Why you can’t overlook the small details in the pursuit of innovation

The informal TechCrunch book club reads Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence

This week, we read a very short story, The Great Silence, as we start to head toward the end of Ted Chiang’s Exhalation collection. This story asks questions about how we connect with nature, and also how to think about innovation and where new ideas come from.

We will finish the remaining two stories in the collection in the coming week, and then it will be time (sadly!) to change books. I’ll announce the next book in the book club hopefully shortly.

Some further quick notes:

  • Want to join the conversation? Feel free to email me your thoughts at bookclub@techcrunch.com (we got a real email address!) or join some of the discussions on Reddit or Twitter (hashtag TCBookClub)
  • Follow these informal book club articles here: https://techcrunch.com/book-review/. That page also has a built-in RSS feed for posts exclusively in the Book Review category, which is very low volume.
  • Feel free to add your comments in our TechCrunch comments section below this post.

Reading The Great Silence

This is a quite short story with a simple message. The narrator is a parrot discussing humanity’s quest to seek out artificial life elsewhere in the universe. The parrot, observing these actions, reflects on why humanity spends so much time looking for intelligence elsewhere, when it itself is intelligent, and located right next to us. The devastating line Chiang delivers comes toward the end:

But parrots are more similar to humans than any extraterrestrial species ever will be, and humans can observe us up close; they can look us in the eye. How do they expect to recognize an alien intelligence if all they can do is eavesdrop from a hundred light-years away?

The author offers us some obvious points to think about around environmental destruction and species extinction, and those are obvious enough that I think any reader can sort of surmise how the story connects to those issues.

So I want to instead connect this discussion to a theme dear to the heart of TechCrunch readers, and that is the quest for science and innovation.

To me, Chiang isn’t just criticizing our disdain for the animal species around us, but is also critiquing an innovation community that constantly strives for the big and “shiny” discoveries when so many smaller and local discoveries have yet to be made.

We invest billions of dollars into satellites and telescopes and radar arrays hoping to capture some fleeting glimpse into an alien world somewhere in the galaxy. And yet, there are deeply alien worlds all around us. It’s not just parrots — Earth is filled with species that are incredibly different from us in physiology, behavior, and group dynamics. What if the species most alien to our own in the whole galaxy is located right under our noses?

Of course, there would be huge headlines in finding even a single-celled organism on another planet (assuming there was even some way to detect such life in the first place). But that is precisely the type of narrow-minded, novelty-seeking behavior that Chiang is pointing out here.

Nonetheless, innovation can be a weird beast. It isn’t hard to look around the Valley these days and be dismayed at just how adrift a huge part of the industry is. We are creating more “smart” products than ever, yet huge social challenges and scientific frontiers remain completely unfunded. It’s easier to raise funding to start up an upgraded handbag company with a new brand and marketing strategy than it is to build an engineering team to push quantum computing forward.

There are certainly many valid arguments for moving our money to more “worthwhile” pursuits. Yet, fresh ideas that change industries can sometimes come from the oddest places, with even frivolous products occasionally creating fundamental advances in technology. Facebook as a social network might be a time sink for its users, but its huge scale also triggered all kinds of new data center infrastructure technologies that have been widely adopted by the rest of the tech industry. Solving a frivolous problem became the means to solving a problem of more depth.

In the end, you need to seek answers. Don’t overlook the obvious around us or get inured to the quotidian challenges that may just be the fount of innovation. Maybe figuring out the communication of parrots does nothing for us. Or maybe, exploring that area will open up whole new ideas for how to communicate and understand the neural patterns of speech. We can’t know until we tread along the path.

Now, to take one aside before we close out: Exhalation is a collection of previously-published short stories, but Chiang manages to work in his arch-symbol of breath and air into this piece in a fairly tight way:

It’s no coincidence that “aspiration” means both hope and the act of breathing.

When we speak, we use the breath in our lungs to give our thoughts a physical form. The sounds we make are simultaneously our intentions and our life force.

It’s a symbol we saw most substantively in Exhalation (the short story itself, not this whole collection) which we talked about a few posts ago. It’s a gorgeous little motif, and Chiang nicely embeds it to create an empathetic connection between humans and animals.

Some question about Omphalos

For the next and penultimate short story Omphalos, here are some questions to think about as you read the story.

