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OpenLearn Live: 25th July 2016

Updated Monday 25th July 2016

A bus ride that took a country in a new direction and Yahoo gets sold. Free learning from across the day.

OpenLearn Live connects your world with the worlds of learning and research. This page will be updated across the day.

On Friday, we heard how drones might save ferrets, completed a week of birthdays and discovered holes in HIV statistics

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Yahoo! gets! sold! A short reading list

If you've been online as long as OpenLearn Live has, you'll be able to remember a time before Google. Chances are, in those dark days when you had to dial up the internet, you would have used Yahoo! to navigate your way around the web. It's possible your first web-based email address was a Yahoo mail one; and maybe Yahoo Groups or Yahoo lists was your first taste of social networking.

Yahoo has been struggling in recent years, and now, after two decades of swallowing up competitiors it, too, has become food for a larger predator. Marissa Mayer took to Tumblr to announce the sale of the company to US telecoms company Verizon.

And if you're thinking "the microblogging network Tumblr has many strengths, but it's not where I'd have gone to make a financial statement, you're not alone. In fact, that's part of Yahoo's problem - it bought Tumblr hoping to make it a place of commerce rather than just a place of awkwardly-timed penis shots and TV-based memes.

At the time of purchase, Meyer promised to "not screw up" Tumblr while driving it on a road to monetisation. Tumblr has continued to grow, but... well, the cash hasn't rolled in. Having paid USD1.1billion for it in 2013, Yahoo ended up writing off half that cash.

Still, Verizon sees enough value in Yahoo as a whole to have paid USD4.8bn for the company.

The Drum wonders if we might be seeing the bursting of a second internet bubble - the end of overhyped prices for ad-based tech companies:

If we take the analysis of Luma Partners into consideration, i.e. that the number of ad tech companies on the market will shrink from thousands to hundreds within years, then the market dynamics of over-supply, plus lack of differentiated tech will like the drive price of any exit south.

High profile downgrades like Yahoo’s Tumblr faux pas are unlikely to buoy valuations, and surely won’t help Yahoo’s own negotiation position in its ongoing sales meetings.

What’s clear is that as we assign the era of ‘programmatic 1.0’ to history, and move into the next differentiation will be key to survival in the ad tech space, not just success.

Forbes places the blame on bad leadership:

In other words, Yahoo desperately needed a change of direction and an entirely new strategy the day Ms. Mayer showed up. Only, unfortunately, she didn’t provide either. Instead Ms. Meyer offered, at best, a series of fairly meaningless tactical actions. Changing Yahoo’s home page layout, cancelling the company’s work-from-home policy and hiring Katie Couric, amidst a string of meaningless and questionable acquisitions, were the business equivalent of CEO fiddling while Rome burned. Tinkering with the tactics of an outdated success formula simply ignored the fact that Yahoo was already well on the road to irrelevancy and needed to change, dramatically, quickly.

But as Forbes concedes, Meyer was handed a business that was already a bag of laundry. Could this be an example of the glass cliff - as described by the University of Exeter's Psychology Department:

The glass cliff is a program of research investigating the context in which women (and other minorities) are appointed into leadership positions. This research suggests that women tend to be appointed to leadership positions under very different circumstances than men. More specifically, this research suggests that women are more likely to be appointed to leadership positions that are associated with an increased risk of criticism and failure. Women's leadership positions can thus be seen as more precarious than those of men. Extending the metaphor of the 'glass ceiling' and the 'glass elevator', we have dubbed this phenomenon 'the glass cliff'. The following sections summarise archival and experimental investigations into the glass cliff phenomenon to date.


In a first study (Ryan & Haslam, in prep, Study 1) participants (graduate business students) were asked to indicate who they thought should fill a vacant executive board position in a company that was described as having either increasingly good or increasingly bad performance. Participants were given descriptions of three candidates for the position, a male and a female candidate who were equally well-qualified, and a third male candidate who was clearly not suitable for the job. Consistent with findings from archival studies, participants saw the female candidate as being significantly more appointable when the company's performance was said to be decreasing, than when it was increasing.

