issues I have with the slur as well as why it's not appropriate to use. Depending on the outcome I would decide if I would want to continue the date or end it.


What's the best concert you have been to?

Best concert would have to Prince or Stevie Wonder or CHIC or Janet Jackson hahaha. That's more than one huh?

 

How does science fiction impact your life?

Science fiction is a huge part of my life being that I grew up on Star Trek & Star Wars. It's also one of my daily motivations to be my best because a lot of what was hypothesized in science fiction has inspired creations and innovations.

 

What's your favorite 90's sitcom & which one of your characters from that show do you most identify with?

Living Single; Maxine Shaw Attorney at Law.

 

What are three of your favorite albums?

Current favorite albums are" 99.9% - Kaytranada, We Are KING - KING, Off The Wall - Michael Jackson

 

What do you think about space?

Space is the truth. It's the beginning and the end. It's infinite and that is extremely fascinating to me

 

"I'm Ready to Let Women Take Over the World." - Travis Ritter on Art, Activism, and Getting Cool Scars

Travis Ritter and his trusty pup Peter Murphy trekking in the Northwest. Photo by Madeleine Pope. 

Travis Ritter and his trusty pup Peter Murphy trekking in the Northwest. Photo by Madeleine Pope. 

This week's Question of the Day host is a familiar face if you attend art and music events in Seattle—especially since he stands a head above the crowd. Travis Ritter is a fashion copywriter by day and DJ by night, curating the post-punk/minimal wave night Aesthetic Mess at various venues. In addition, he has written about the music he loves for The Stranger, City Arts, SPIN, Seattle Weekly, Houston Press, and the Portland Mercury. 

We asked Travis some questions about art, activism, and exactly how much pizza he can eat in a single sitting. Enjoy!

 

Let's start by asking you one of the Questions of the Day you wrote for Siren:  How do you contribute to activism and culture in your community?

A lot of my involvement in Seattle has revolved around the music scene, volunteering for non-profit organizations running fundraising events, including Noise for the Needy, and The Vera Project's Drink For The Kids. Though I have contributed to a number of non-profit organizations monetarily, I'm frankly ashamed of how little time I have put toward the more socio-political side of things (aside from some rallies and marches), considering how politically active I was from my late teens to mid-twenties in Eugene and Houston. That is one of my goals of this year, to become more involved with all aspects of our city, not just with music or the arts, but local chapters and movements seeking to better our city and society as a whole. Beyond expressing my informed (or sassy) opinions through social media, or trying to create fun environments at bars and clubs that bring people from all walks of life together. 

 

In your bio, you identify yourself as a feminist. What does feminism mean to you, and why is this such an important part of your identity?

 Growing up with girls as your best friends (in my case, punk and riot grrrls), you kind of just begin identifying as one. The music I listened to shaped me to be one. Kurt Cobain was the first male musical hero I had who openly championed feminism. I've always held women in very high regard and respect, knowing how much more crap they have to put up with on a daily basis, and have always tried to set a good example as a male ally. I'm hyper-aware of society's hypocrisies and double-standards of how women are treated compared to boys. I'm sickened by chauvinism and misogyny and hate that it still somehow exists even among liberal men. Dudes have been the alphas of society for far too long. I'm ready to stand back and let women take over the world. 

"Kurt Cobain was the first male musical hero I had who openly championed feminism." [Tweet this]

Who creates the graphics for your DJ night Aesthetic Mess? The collages are great!

I do! I've always loved collage and have spent a lot of time in my adult life doing it just for fun, typically cut-and-paste old magazines, the old fashioned way. I have boxes and boxes of magazines and paper scraps and cutouts in my basement as evidence of my desire to re-purpose an image into something more abstract. But over the last couple years, have been working more in Photoshop, since it allows me to duplicate images I like much easier. Plus, I feel like I'm just learning something new every time I sit down with the program itself. I design a new flyer every month so that grounds me to keep creating and pushing myself. And because there was a certain hodgepodge collage aesthetic to the posters I was creating early on, I decided to stick with that identity for Aesthetic Mess. I'm excited about this year. I'm putting together a zine at the moment that will incorporate both my design and writing. I'd love to do a collage with puzzle pieces. That being said, I simply LOVE the collages done by Troy Ayala, who used to be in Stickers and now lives in New York. His work is a constant source of inspiration.

 

Speaking of DJing, what's your perfect playlist for setting a romantic mood?

Shuggie Otis, "Sweet Thang"
Portishead, "All Mine" 
Robert Gorl, "Mit Dir (With You)" 
Sylvester, "I Need Somebody To Love Tonight" 
Broadcast, "Valerie" 
OMD, "4-Neu" 
Eurythmics, "Take Me To Your Heart" 
Benjamin Biolay, "A L'Origine" 
Aphex Twin, "Ageisopolis" 
My Bloody Valentine, "Slow" 
Pink Industry, "What I Wouldn't Give"  

I didn't used to call myself DJ Randy Travis for nothing!

 

What's the most adventurous thing you've ever done? 

I do quite a bit of hiking, whether it's a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip. I've hiked a stretch of the Oregon coast over a few days, from Seaside down to Manzanita, with my dog carrying his food and water in his saddle pack. I've climbed some mountains (the highest mountain summit I reached was the volcanic Lassen Peak in the Sierra Nevadas). But one that always stands out is a day-long hike through the jungle of Northern Thailand. It was super hot, we switch-backed up and over a few mountains, through many farmlands, before reaching a really cold swimming hole, where we all took a dip and swam underneath a waterfall. On our way back, our guide lead us to a pitch-black bat cave in the hillside that we climbed down into and out of, less than an hour before the bats were to head out for the night at sundown. It was a really exhausting, but rewarding experience. 

 

What do you do to unwind after a long day at work?

It depends on the day, but lately, I've been taking the first hour or so to call my senators and state representatives to express my concerns about issues they will be voting on. I also am almost always listening to a record, whether it's something I just picked up on my walk home after work, or something like Iggy Pop's The Idiot when I wanna slink out into the night later on. 

 

What is the most unusual compliment you have ever received? 

I've received plenty of back-handed compliments in my day. I consider those unusual because I don't understand why people bother saying something if it's not constructive or positive. Other than that, probably something along the lines of "that's a cool scar" or "I like your cast." I was a skateboarder so I was always hurting myself. My response was generally "Thanks, IT REALLY HURT!"

 

Name something about you others might consider old fashioned. 

Refusal to embrace digital/CD DJing.

 

What is the most pizza you have ever eaten in a single sitting? 

A whole extra-large cheese pizza in just under 10 minutes at the Pizza Fest pizza eating competition three years in a row (I never won).  

 

Name something you think the world needs more of. 

Wind and solar energy. 


In one word, how would you want someone to describe you to another person? 

Sweet.
(Oh geez) 😏

 

Follow Travis on Twitter & download Siren for iPhone/iPad orAndroid now to read and respond to his questions.

 

10 Reasons Why Barack Obama Was the Sexiest President in US History

#RelationshipGoals: For eight years, we loved seeing Barack Obama's affection for Michelle. Photo by Pete Souza.

#RelationshipGoals: For eight years, we loved seeing Barack Obama's affection for Michelle. Photo by Pete Souza.

It has been less than 24 hours since Barack Obama left office as the 44th president of the United States, and we miss him already. Sure, he was flawed, as all politicians are, as well as all human beings. But there was something about him that made its way into our hearts, and we are pretty sure it has to do with the fact that he was hands down the sexiest president in American history

We made a list of the sexiest things about Barack Obama, because there are things here that all of us can appreciate—and many of us can learn from. 