  • What is the meaning of belief? How does belief influence both our views on our place in the world and our approaches to science and the scientific method?
  • Does existence and existentialism flow from external symbols or internal rationales?
  • How do religion and science mix? How did Chiang frame this narrative to make this question easier to contend with?
  • The story focuses on the dynamics of archaeology and astronomy — why these two disciplines and not some other field of science?
  • What’s the ultimate message of the story? Or is there more than one that can be read into the text?

FDA allows new diagnostic technologies to test for coronavirus before receiving emergency approvals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said today that it would allow new diagnostics technologies to be used to test for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at elite academic hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country.

The agency’s new initiative comes as critics have assailed various U.S. government agencies for being woefully underprepared to effectively address the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country despite being aware of the potential risks the virus posed since the first cases were reported in Wuhan, China in early December.

As the first diagnosed cases of the new virus appeared in the country, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had conducted only 459 tests. Meanwhile, China had five commercial tests for the coronavirus on the market one month ago and can now conduct up to 1.6 million tests per week. South Korea has tested another 65,00 people so far, according to a report in Science Magazine. Initial tests in the U.S. were hampered by the distribution of test kits which contained a faulty reagent — rendering the kits useless.

The CDC isn’t the only U.S. agency criticized for its mishandling of the response to a potential outbreak. On Thursday a whistleblower complaint was filed against the Department of Health and Human Services alleging that the agency sent over a dozen employees to Wuhan to evacuate American citizens from the country without the proper training or protective gear, as first reported by The Washington Post.

Now, the Food and Drug Administration is opening the doors for research centers across the country to use new technologies that have yet to be approved for emergency use in order to dramatically increase the number of tests healthcare facilities can perform.

“We believe this policy strikes the right balance during this public health emergency,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, in a statement. “We will continue to help to ensure sound science prior to clinical testing and follow-up with the critical independent review from the FDA, while quickly expanding testing capabilities in the U.S. We are not changing our standards for issuing Emergency Use Authorizations. This action today reflects our public health commitment to addressing critical public health needs and rapidly responding and adapting to this dynamic and evolving situation.”

The new policy allows laboratories to begin to use validated COVID-19 diagnostics before the FDA has completed review of the labs’ Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests, the agency said in a statement.

In cases where the Department of Health and Human Services indicates that there’s a public health emergency or a significant potential for a public health emergency, the FDA can issue these EUAs to permit the use of medical products that can diagnose, treat, or prevent a disease. The HHS secretary determined that the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus was just such an emergency on February 4.

So far, the FDA has authorized one EUA for COVID-19 that’s already being used by the CDC and some public health labs, the agency said.

“The global emergence of COVID-19 is concerning, and we appreciate the efforts of the FDA to help bring more testing capability to the U.S.,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD).

Development of new diagnostics tests are handled by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the HHS Office responsible for preparedness and response to health issues.

“This step may reduce development costs, speed the process for availability at more testing sites, incentivize private development and, ultimately, help save lives,” said Rick Bright, the BARDA’s director.

Startups like the Redwood City, Calif.-based genome sequencing device manufacturer, Genapsys, and Co-Diagnostics, another molecular diagnostics startup out of Salt Lake City, have been approached by the Chinese government and European testing facilities, respectively.

In the U.S. a number of large, publicly traded companies and startups are pursuing new diagnostics tools that can be used to identify the novel strain of the coronavirus.

“At BARDA, we are identifying industry partners to develop rapid diagnostics that can be used in commercial and hospital labs or even doctors’ offices so that medical professionals and their patients have the information they need to take action,” Bright said.

Coronavirus grifts crop up online for political gain and profit

These days capitalism and democracy seem to mean that it’s never too early to take advantage of the misery of others, and the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is the latest proof point.

On Saturday the Washington Post reported that an agency within the State Department had compiled a report of 2 million tweets, which peddled conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Among the hoaxes compiled in the report and reported by the Post included the suggestion that the virus had been created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or was the result of a bioweapon developed by the Chinese government.

In all, these tweets represent about 7% of the total tweets surveyed by the government, according to the Post’s reporting.

Critically, the report indicated that some of the misinformation spread online appeared to be the result of “inauthentic and coordinated activity,” the Post reported the document saying.

The report mirrors warnings from cybersecurity firms like Check Point Software, which issued a report tracking the launch of new websites linked to themes around the coronavirus outbreak earlier this month.