Syrian medics move into caves

In Syria, medical centres have - despite the protection of the Geneva Convention - become targets. Resourceful medics have come up with a solution:

SAMS wanted to build the hospital in a city in one besieged area, Sahloul tells SciDev.Net. “But people in the city told them: ‘No way are you going to build a hospital inside the city because that means we will be targeted.’” So the organisation moved it away from the city and dug it deep into the heart of a mountain, where the emergency rooms and intensive care units are served by a 24-metre ventilation shaft.

Read the full article: Why are caves being used as hospitals in Syria?

On the buses: The Rosa Parks bus

On TV this week, we're celebrating trains - with Full Steam Ahead. In order to give a sense of balance, OpenLearn Live is going to focus on that other stalwart of public transport networks, the bus. Every morning this week, we'll be climbing aboard some buses of significance.

We're starting with this bus, built in 1948 by General Motors. It's famous not for where it went, or the route it ran, but for what happened upon it.

The bus on which Rosa Park refused to move to the back, starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott Creative commons image Icon Roderick Eime under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license

On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks was returning from work when she boarded the bus. America was a nation in which racial segregation was not only prevelant, but had been given legal blessing. African Americans were obliged to travel at the back of Alabama buses and Rosa, dutifully, walked down the bus to sit in the area allowed for passengers who were not white. The bus continued to fill, though, and the driver, J Fred Blake, ordered those sitting at the front of the "colored section" to move down further still, so that white customers could have those seats, too.

Rosa Parks sat tight.

The police were called; Rosa was arrested.

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey after being arrested for boycotting public transportation Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Associated Press Rosa Parks being fingerprinted

She wasn't the first person to have been arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up seats - Claudette Colvin, a fifteen year old girl, had been convicted for refusing to give up her seat to a white person earlier in the year.  Claudette's case had already created a desire by some civil rights activists to have a boycott of the buses - most notably within the Women's Political Council. Their leader Jo Ann Robinson saw Rosa's treatment as the moment to act:

The Women’s Political Council will not wait for Mrs. Parks’s consent to call for a boycott of city buses. On Friday, December 2, 1955, the women of Montgomery will call for a boycott to take place on Monday, December 5

A flier was printed and distributed:

Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down. It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped. Negroes have rights, too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negroes, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother. This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.

The bus boycott started to take on a life of its own, spreading from one day - and with a set of coherent demands. Martin Luther King gave his blessing:

In his memoir, Stride Towards Freedom, Martin Luther King tabulates the original aims:

(1) courteous treatment by the bus operators was guaranteed; (2) passengers were seated on a first-come, first-served basis – Negroes seating from the back of the bus toward the front while whites seated from the front toward the back; (3) Negro bus operators were employed on predominantly Negro routes

As the boycott continued, though, support for the protest saw the demands coalesce into one single rallying cry: no segregation on the buses.

Montgomery's mayor Gayle dug in his heels. He stated:

We are going to hold our stand. We are not going to be a part of any program that will get Negroes to ride the buses again at the price of the destruction of our heritage and way of life

It became clear that this was going to be a question that needed a legal solution, and so the protestors took their case to court:

On June 5, the special panel ruled two to one in favor of the black plaintiffs. Rives’ majority opinion in which Johnson concurred held that the 1954 Brown ruling, which had overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ,”separate but equal” doctrine, applied not only to public schools but to other forms of legalized segregation, including public transportation. The three-judge panel delayed enforcement of its ruling until the city had exhausted its appeals.

It was not until the US Supreme Court had heard the case - and again sided with the protestors - that the bus boycott ended. After 381 days, on December 20th 1956, black Americans once again rode the buses of Montgomery. But this time, they chose where to sit. Segregation was one stop further along the road to history.

Rosa Parks is one of our Real Wonder Women

Watch: Stephen Fry on civil disobedience





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