10 Reasons Why Barack Obama Was the Sexiest President in US History [Tweet this]

 

1. His Adoration for Michelle

It's hard to think back on Barack Obama's eight years in the White House without also thinking about the powerful woman who was always at his side. Whether they were stealing glances at state dinners or holding hands at home, Barack's unwavering devotion to his wife reminded us that real love exists, and it's beautiful.  

 

2. The Man Can Sing

Remember when Obama sang a few bars of Al Green's Let's Stay Together at Harlem's Apollo Theater? Oh, we do too. Let's watch it again, for old time's sake.

 

3. He's Confident 

While we're strolling down memory lane, remember when Michelle told Oprah her husband was "Swagalicious"? Everything about our 44th president exuded cool confidence, whether he was representing America abroad or crafting calculated responses to domestic issues. 

 

4. ...But Humble

I mean, can you imagine any other president reading mean Tweets about himself with so much good humor and style?  Neither can we. 

 

5. He Admits His Mistakes

In 2016, when Fox News asked Barack Obama what he thought was the worst mistake of his presidency, he told them. It takes a very strong man to own up to the places where he could have done better, and this is something Obama was able to do with style. (Hot.)

 

6. ...But He Stood by His Convictions

Remember when the President of the United States wrote an essay about why men should embrace feminism?  Obama had a way of saying what he felt, regardless of whether it was a popular opinion. 

 

7. That Time It Looked Like He Was About to Kiss Justin Trudeau

There aren't many men who could embrace Canada's dreamboat-in-chief without looking like a slouch in comparison. Barack Obama was one such man. 

 

8. His Adorable Friendship with Joe Biden

Is there anything more charming than grown men who are comfortable showing affection for each other? 

 

9. The Times He Cried in Public

Barack Obama famously shed a tear in a speech about the tragedy at Sandy Hook, but this was not the only time he cried in public. Obama's willingness to show vulnerability made his confidence and charisma all the more enticing. 

 

10. He's Handsome as Hell

OK, so this is the one thing he had no control over, but my lord. My dear, sweet, lord

We're gonna miss you, Barry. 

Download Siren 5.3.0 for iPhone/iPad or Android now.

 

What Does a Feminist Dating App Look Like?

Go intersectional or go home: Feminism must center the needs of women of color, trans women, disabled women, queer women and working class women—not just affluent, cisgendered white women.

Go intersectional or go home: Feminism must center the needs of women of color, trans women, disabled women, queer women and working class women—not just affluent, cisgendered white women.

'Feminism' is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it means different things to different people. Sometimes it's used to indicate a radical shift in how we think about the world and the way different people experience our place in it. Other times, it's a buzzword to market products that may or may not have anything to do with empowering women. 

Here at Siren, we like to consider ourselves feminists, and on the surface, it might be easy for us to claim to be a 'feminist dating app.' After all—we're a tech company founded by fierce, empowered women of color, aimed at fostering intimacy and undermining the culture of objectification that runs through so many dating apps. But is this enough? 

In light of current national and global political circumstances, we feel it is incumbent on us to declare that no, this isn't enough. Feminism is an ongoing process, not a special club or a badge to wear with pride. So here are a few of the ways we are challenging ourselves to earn the title "feminist dating app," and as always, we welcome your feedback on how we can better fulfill this mission.

Feminism is an ongoing process, not a special club or a badge to wear with pride. [Tweet this]

1. Go Intersectional or Go Home

Too often, the history of feminism that gets shared and remembered is the history of white feminism—white suffragettes, for instance, actively distanced themselves from the struggle for Black liberation when they found that having women of color in their ranks made it more challenging for them to achieve their goals. But in order to work for everyone, feminism must center the needs of women of color, transgender women, disabled women, queer women, and working class women—not just affluent cisgendered white women. 

Intersectionality is a term coined in 1989 by the Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe how oppression can occur along multiple axes depending on who we are and what our circumstances happen to be. For us, intersectionality means actively seeking out the voices of trans women, women of color, and other individuals whose experiences might differ from our own about the specific challenges they face while online dating. As a result of this process, we were one of the first dating apps to offer a nonbinary gender option, and we will will continue to seek out ways to better serve a diverse community of feminists and allies in the future. 

Intersectional feminism must center the needs of everyone—not just affluent cisgendered white women. [Tweet this]

 

2. Recognize the Value of Vulnerability

Researcher Brené Brown has said that "Vulnerability is the core of shame, and fear, and our struggle for worthiness, but it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love." 

Siren's goal has always been to help strangers feel less strange to one another, and that sort of intimacy requires vulnerability. In order to achieve vulnerability, we must have trust, and that's why we've spent so much time and attention making Siren into the sort of community we would want to use ourselves—comfortable, welcoming, and harassment-free

 

3.  Sex Positivity and Consent Culture Go Hand In Hand

Let's be honest: our culture has some pretty messed up ideas about sexuality. Women are often punished for not being sexy enough, and also punished if we enjoy our sexuality too much.  Sex is constantly used in advertising to sell products, and yet sexuality is one of the most difficult subjects for many of us to discuss. Deep shame around our own sexuality and desires makes it difficult for many of us to achieve the vulnerability necessary to connect with others. And so we settle for superficial connections, use alcohol and other drugs to overcome our inhibitions, or—in too many cases—employ less-than-frank communication about what we want—and where our personal limits or boundaries might be. 

Rape culture and misogyny thrive in a society where people do not feel empowered to be open and honest about their desires. This is why first and foremost, Siren would like to foster a culture of conversation. The better we are able to articulate who we are and what we want, the more we will be able to ask for it—and get it. 

The better we are able to articulate what we want, the more we will be able to ask for it—and get it. [Tweet this]

 

4. Empowering Women Transforms the World

In 2015, Kevin O'Leary, star of the investing reality show Shark Tank, made headlines with the claim that the most profitable companies in his portfolio were the companies run by women. A study from the Anita Borg Institute of Women in Computing confirms that on average, Fortune 500 companies that have at least one woman in a leadership position outperform companies that lack female leadership.   

We know that having women in leadership roles is not just a good thing from a diversity perspective; it's also good for business. And yet implicit biases in hiring and ingrained cultural indifference to diversity are still keeping women still keep women largely invisible at the highest levels of tech leadership

We believe that a healthy culture consists of ideas that serve everyone, and that the only way to generate those ideas is to have diverse opinions at the table to begin with.

What does all of this have to do with a dating app? Well, as Unbound CEO Polly Rodriguez told us in our recent interview, "If a woman can ask for what she wants in the bedroom, she can ask for what she wants in the boardroom."  Doesn't that sound like a fun way to change the world? ;)

 

5. Men Can Be Feminists, Too

We get it—all this talk about empowering women can be intimidating for men. Does our emphasis on the struggle for women's liberation mean that we hate men, or respect them any less than our female, or nonbinary members? 

On the contrary. We'll be frank: men, we need you, too. There are conversations that will never catch on with the culture at large without male allies amplifying our voices, and let's be honest—sometimes you guys are sexy as hell, to boot!  

So if you are a man who dates women—or would like to—we're glad you're here, and we have created resources especially with you in mind.  

 

Can an artist-founded, feminist dating app singlehandedly change the world? Maybe not, but we can help you make the connections to make your own revolution possible. Through an emphasis on intersectionality, vulnerability, honesty, empowerment, and inclusivity, we are creating an culture that reflects the ideals of our community, as well as our commitment to leave the online dating space better than we found it. 

Thank you for being a part of this strong, inspiring community!