According to the company’s Global Threat Index for January 2020, “cyber-criminals are exploiting interest in the global epidemic to spread malicious activity, with several spam campaigns relating to the outbreak of the virus.”

The company correlated Google search terms with what it deemed to be “malicious discussions” about the virus, and showed them to be tightly correlated.

In one instance, a hacking campaign targeting web users in Japan distributed malicious email attachments by pretending to be a Japanese disability welfare service provider. The email provided misinformation about the spread of the coronavirus in several Japanese cities, and when a user opened an attachment to the email, they downloaded a modular, self-propagating Trojan virus onto their computer.

Email campaigns represent one threat, but another one that the security firm tracked was new websites with domain names linked to the virus.

The company already spotted one fake website, “vaccinecovid-19.com”. It was first created on February 11, 2020 and registered in Russia. According to Check Point, “the website is insecure, and offers to sell ‘the best and fastest test for Coronavirus detection at the fantastic price of 19,000 Russian rubles (about US$300).’”

Facebook, Amazon and Twitter have all taken steps to remove misinformation about the novel coronavirus from their platforms including advertisements offering purported cures for the disease.

Earlier this month, the big tech companies met with representatives of the World Health Organization to come up with a plan and coordinate on ways to combat misinformation and scams online.

Earlier this week, Facebook issued the following statement about its continuing response to misinformation campaigns on the site:

As world health officials issue new guidance and warnings about coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re continuing our work to connect people to information from regional and local health organizations and limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus.

Connecting People to Accurate Information and Helpful Resources

Anyone who searches for information related to the virus on Facebook is shown educational pop-ups on top of search results connecting them to expert health organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO). We’ve launched these globally over the last few weeks in all languages on Facebook, directing people to the WHO. In several countries we are directing people to their local ministry of health. For example, in the US we are directing people to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in Singapore, we’re directing people to the Singapore Ministry of Health. Moreover, in countries where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission and deaths, we’ve shown additional messages to people toward the top of News Feed with more information.

Use Out of Office Messages Even When You’re Not on Vacation

Image: Shutterstock

Email is something that consistently absorbs a lot of my day. I start everyday checking and responding to email, but as the day progresses, find myself checking my inbox pretty much constantly from my phone and computer.

This week Fast Company made an interesting suggestion on how to combat that problem: Using an out of office message.

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One of the best pieces of advice in terms of not getting distracted by email is to only check your email at certain times. When you do that; however, the people sending you the email don’t know that they’ve missed your 1pm email check and that you won’t likely respond until you do that final inbox run-through of the day at 4:30.

Fast Company suggests using an out of office message to let them know.

The idea here is that you set up a message that says something like this:

Thanks for your email. I’m currently heads-down on a major project and will only be reading and responding to emails first thing in the morning and at the end of the workday. Should your email need immediate attention, please contact me via telephone. Otherwise, expect an email response from me at the end of the day or first thing in the morning.

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Ideally, you’re only putting up that message for that week you’re working on something big and need to cut down on distractions.

Alternatively, Fast Company suggests putting a note in your email signature that lets people know your typical response time for email, and when you traditionally are in the office.

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The idea here with both choices is to set expectations with people who send you email, so you, in turn, don’t feel the need to check it constantly.

Presumably, knowing you don’t check email until the end of the day will prevent someone from following up multiple times in a single day (something that happens often to me) and can potentially make the whole email experience just a little more pleasant for everyone involved.

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Get a Free McMuffin on Monday for ‘National Egg McMuffin Day’

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Monday is “National Egg McMuffin Day” a most definitely made up holiday by McDonald’s that comes with the opportunity to score a free Egg McMuffin.

To take advantage of the deal you’ll need to have the McDonald’s app installed on your phone and have a registered account. On Monday you’ll need to go to a participating McDonald’s (the app will let you know which locations are participating — it’s most of them) between 6am and 10:30am and then follow the “National Egg McMuffin Day” instructions within the app.

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The deal is only available on Monday, and only between 6am and 10:30am, so you’ll need to plan ahead for this one. The deal is also only available once per registered McDonald’s app, so if you’re traveling with friends or coworkers you’ll want to make sure they have the app downloaded as well.

With these deals it’s always worth mentioning that they’re likely to be exceptionally popular. If you do decide to take advantage of it, go in expecting your local Mc Donald’s to be busier than normal.

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And if you don’t want to head to McDonald’s on Monday but still want to celebrate at home, check out our guide to making an even better Egg McMuffin in five minutes.