 

Download Siren 5.3.0 for iPhone/iPad or Android now.

People, Not Profiles: Allison Goldberg and Jen Jamula on Comedy, Dating, and the Internet

Alli and Jen find inspiration in the inherent absurdity of the internet. Photo by Lindsay May Cook. 

Alli and Jen find inspiration in the inherent absurdity of the internet. Photo by Lindsay May Cook. 

Allison Goldberg and Jen Jamula find comedy inspiration in a space many of us take for granted — the internet. Their comedy show Blogologues, where they turn real-world internet weirdness into hilarious stage productions, led Time Out New York to name them among the 10 funniest women in New York City. Now they have a brand new show called How To Break Up By Text, where they analyze real audience text messages to comedic—and therapeutic—effect. 

We caught up with Alli and Jen and asked them some questions in advance of the next performance of How To Break Up By Text this Friday, January 13, at the Peoples Improv Theater. (Find tickets here.) Enjoy!

 

Tell us your story. How did the two of you start working together, and how did you decide to make performing the internet your passion?

We were classmates at Yale, but reconnected a few years after graduation. We were both fascinated with how technology and new media were completely changing the way stories were being told, and we were simultaneously disillusioned with the acting roles available for women. At a certain point, it seemed obvious to us to turn online and start performing the wealth of stories there!

We started Blogologues — our show where we perform internet text -- a few years ago. In the process, we became particularly fascinated and frustrated with how texting is changing communication. Hence our brand new show: How To Break Up By Text.

 

Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie got broken up with on a Post-It? Back then, it seemed so inconsiderate, but at least she didn't get ghosted!

Funny you should mention that — we actually reference that episode in the show! And yes, ghosting is the worst. 

 

How have our standards fallen so far in such a short period of time? Do you think the internet has truly made us worse people, or do you think it has simply amplified behavior patterns that were already there? 

Our standards have definitely fallen far, and very quickly. Texting in particular allows us to take the easy route. Telling someone you’re no longer interested is awkward and difficult; texting — or worse, ignoring them completely — is so much easier. And so that’s what people do nowadays. But that doesn’t make it okay. The easiest route is not necessarily the correct one.

In our show, we use humor — alongside real screenshots of text break ups! — to point out these behaviors. Very occasionally, we think it’s okay to text, or even to ghost — but only extremely early on in the relationship, and when you really feel in your heart of hearts that the recipient would agree with the tactic. Otherwise, we need to remember that people are more than just profiles.

Has the internet made us worse people? It depends on your interpretation of the question. Are we inherently worse? No. But if we judge ourselves by our actions, then yes, we’re worse.

"We need to remember that people are more than just profiles." [Tweet this]

 

In How To Break Up By Text, you analyze real text exchanges by audience members. Is there anything you've learned by doing the show that might be helpful advice for people who are currently navigating the world of online dating?

WHERE TO START?! Here are a few general guidelines, though there are exceptions to the rules, of course:

  • If you’ve only been on one or two online dates, and haven’t even made out, ghost away.
  • If you have a mutual friend, do not ghost.
  • If you’ve been on 1-3 dates, maybe made out — bottom line, if you know the other person is expecting to hear from you — send a text letting them know that you aren’t feeling it after all (as nicely as possible!). This early on, it’s kind of okay; no one wants to be broken up with to their face that early on. So a text can actually be kinder, without leaving the person hanging. 
  • If you’ve been on a few more dates than that, make a damn phone call.
  • If you’ve been seeing each other for, y’know, some time now and are sleeping together, DO NOT BREAK UP BY TEXT. Man/woman/person up. Do it face-to-face.

We have some other rules, including a break-up formula, but you’ll have to see the show for that. :)

 

Those are excellent rules! If everyone followed them, the internet would be a much kinder place. On a lighter note, what's the funniest thing you've ever seen on the internet? 

Oh god, it’s way too inappropriate to mention here. Let’s just say it’s a fan fiction piece.

 

Internet aside, what (or who) inspires you? 

Entrepreneurs! We work out of a tech coworking space, and we joke that techies are the new artists. They’re the ones who look at the world and see something that should exist, and then they create it.

"Techies are the new artists. They see something that should exist, and then create it." [Tweet this] 

 

Visit Blogologues.org to learn more about Alli and Jen's performances and download Siren for iPhone/iPad orAndroid now to read and respond to their questions.

 

Why January Is the Best Month for Online Dating

If there's one thing that warms the chill of winter, it's spending time with someone new.

If there's one thing that warms the chill of winter, it's spending time with someone new.

If you're thinking about giving dating apps a try, there's never been a better time than right now. Most dating apps report a surge of new members during the first half of January, giving you even better chances of finding someone new. Here's why:

January is the best month for online dating. Here's why. [Tweet this]

1. The Holidays Are Over...

Think back to the last few months. Do they seem like a blur? Between the winter holidays, Thanksgiving, Halloween and even election season, many of us have been too busy to worry about dating for a few months. All of this changes as we settle back into the routine of the year. 

 

2. ...But Winter Is Still Cold

Ever since we relocated to New York, we've been hearing lots and lots about "Cuffing Season"—the time of year when everyone feels the urge to cuddle up.  While this particular term belongs to African American Vernacular English, it turns out there are scientific, evolutionary reasons for the coupling urge it describes.  

 

3. New Year, New You

Whether you're making New Year's Resolutions or just taking a renewed interest in things you let slide for the past few months, January is often a month of self-improvement projects. Gym memberships surge; people sign up for classes they've been meaning to take, and dating app profiles that have been gathering dust get new attention. 

 

4. Valentine's Day Is Around The Corner

Remember when we said the holidays were over? We lied. There are always more holidays where those came from. If a date for Valentine's Day is your goal, you have one month to achieve it. (Don't thrive under pressure? Relax...there are other holidays—and weekends, and even regular weekdays—to spend with someone new in the year ahead.)

 

5. You're Not Alone

The best thing about hitting the dating apps in January is that there are many others doing the same thing. Increased traffic means more chances to discover someone you genuinely enjoy spending time with. It only takes a little time each day—time you probably already spend on social media—so what have you got to lose? 

Good luck, and happy dating!

Download Siren 5.3.0 for iPhone/iPad or Android now.

 

 

Lunar Wisdom: Elissa Ball on Feminism, the Tarot, and What to Expect from 2017

Writer and poet Elissa Ball reads Tarot professionally as Hit The Deck Tarot. Photo by Tiffany Ta. 

Writer and poet Elissa Ball reads Tarot professionally as Hit The Deck Tarot. Photo by Tiffany Ta

Our first Question of the Day host of 2017 is Elissa Ball. Elissa is a poet and Tarot reader who writes an astrology column called Space Witch for Seattle Weekly. We asked Elissa some questions about feminism, the Tarot, and what we can expect from the new year, astrologically speaking. Enjoy!

 

Let's start by asking you one of the Questions of the Day you wrote for Siren: How did you discover feminism, or when did you start to think of yourself as feminist?

Reading a speech by Sojourner Truth (“Ain’t I a Woman?”) in fifth grade was my first contact with the concept of feminism. I think it’s important for white women like me to recognize that Women of Color invented feminism, not white Suffragettes or Gloria Steinem. As soon as I began to learn why the women’s rights movement was still necessary (and heard Kurt Cobain call himself a feminist), it made sense to me on a visceral level to join the fight against sexism. I was ready right away.

In sixth grade an older babysitter introduced me to riot grrrl bands and zines. One Olympia band called Heavens to Betsy discussed white privilege in their liner notes and encouraged white folks to read books by authors like bell hooks. That set me down a certain path and helped me understand that women experience sexism differently, not identically. At age 13 I started writing and distributing my own zines . . . which got me into some trouble in junior high. 

Today I think of myself as a gal who is committed to trans-inclusive, sex-positive, intersectional feminism. (By the way: The term “intersectionality” was created by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a Black scholar, in 1989.) As a white cis woman, I mess up all the time and will surely drop the ball again, but I try to listen hard and learn from my mistakes.

"I think it’s important for white women like me to recognize that women of color invented feminism" [Tweet this]

What is the relationship between your feminism and the work you do as a poet, a writer, a Tarot reader?

Lunar wisdom—trusting your intuition—is the cornerstone of feminism, poetry, and the tarot.

Lunar wisdom—trusting your intuition—is the cornerstone of feminism, poetry, and the tarot.

The moon. What I mean is: the moon rules our intuition, emotion, and “irrational” lunar wisdom. Poetry, feminism, and Tarot all value that . . . and are ridiculed for it. An image on a Tarot card or in a poem makes you feel a certain way, though you can’t always express why. You just know.

Lunar wisdom has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with trusting your gut, dreams, and instincts. However, women in particular are frequently discouraged from listening to our inner voice. We’re told: “That guy’s always been a cool dude to me! I don’t see why you think he’s a creep.” Ummm, well I feel unsafe around him. That’s all the proof I need. Flash forward two months later and the guy’s outed as an abuser. Boom!

Feminism, astrology, poetry, and Tarot are all ways of making people feel seen, heard, and believed. When Tarot clients are going through a rough patch and draw Tarot cards that reflect such turbulence—or learn about harsh astrology that’s affecting their suffering—they feel a wave of relief, like: “Thank goodness it’s not all in my head! This sorrow is real.” 

Same thing happens when women share their stories and experiences. Other gals recognize their pain isn’t wholly personal, but rather a systemic problem. When a poet shares their sad-as-hell love poem, the audience feels recognition, relief, and connection. 

All these jobs I do involve tears too. In each realm people are given the freedom to be soft, to show vulnerability. That’s crucial, especially for masculine folks. Crying is vital! I believe that Patriarchy harms us all, and that everyone—regardless of gender—benefits from feminist ideals.

"Feminism, astrology, poetry, and Tarot are all ways of making people feel seen, heard, and believed." [Tweet this]


I look forward to reading your column Space Witch every week. In a nutshell, how do you think astrology informs our dating habits, or the relationships we form?

We’re more than just our Sun sign. Saying “I could never date a Taurus” is silly, because a Taurus might have a Pisces moon and an Aquarius ascendent (rising sign). You yourself might be chock-full of Scorpio and not even know it. Each one of us is a spacey soup of diverse planetary influences. Get a natal chart done for yourself and/or your love interest. Seriously. You can do it online for free and it takes three minutes. Then when you read horoscopes, be sure to read for the big three: sun, rising and moon sign. 

Our moon sign is especially important when it comes to relationships, because the moon shapes our emotional world and our private, innermost realm. Also: The position of Mars and Venus in our natal chart lays the blueprint for how we like to give and receive love. Astrology is useful for predicting preferences and compatibility to a certain extent, sure. But desire is weird and wild. Relationships are opportunities for us to work through past pain, deep fears, and childhood monsters—heck, even past-life trauma. What we have to teach and learn within a one-on-one partnership is Big Stuff. Growth and awareness can feel uncomfortable, but I believe partners are supposed to challenge us. 


Are there any more resources on this subject you recommend for those interested in digging deeper?

My three favorite YouTube astrologers are: Nadiya Shah (Canada), Michele Knight (UK), and Stormie Grace (Colorado). They’re brilliant women who make weekly and monthly astrology videos that are approachable and empowering. 

 

What is your response to people who take a hard skeptical stance toward astrology, or any of the other things you take seriously?

I won’t read cards for pissy skeptics because: a) I know the reading is going to sap my energy and won’t be accurate and b) The skeptic will never get the “evidence” they crave from occult wisdom. People who go out of their way to crap on astrology are usually only interested in feeling superior. Logic makes them feel safe. I love logic and science too, but I don’t waste my time trying to prove that astrology or Tarot are valid tools for living one’s life. ‘Cause you know what? The stuff isn’t science. It’s a language that’s older and wiser than science.  

 

Happy new year! 2016 was hard for a lot of us for a lot of reasons. What do you see on the horizon for 2017? 

Astrologically, 2016 was heavy on emotional cleansing, rinsing old crud from our eyes and closets, questioning outworn belief systems, and thinking anxious thoughts (Am I doing the right thing? What if this is the wrong choice?!). I’ve heard some astrologers refer to 2016 as The Year of the Question Mark. 2017, however, is being called The Year of The Builder. 

This year contains a ton of Fire-sign influences. Fire sparks action, creation, drive, and willpower. Of course fire can also ignite passion and, at times, anger. Politically speaking, 2017 could be a volatile tinderbox. But in our personal lives, we’ll feel fired up and motivated to actually do the things we’ve previously only considered and put off ‘til later. Goodbye, Fear. 2017 is Go Time! With Jupiter stuck in Libra until October, there will continue to be a huge emphasis on relationships and justice. We’re all examining our one-on-one unions of the romantic, friend, family, and career variety. We’re adjusting how we partner with and show up for others. Keep doing that vulnerable but rewarding work! 

 

Who inspires you and why? 

You mean besides Bob Ross? My nana and my sweetie both inspire me to take my professional projects and public roles more seriously: “Sounds like an exciting gig, but will you get paid?”, “Have you finished your deadline yet?!”, “You should apply to this arts grant!”, “How’s that manuscript coming along, Elissa?” Uggh. It’s like they truly care about my well-being and want me to be wildly successful or something. 

I’m kind of a scrappy punk and definitely a Sagittarius, so I naturally prefer spontaneity over planning. “It’ll all fall into place! I’ll fill out that invoice eventually,” I tell myself. But Nana and my squeeze push me to realize there’s real value in respecting structures, timelines, and planning. They encourage me to imagine bigger things for myself as a writer and a witch. Plus they’re both passionate about sports, which forces me to open my mind about jock culture. 

 

Follow Elissa on Twitter & download Siren for iPhone/iPad orAndroid now to read and respond to her questions.

Happy New Year from Team Siren!

Siren's Katrina Hess and Susie Lee rock the photo booth at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women and Computing, 2016

Siren's Katrina Hess and Susie Lee rock the photo booth at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women and Computing, 2016

Time flies when you're hard at work, and here at Siren, 2016 has flown by. 

Our year got off to an exciting start when we welcomed Zillow's Rebekah Bastian to the team in an advisory role. Then came the announcement that Half the World Holdings had invested in Siren, giving us the runway to make drastic improvements to the app, adding features that include member questions and the ability to upload photo responses. In June, we partnered with creative studio Hello Velocity to launch #MoreThanMeat, a viral marketing campaign that got people talking about objectification in popular dating app interfaces. 

The biggest change came in August, when we announced that Siren had been selected for a residency at the New Museum's NEW INC Incubator, and in September, we moved our base of operations to New York. This fall, we were featured on the PBS series START UP and introduced Siren at the world's largest gathering of women in tech, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women and Computing in Houston. More great press came our way from Business InsiderBustle, KUOW, among others. 

2016 was a landmark year of challenges and milestones, and we couldn't have done any of it without our wonderful community of Siren members, our advisors, and our esteemed Question of the Day Hosts, who ask the questions that get our members talking. 