Startups Weekly: Why some fintech companies aren’t blinking at customer acquisition costs

[Editor’s note: Welcome to our weekly review of news that startups can use from across TechCrunch and Extra Crunch. If you want this post by email, just subscribe here.] 

Why some fintech startups aren’t blinking at customer acquisition costs

Distribution channels are getting saturated across the internet and beyond, and in many tech sectors the cost of acquiring new customers is crimping profitability. But so far, so good in the “great credit card craze,” as Alex digs into this week for Extra Crunch. It turns out that the remaining revenue possibilities combined with the current revenues from interchange fees mean costs are staying relatively flat — or so say a few well-placed execs.

“If anything, our customer numbers are massively accelerating despite cutting back on marketing spend,” explains Brian Barnes of M1 Finance. “And I do think that gets into how we positioned ourselves [as] a firm and what drives at the capital efficiency of how we’ve gotten to where we’ve gotten.”

Feast or famine in early-stage funding

After Elizabeth Yin posted a popular Twitter thread last month about the bifurcation of fundraising outcomes in Silicon Valley these days, we caught up with the Hustle Fund cofounder to talk more. “I’m seeing companies at the Series A and Series B stages with 30% MoM growth that were popular before now struggle to raise their next rounds because they are not profitable,” she writes in a guest column on TechCrunch. “The feedback they receive is to ‘come back when you’re profitable or really close to it.’”

She also noted that even though it does seem like there is a lot of money available, much of that is going to repeat entrepreneurs and/or companies with lots of growth and profitability in the numbers. In a companion interview with Alex Wilhelm for Extra Crunch, she notes that: “In the later stages, it is worthwhile to move to San Francisco because as you’re growing your company, there are a lot more people in San Francisco who have built high-growth companies before, there’s a lot of knowledge that I think is still insider knowledge in San Francisco itself. But at the earlier stages, I don’t think that that’s necessary.”

Y Combinator publishes big new Series A round guide

Speaking of raising these days, this new guide could help. Connie Loizos caught up with co-author and YC partner Aaron Harris in an interview for TechCrunch. Here’s one example he provides about the nuance it covers:

We explain how to work through a diligence request by an investor. Someone might say, ‘Hey, can you give me a month-by-month breakdown of major customers?’ And we’ve seen founders give them a full list of their customers, then the VC calls them, and if the customer is having a bad day or [the VC] reaches the wrong person, that bad reference check can sink a round. It’s really important that founders ask instead about what the VC is trying to learn from the diligence request, then call those customers so they’re ready, You also want to make sure that 15 investors aren’t calling the same customer so that [that person or company] isn’t overwhelmed.

Virtual worlds are finally becoming real

Despite the decades of unrealized dreams, breakout hits like Fortnite and Minecraft are showing the emerging opportunities for mass-market virtual worlds. Media analyst Eric Peckham is exploring the evolution of this trend through a seven-part Extra Crunch series, which he and many others believe will come to gradually define our lives. So far, he’s published an overview, and Extra Crunch articles on gaming on social networks, our multiverse gaming future and why that future is not here yet. Stay tuned for his articles on the emerging competitive landscape and more.

Where top VCs are investing in medical and surgical robotics

Medical device and robotics startups raised roughly 600-700 rounds of venture capital in 2019, according to data from Pitchbook and Crunchbase, with most deals occurring at the early stage (over 25% of rounds occurred at the seed stage). With our 2020 Robotics+AI sessions event next week in Berkeley, be sure to check out our interviews with top med-tech investors in this week’s investor survey on Extra Crunch.

Avoiding the on-demand trap

We’re trying some thing new here — a preview of upcoming guest columns. The following note is from growth strategist Chris Yeh, co-author of Blitzscaling.

Thanks to the success of companies like Uber and Airbnb, a seemingly endless array of startups jumped into becoming “the Uber for X” or the “Airbnb of Y”.  So many of these startups have struggled or failed. Why? The fell into the “on-demand” trap: Believing that the delivery mechanism (a smartphone-enabled marketplace) rather than the market determines success. If you apply the on-demand model to the wrong market, you’ll be doomed to failure. To avoid the on-demand trap, avoid markets where the product or service A) is a low-consideration transaction and B) naturally lends itself to long-term buyer/seller relationships.

Want to learn more?  Look for a detailed explanation of the on-demand trap, coming to TechCrunch and ExtraCrunch soon.