What will 2017 bring? For us, it will mean continuing to refine and improve our product and growing our community through new branding and a nationwide PR campaign. We are proud of where we are and excited about where we're going...and that's a great place to be!

Best wishes for 2017!
The Siren Team


 

"The World Is Huge and Full of Things!" - Donte Parks on Enjoying the Ride

Donte Parks enjoys a light snack behind the decks at Substantial

Donte Parks enjoys a light snack behind the decks at Substantial

This week's Question of the Day host is Donte Parks, VP of Culture at Seattle digital development and design firm Substantial. In addition to his role at Substantial, Donte is a DJ and erstwhile music writer with an unmistakable sense of personal style—which he enthusiastically extends to his dog Jefferson.

Jefferson takes a hard earned break from saving the day. (Photo by Donte Parks)

Jefferson takes a hard earned break from saving the day. (Photo by Donte Parks)

We asked Donte some questions about tech culture, fashion, and his firmly held conviction that West Side Story is the best musical of all time. Enjoy!

 

You're the VP of Culture at Substantial. What is a VP of Culture, and why is it something a company should have?

The competition for good people in tech is very real. Employees know they could work anywhere they want and (smart) employers realize that too. So what do you do? You try to make your company the sort of place where the people you want want to work. And that's what I do as VP of Culture; I work to make Substantial the best environment it can be for the people we have working for us. That means I engage with all parts of the company, working on everything from marketing to recruiting & retention to architecture & interior design. I also manage many of our relationships with outside organizations, whom we support in various ways with sponsorships, event hosting, speaking engagements and however else we can.

While not every company specifically needs a VP of Culture, every company needs someone that's concerned with company culture matters at a high level. Culture is the only thing a company can compete with that is truly unique. Perks can be copied, salaries can be matched, creating software is creating software (to an extent), so what's left is that glue that makes people want to work somewhere - company culture, that combination of values and how those are demonstrated. It helps you get the people you want and to keep them once you have them. 

Recruiting people is expensive. Turnover and onboarding is expensive. Unmotivated employees are expensive. Focusing on culture helps to save money in the long run. On top of that having a team full of aligned individuals makes the workplace operate better as a whole. 

That said, I'm actually fine with companies ignoring culture. It makes it that much easier to convince their employees they want to come to Substantial!

 

So, there's a stereotype that young people in tech jobs—particularly young men—don't always have the most inspired taste in clothing, music, food, and so on. Why do you think that is? What's your advice for guys who would like to start cultivating a sense of personal style? 

This is actually a tricky question to answer, at least with any brevity. I also don't think I have any right to judge someone else's interests. If they're more inspired by things that aren't music, food, fashion, etc., more power to them. Just do you.

Now to actually answer the question.

I think the stereotype is self-reinforcing, with some "tech geeks" embracing the "tech geek" identity wholesale and never looking beyond that. That was certainly true in college, where many of my engineering school classmates mocked the liberal arts students for learning culture and not definitive skills. That sort of breadth isn't necessarily valued when doing a problem set, so why cultivate it? I think some people don't get beyond approaching the world in those utilitarian terms, since tech jobs can be equally quantitative or binary (it works or it doesn't). And thus some folks end up with food as simply sustenance, clothes as an alternative to nudity, music as an alternative to silence, etc. 

And I think that's the real issue. I think in keeping a narrow world view some don't take the time to find out what really inspires them. The world is huge and full of things! Go explore and find those things you like and go deep once you find them. You have to eat anyway - try something different. Like video games? What is it about games that grabs you? Is it the music? The artwork? The strategy? What's the inspiration behind your favorite games? Find out. The key is realizing that there's a huge world to explore - be open to it. As you do that you'll figure out what works for you. Discovering personal taste is a journey of self-discovery. Enjoy the ride.

As that relates to clothes/fashion, the same openness applies. Try something new. You don't even have to go far from where you are. The key is intentionality. Want to wear t-shirts? That's fine, but what is the "next and better" version of that? Vintage? Specific designers? Better fabrics? Different colors? Adjusting fit? It's not about money, it's about figuring out what you really like and finding how to achieve that. Over time apply that same process to the rest of what you wear from your shoes to your winter hat. You don't have to become a fashionista, you just have to care enough to make what you wear an actual choice, not an act of utility.

"Discovering personal taste is a journey of self-discovery. Enjoy the ride." [Tweet this]

 

What are the qualities you find most attractive in other people?

There's a point at the intersection of smart, funny, and geeky trivia that gets me, usually in presenting some nugget of information in an interesting way (doesn't even matter on what topic). It's usually some benign moment that reveals how someone's brain works and what's in there beyond the usual trying to impress someone new. 

For example, I can tell you the exact moment when my girlfriend really caught my interest. We were texting after the party where we met (and danced) and she said "you've got that oogum boogum." She asked if I knew the song that was referring to, and I didn't (Brenton Wood's "The Oogum Boogum Song," a soul hit from 1967). I'm a music geek, so the combination of knowing this song I didn't know, referring to it in casual conversation, and the fact that we'd had a great time dancing just brought it all together. Not to mention she looked great in her pencil skirt.

 

What single piece of clothing that you own best captures your personality, and why?

I have a gray wool cardigan from J Crew that I've owned for a decade or so now. There's nothing particularly fancy about it, it's a little abrasive, and it's starting to show its age. Having said that it's probably my favorite piece of clothing on account of its versatility, something I can wear over a button down and look like a professional or wear over a t-shirt to lounge around. It adapts to the situation and I like to think I do the same, switching context from Doing Business Things to walking the dog without much fuss. It's also ridiculously comfortable, getting softer with age. I wouldn't describe myself as cozy, but I do think I've gotten easier to be around over the years.

"I wouldn't describe myself as cozy, but I do think I've gotten easier to be around over the years." [Tweet this]

 

Why do you think West Side Story is the best musical of all time?

West Side Story completely commits. So many other musicals exist with a wink and a nod, in on the joke about how silly and campy the entire production is, but from the opening Jets v. Sharks number West Side Story goes all in. It is completely earnest in its amplified reality and that sets it apart from the rest. Add in Rita Moreno being absolutely amazing and c'mon, there's just no competition (although I'm willing to hear the arguments for some of Gene Kelly's oeuvre).

 

What would most surprise the five year-old you about the person you have become?

I can eat any breakfast cereal I want at any time of day, and most days I opt for oatmeal or yogurt. Five year-old me would be so disappointed.

 

Follow Substantial on Twitter & download Siren for iPhone/iPad orAndroid now to read and respond to Donte's questions.

Self Love and Other Radical Acts: Erin Frost on the Art of Opening Up

Erin Frost, still from "That Which Has Been Your Delight." 

Erin Frost, still from "That Which Has Been Your Delight." 

This week's Question of the Day host is Seattle artist Erin Frost, who makes work that revels in its own vulnerability.  Unlike static portraiture, which often aims to capture a singular iconic moment, Frost's video self-portraits are an ongoing negotiation with time. Flowers bloom and decay, their fragile beauty made more vivid by the temporality of their presence. The artist's body follows suit, in imperceptibly slow motion.

We asked Erin some questions about vulnerability, self-portraiture and devotion, and her responses are every bit as tender and powerful as her images. Enjoy!

 

What aspects of another person make a good first impression on you?

The first things I notice about someone is eye contact, and if they smile easily. I’m drawn to people that have an ease about them, that aren’t afraid to reveal themselves, that are comfortable in their own skin. If we’ve just met and can make each other laugh, then we’re off to a good start.

"If we’ve just met and can make each other laugh, then we’re off to a good start." [Tweet this]

We tend to think of selfies as something very contemporary, but many art historians believe that paleolithic Venus figurines—some of the most ancient representations of the human form—might have actually been self portraits. What have you learned about yourself by making photos and videos that incorporate your body? Is there something in particular that these images communicate, beyond their beauty and formalism?

The world's first selfies? Some art historians believe that paleolithic Venus figurines were self portraits. 

The world's first selfies? Some art historians believe that paleolithic Venus figurines were self portraits. 

It makes sense that first (and ongoing) representations would be from the POV of self, that is how we know the world. It’s telling that the assumption has been that these early figures were representations of how women were viewed vs. women viewing themselves. Looking at more current works, women’s self portraiture through film, video, performance, etc. is fascinating. Exposing and documenting vulnerable bodies, empowered bodies, and reclaiming the gaze. 

I think about this a lot, why do we create this work, I mean why do we create anything at all? Why this incessant drive to communicate? To share ourselves? The answers are beyond me, but I do know that I create primarily out of compulsion. I’m comfortable in the fact that I usually don’t know what it is I’m after, and let myself produce from a place of intuition. I use myself for my work because it’s the most intimate way I can create- speaking from this point of view, this space I inhabit. Using this temporal body while I have access; exploring transformation, documenting both reality and heightened states of sensuality and self. Expressing true and constructed realities. 

For a time this work might have been more out of self preservation, a testament to my presence. But now it’s become more about letting things unfold; exploring transformation, giving in to mysteries, investigating beauty and impermanence.

"Why do we create anything at all? Why this incessant drive to communicate? To share ourselves?" [Tweet this]

 

According to the researcher Brené Brown, the happiest, most connected people are those who are able to embrace vulnerability. How do you embrace vulnerability in your life? In your art?

Thank you for asking this question! Brené Brown has come up in conversation recently but this question was the catalyst for starting to investigate her. I watched one of her TED Talks this morning and she said “To feel vulnerable is to be alive," we can either push this away or we can embrace it. We can be courageous in our connections, accepting of our flaws, and believe we are worthy of love.

The last few years have taught me a lot about vulnerability. I think being open to grief, (and by open I mean really investigating it, sitting with the hard stuff) is a potent way to learn about ourselves, our capability. Knowing the depth of our grief is a perfect reflection of the depth of our capacity for love and pleasure. They’re forever linked and accepting both is really accepting ourselves. That’s what I’ve been learning. Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand, in life and in art. 

I’d like to think that in my life I practice vulnerability by being open, I show much more of myself now. I want us to really see each other. Life and art aren’t always easily distinguishable for me, there’s a lot of overlap. But I do try to create from a place of self acceptance and honesty. I’m giving platform to facets of myself, creating from a place without fear, without edit. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but when it comes through it feels amazing. It’s a work in progress.

"Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand, in life and in art." [Tweet this]
Cherry blossoms: beautiful, fleeting, blooming with abandon.

Cherry blossoms: beautiful, fleeting, blooming with abandon.

Earlier this year I had a tincture made at Sugar Pill that I call a “Love Potion.” A main ingredient was the essence of Cherry Blossom for the reason that they bloom with abandon. These petals capture us because of their intensity and their fleeting nature. They explode in bloom without fear of what comes next. And isn’t that what vulnerability is? Isn’t that a beautiful lesson of learning to love ourselves, and in turn, others? And isn’t living with love, with openness, a radical act? 

 

"Isn't living with love, with openness, a radical act?" [Tweet this]

How do you define ‘love’?

The answer is maybe beyond my scope, is it definable? It's intangible, a mystery in so many ways. But I believe it's paramount to human experience. It's an action, a practice. It's an energy that fuels our sense of belonging. It is something I have always believed is the fundamental point of my existence.

Do you think making art can be an act of devotion?

Yes, completely. Devotion is a beautiful word and it makes me think of the divine, acts of connectedness, acts of love. I think there’s devotion to creativity and devotion to self. Creating is, in many ways, exploring the divine self, and finding ways to express these findings. 

What are your favorite smells?

I love earthy smells; wet soil, fleeting lilac in the spring, the way my skin smells when it’s been soaking up sun. I also really love smells of familiarity, the way those close to me smell. Some of my favorite smells are those that conjure memory - and I love that I forget what these are until those magical moments when it happens.

What is something interesting about you that almost no one knows?

I’m a natural blonde.


Whoa, really?

Haha, no. 

 

Visit Erin Frost's website to learn more about her work & download Siren for iPhone/iPad or Android now to read and respond to her questions.

 

 

 

Cold Weather Got You Ready to Settle In With Someone New? Here's How to Find Them.

Oh the weather outside is...um, who cares what's outside?!

Oh the weather outside is...um, who cares what's outside?!

It's that time of year again. (No, not just the holidays, though we have you covered for those too.)

Winter is the perfect time for spending time indoors with someone special. Surveys suggest that people of all genders are more likely to want a serious relationship in the winter than any other time of year, which makes the next few months a potential dating jackpot if you approach them strategically.

We've heard a lot of people refer to this phenomenon as "cuffing season," a term that originated in African American Vernacular English. Whatever you call this time of year, there is evolutionary science to back it up. Earlier in our history, being coupled up during the winter months—when food and resources were scarce—increased the survival chances for offspring, establishing evolutionary roots for this feeling.

So if the cold weather's got you hankering for a more-than-casual snuggle buddy, you're not alone.  Here's our advice for making the most of this time of year. 

 

1. Make Time for Dates

The holidays are a hectic time of year for everyone, but that's no reason to give up on dating. The easiest way to find out if you have chemistry with someone is to meet up in real life, so make sure you're making an effort to write and respond to messages, and taking things offline. Remember that no one is going to fall into your lap without some effort on your part (unless of course you're Santa).

 

2. Make the Holidays Work In Your Favor

How? By taking advantage of all the holiday activities that only come around once a year. Take a walk to look at the colored lights, or make a date to go ice skating. Even inviting someone to go gift shopping with you can be a fun way to get to know someone while you work on a project together.  

 

3. Attend Holiday Parties

You know that random Christmas party you've been half-dreading? Maybe there will be cute single people there! If you're feeling adventurous, offer to attend your friends' holiday parties as their +1. There are parties everywhere you look this time of year, so get out there and score some invites.

 

4. Volunteer

The holidays are a perfect time to seek out opportunities to help people who could use a hand. Volunteering is a natural mood booster, and it's a great way to meet people who care about the same issues you do. 

 

Even if you follow our advice to the letter, there's no guarantee you'll find your special snowflake this winter. The important thing is to not get discouraged. Check in with friends who can identify with what you're going through. Remember that this is something that nearly everyone has experienced at some time in their lives, and you are not alone.  

Good luck and happy dating!

Download Siren 5.3.0 for iPhone/iPad or Android now.

How to Be the Life of the Party: Dan Paulus on Love, Music, and When to Wear a Cape

Dan Paulus and friends. Photo by Lauren Max.

Dan Paulus and friends. Photo by Lauren Max.

Some people are the life of the party. And then some people are the party. This week's Question of the Day host Dan Paulus is one of those people. (If you need evidence, keep your eyes and ears peeled for a rare appearance by his one-man Misfits tribute band DAN'Z ID.) 

If you're involved in Seattle's art scene, you probably know Dan as the art director of City Arts Magazine. He's also a musician, avid music fan, and a lifelong resident of the Seattle area, a position that affords him a rare perspective on local history.

We got a glimpse of what makes Dan tick by having him answer some of our past Questions of the Day. Enjoy!

What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
I don't drink coffee, so hot shower is all I got.

What one thing that you wear best captures who you are? How?
The Dracula cape my mom made for me in 4th grade. I wear it to weddings and special performances.

Give your current haircut a name.
When I first cut it this way my friend said it looked like an '80s Australian skater,' so that.

What do you say when people ask you where you're from?
'Burien, bred and spread.'

Do you have a collection, and if so, what is it and why?
I don't consider myself a collector, but I have around 1200 records. Also 20+ guitars and as many keyboards. More of a hoarder, really.

What song could have been written for you?
Hot Love by Cheap Trick

What is the most unusual compliment you have ever received?
"Are you a boxer?" 
No. 
"Are you a wrestler?" 
No. 
"....you look like a big guy...but you're just a little guy!"

What is the best part about getting older?
The family expects less of a production around Christmas.

What's your stance on selfies?
They're a good way to make yourself look really uninteresting.

Name one thing you think the world needs more of.
Shoulder rubs.

What is your go-to karaoke song?
Still of the Night by Whitesnake has gotten a pretty good reaction lately. Viva Forever and When 2 Become 1 by Spice Girls are old faves.

When was the last time a piece of art moved you? What was it and why?
Watching Joe Ross play drums for Bad Future on the night of the snowfall made me feel very alive. Go see him play at your earliest convenience.

What's your zodiac sign? Do you think the characteristics of your sign describe you?
Virgo. When people find out they say "Oh, I knew it, you are such a perfectionist!" Which I am in many things. I'm also the biggest slob in the world. "Oh, that must be because of your moon sign!" And then at some point they mention my rising sign and I just think 'You mean everybody is just a mishmash of conflicting characteristics? Huh, who woulda thought?'

What's a significant music related memory in your life?
In high school I was visiting my friend Gary where he worked at the 5 Corners Baskin-Robbins. When they closed up his older coworker Bill gave me a ride home in his early-70s muscle car. He offered me a bong hit on the way, which I didn't have much experience with. I took the hit just as he was zooming over the crest of a hill and all the blood went to my head in some sort of negative-G situation and I was instantly high af. He dropped me off at my parents' and I beelined for my bedroom, laid down on my bed with the lights off and turned on the clock radio by my head. Scorpions The Zoo was just finishing up with the fade out that has all the street noises. It only lasts 30 seconds or so, but it just seemed to go on and on and I was completely transported into that urban scene, and things were never the same since.

What's your favorite non-English word or phrase?
'¿donde es baño?'

How would someone go about seducing you in only eight words?
"Nice multiball! Now I will sit on you."

Is a "multiball" having more than one pinball going at once?
Yes. The Indiana Jones game at Twilight Exit is amazing, cuz when you hit the 'ark multi' it flushes four balls straight down the table while auto launching another four, and it feels like getting caught in a Florida downpour, all chaos and scramble.

OK, because it sounds kinda like an alien thing.
It ain't alien to me!

Anyone who knows me knows I love __________.
Paulus likes to rock now, yes he does, yes he does...

What does it take to be the life of the party?
Love of humanity, propensity to dance, and a really good record collection

Follow City Arts on Twitter & download Siren for iPhone/iPad or Android now to read and respond to Dan's questions.

 

 

Fear, Love, and the Ineffable Appeal of a Great Game: A Conversation With Nick Bentley

Neurobiologist-turned-game designer Nick Bentley

Neurobiologist-turned-game designer Nick Bentley

This week's Question of the Day host is Nick Bentley, cofounder of Move38, an innovative company that creates electronic, interactive board games. 

What are the essential qualities for a great game?

This one's tough because different types of games are designed for different effects: a party game should help you laugh and/or feel close to others, where a strategy game should create a labyrinth of thought for you get lost in.

One of the fascinating things about designing games is you can do everything "right" in designing and still end up with a dud. Great games have a magic-fairy-dust aspect, something ineffable, which animates them ways hard to explain from their rules. I think this means there are significant aspects of human psychology we still don't understand, as they relate to games. But as long as that's true, it's hard to say that any particular qualities are essential. There are certain games that ignore everything that seems important to me about games and they're still great. 

"Great games have a magic-fairy-dust aspect, something ineffable..." [Tweet this]

Great games have a magic-fairy dust aspect...yes! I love that. You can't predict what's going to create great chemistry, or force it.  So what's your favorite game? What do you love about it?

Since I've referenced both party games and strategy games, I'll list my favorite of each kind. My favorite strategy game is called Slither. It's a deep, luckless, themeless game for two players played with components from another game, the ancient game of Go. I find trying perceive the state of the board and to project future moves to be an almost hallucinatory experience - powerfully visual.

My favorite party game is one I designed, called Stinker, which I designed for my wife (Stinker is an anagram of her name: Kristen). The story of its design is really a love story. It's a game where each player has a jumble of letter tiles and they have to answer silly questions (like: "What's under the Pope's hat?") by arranging their letters into answers. Because you never have exactly the letters you want, you end up accidentally creating weirdo answers that tend to be funny. The resulting humor is Monty Python-esque (you can see examples of answers I've seen in games here).

One criticism that has been lobbed at certain dating sites is their tendency to "gamify" dating; making it more about swiping or collecting than connecting. Do you think this tendency is inherently bad? What would the ideal dating app look like, from your perspective? 

I think most attempts at gamification are wrongheaded, in dating and elsewhere. As Ian Bogost says:

For better or worse, designers have borrowed lessons from games for product and service design. Unfortunately, the features they tend to choose are either the least interesting aspects of games (points, levels, rewards, and other incidental measures of progress) or else they’re the most insidious (partial reinforcement and other models of behavioral economics).
 
In truth, the most useful lesson to take away from games doesn’t have much to do with games at all. It’s just easier to see the lesson inside of games than outside them.
 
That lesson is that things are most compelling when they are allowed to be exactly what they are. And they’re even more compelling the more they are exactly what they are. That means that the designer’s job is to make things even more what they already are.


 
One thing that frustrates me about most dating apps is they seemed designed to create distance between people when the goal must somehow be fundamentally to create openness and intimacy. The gamification stuff seems to exacerbate this disconnect. 

"Most dating apps seem designed to create distance, when the goal must be openness and intimacy." [Tweet this]


The modern dating app sells itself as a portal to your happiness, but I think the big breakthrough will be when it figures out how to be a portal through which to contribute to the happiness of others. The best dating apps are the ones that take the focus away from evaluating others for personal gain and puts it on shared, fulfilling experiences. That feels more right to me.

Likewise, I've always wanted an app which does the following: I input the three things about which I'm most passionate, and whenever anyone within 50 feet of me shares one of those passions, the app tells me and guides me to them so we can strike up a conversation. It wouldn't be a dating app per se, but I bet it would create a lot of connections for people, some of them sexytime connections.      

Aside from shared passions, what do you look for in a relationship, or potential relationship?

I think I've learned not to look for specific things, nor put direct effort into trying to date. Never worked for me. Instead I've had success working on myself (physically and mentally) and trying to cultivate a healthy social life in general. I know this is frustratingly indirect but it's the only thing that's ever worked me. I didn't meet my wife while I was specifically looking for anyone. She said hello one day while I was waiting for take-out and I was gone. But that wouldn't have happened if I weren't in a good place at the moment we met. 

As with games, I think people are defined more by their "fairy dust" than by any list of qualities one could muster. If someone does it for you, that's the important bit. Your subconscious+body knows what it's looking for better than your conscious mind does (though I do let my conscious mind intervene on very basic practical matters: I probably wouldn't date someone with a serious meth addiction even if we connected totally, out of self-preservation).

Also: there's a famous study suggesting that if two people gaze into each other's eyes long enough (even two randomly chosen people in an experimental setting), there's a surprisingly high chance they'll fall for each other as a result. This suggests that there are many people we could fall for if we give them the right kind of chance. So it's important to give others lots of real, in-the-flesh chances. The act of really LOOKING at someone, with your whole heart, is pretty powerful. This circles back to your question about dating apps, many of which effectively discourage that kind of openness by encouraging trait-based pickiness, and also avoiding meatspace.  

"The act of really LOOKING at someone, with your whole heart, is pretty powerful." [Tweet this] 

Thinking about this, if I were to ever date again, I would like an app where going out on real, physical dates was somehow compulsory. There are a lot of problems that would have to be solved to make that happen, no doubt.  

I read a blog post where you argue that imaginative play is important for us to feel healthy and creative, but that fear can be a hindrance to playful exploration. As a result, so many things that are associated with frivolous play, from improv classes to Burning Man, tend to be dominated by privileged people. In reading that, I immediately started thinking about how startup culture is so dominated by white men, because these are the people who can "afford" to spend time pursuing their dreams. 

As a person pursuing your dream job in tech, do you have any ideas as to how to help stem that cultural tide? Do you think a different attitude toward "play" could help build the utopian society of the future?

I'm one of those white men. I've had so many breaks in life I'm embarrassed about it. I've occasionally actively sabotaged myself and STILL come up roses, because someone gave me some undeserved break. Sometimes I feel like I'm in one of those stories where someone makes a deal with the devil, lives it up for a while, and then the check comes due. Part of me is waiting for that check. That thought helps keep me on the straight and narrow and trying not to lean on my privilege as much as I probably could.

But to your question: I suggest in my essay that fear is the main hindrance to play. Fear is the thing. I wonder what governance would look like if legislators prioritized helping people feel less fear. I'm interested in the concept of the Universal Basic Income because I think it might help free people from fear, and thereby unlock creative potential.

I also wish meditation could somehow become a broad societal norm. I used to be a neurobiologist, and seeing the EEGs of longtime meditators left me a believer. People really can train themselves to feel love and not feel fear, to a stunning degree. If I were education czar I would absolutely make meditation a required and significant part of every public school student's day.

"People really can train themselves to feel love and not feel fear, to a stunning degree." [Tweet this]

Thank you so much for talking with us, Nick. I'm inspired to go meditate now! :)

Follow Move38 on Twitter & download Siren 5.3.0 for iPhone/iPad or Android now to read and respond to Nick's questions.

 

Brené Brown on the Power of Vulnerability

"The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection." - Brené Brown

"The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection." - Brené Brown

Ever wonder how some people are able to move through life with a strong sense of love and belonging, while others struggle for it? Watch this excellent TED Talk from researcher-storyteller Brené Brown, who digs deep into the data to reveal the secrets of a group she calls the "wholehearted," people who are able to make meaningful connections through their embrace of vulnerability.

Brown's discovery began when she started looking for the differences between people in these two groups:

There was one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it, and that was that people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy.
The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection. [Tweet this]

Another word for this fear that we're not worthy of connection is shame, and Brown argues that vulnerability is the source of shame, as well as joy. The difference is whether we're afraid of our vulnerability, or whether we are able to embrace it. 

Vulnerability is the core of shame, and fear, and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.

If shame, or our belief that we are not worthy, is what prevents us from feeling connected, how can we go about overcoming that belief? Brown offers concrete, data-driven advice that we can all use:

 

1. Have Courage

Courage gives us the strength to see ourselves as we truly are, and to allow ourselves to be deeply seen by others. "The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart," Brown explains. "In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant 'To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.' Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad."

 

2. Have Compassion

Elsewhere in her work, Brown states, "I think compassion is a deeply held belief that we're inextricably connected to each other." Compassion is the power to be kind to others, but also to be kind to ourselves. Through her research, Brown has discovered that the people who have the most compassion also tend to be those with the best boundaries: a strong, internal sense of what's ok and what's not ok.  These boundaries give us the strength to make compassion sustainable, by defining what we'll give and what we won't give. As for people who test our compassion, Brown advocates making the generous assumption that people are doing the best they can. "I'll never know whether people are doing the best they can or not, but when I assume they are, it makes my life better." 

 

3. Feel Gratitude

Sometimes the things in our life that makes us feel the most vulnerable are the things that instill the most fear. Instead of letting fear take over, Brown advocates the mindful practice of gratitude and joy in moments of vulnerability: "I'm grateful to feel this vulnerable, because it means I'm alive." 

 

4. Realize That You Are Enough

This can be one of the hardest things for people who are self-critical, but the embrace of vulnerability demands that we try to be content in who we are, "because when we work from a place that says 'I'm enough,' we stop screaming and start listening. We're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves." 

A Dating App For People Who Hate Dating Apps

Online dating malaise: Where would comedians be without it? (photo by Katrina Hess)

Online dating malaise: Where would comedians be without it? (photo by Katrina Hess)

A couple weeks ago, we attended an open mic night at a comedy club in New York City. In the span of an hour, we saw six different comedians. All six of them had a bit about online dating.

Dating apps are as hated as they are ubiquitous. Everyone uses them, but everyone complains about them.

Why do we use dating apps? Because we crave connection, and online dating is one of the easiest ways to meet new people. According to a Pew research poll, the number of people using dating apps has more than tripled since 2013, and is growing quickly.

"Dating apps are as hated as they are ubiquitous. Everyone uses them, but everyone complains about them."  [Tweet this]

Simply put, we're on dating apps because that's where everyone else is. And yet most of these apps leave so much to be desired. The process of filling out a profile feels like you're marketing yourself. Judging people based on looks feels objectifying. And unfortunately most dating apps are a hotbed for harassment

So if you find yourself obsessively using dating apps despite *hating* dating apps, you're not alone. 

When we founded Siren, we wanted to create something a bit more user friendly. A dating app people might actually enjoy using. A dating app for people who hate dating apps, so to speak.

"If you find yourself obsessively using dating apps despite *hating* dating apps, you're not alone." [Tweet this]

We started by asking ourselves, "When are we at our most attractive?" Is it when we're trying to find the most flattering angle for our selfies; filling out lists of vital stats? Or is it when we're opening up; talking about the things that are important to us? 

We believe in the power of conversation to help us make new connections. 

Incidentally, this is one reason many of us can't tear ourselves away from social media. Not only is it where many of us get news and information, it's a place where conversations happen, and where new friendships are forged around common interests. It's why Twitter users often joke that Twitter is their favorite dating app

While flirting on social media might be socially acceptable in certain contexts, sometimes it can be difficult to discern whether that flirting is mutually consensual. Siren removes the awkwardness by creating a fun, conversational dating app that combines what we love about social media with the excitement of connecting with someone new. Every day brings new questions—and hilarious new answers that are entertaining to read on their own.

So if you've ever found yourself using dating apps despite *hating* dating apps—or wishing you could just give up on dating apps and use Twitter for dating—you are cordially invited to give Siren a try. It's a social discovery platform where personality comes first, and your sense of humor will get you noticed. The ability to take a hot selfie is great, but images can be hard to live up to. It's far more fun to meet people who are interested in who you are, not just how you present yourself. 

Download Siren 5.3.0 for iPhone/iPad or Android now.