Across the week

Twilio 2010 board deck gives peek at now-public company’s early days (EC)

Startup malaise, startup ambition (TC)

For investors, late-stage fintech startups are a lucrative bet (EC)

What happens if a pandemic hits? (TC)

Instead of IPOs and acquisitions, exiting to community is one alternative (EC)

With better recall of our photos and videos, will our ability to forgive disappear? (TC)

Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra on waitlists, freemium pricing and future products (EC)

How do we connect a child to technology? (TC)

#EquityPod

From Alex:

What a week. What an insane, heart-stopping, odd and stuffed week. I’m utterly exhausted. But, in better news, all of that is great fodder for podcast and chat, so today’s Equity is pretty okay, if I may say so.

Danny and I chewed through all the stuff that we couldn’t get out of our heads, like the markets falling apart and DoorDash’s initial movement toward going public. But in keeping with the real beating heart of Equity, we also went over four venture rounds and spent some time talking about SoftBank.

Multiverse virtual worlds will be healthier for society than our current social networks

In part 5 of our virtual worlds series: why this new future will heal fractures caused by today’s social media

The basis of the classic James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” is an evil media mogul who instigates war between the U.K. and China because it will be great for TV ratings. There’s been a wake-up call recently that our most popular social networks have been indirectly designed to divide populations into enemy camps and reward sensational content, but without the personal responsibility of Bond’s nemesis because they’re algorithmically driven.

(This is part five of a seven-part series about virtual worlds.)

The rise of “multiverse” virtual words as the next social frontier offers hope to one of the biggest crises facing democratic societies right now. Because the dominant social media platforms (in Western countries at least) monetize through advertising, these platforms reward sensational content that results in the most clicks and shares. Oversimplified, exaggerated claims intended to shock users scrolling past are best practices for individuals, media brands and marketing departments alike, and social platforms intentionally steer users toward more extreme content in order to captivate them for longer.

Our impending cultural shift to socializing equally as often through virtual worlds could help rescue us from this constant conflict of interest between what we recognize as healthy interactions with others and how these social apps incentivize us to behave.

Virtual worlds can have advertisements within them, but the dominant monetization strategies in MMOs are upfront purchase of games and in-game transactions. Any virtual world that gains enough adoption to compete as a social hub for mainstream society will need to be free-to-play and will earn more money through in-world transactions than from ads.

This Week in Apps: Coronavirus impacts app stores, Facebook sues mobile SDK maker, Apple kicks out a cloud gaming app

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’ll look at the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the App Store, China’s demand for App Store removals — and soon-to-be-removals, it seems. We’re also talking about Facebook’s lawsuit over a data-grabbing SDK, Tinder’s new video series, the TSA ban on TikTok, Instagram’s explanation for its lack of an iPad app and how Democratic presidential primary candidates are performing on mobile and social, among other things.

Headlines

Coronavirus concerns send Chinese ride-hailing apps crashing, games surging

One of the many economic fallouts related to COVID-19 coronavirus concerns is a significant decline in the usage of Chinese ride-hailing applications. According to Sensor Tower data, downloads of the three most popular apps — Hello, Didi and Dida — were down 75% year-over-year during the week of February 10 compared with the same time frame in 2019. Meanwhile, people staying home have been ordering food and groceries more often. Overall downloads of the top 10 apps in the food-ordering category increased by 68% from January 13 to the week of February 3.

Also on the rise are mobile games. According to a recent report by the FT, users in China downloaded a record number of games and apps as the virus outbreak confined people to their homes. More than 22 million downloads were registered in Apple’s App Store in China during the week of February 2, according to App Annie, and average weekly downloads during the first two weeks of February were up 40% over the same time last year.

Meanwhile, Chinese tech giants, including Alibaba and Tencent, have been deploying health-rating systems to help authorities track the movements of millions of Chinese. Alibaba had been tapped to explore the rollout of a rating app to help the government control who can travel into and around the city. Along with Ant Financial, it worked to develop a smartphone-based rating system in conjunction with the government of Hangzhou. Tencent created a program for Shenzhen, reported The WSJ.

Top mobile game Plague Inc. pulled from China’s App Store amid coronavirus outbreak

Plague Inc., a simulation game with more than 130 million players, was pulled from the Chinese App Store this week, a move that appears to be linked to the coronavirus outbreak. The company behind the game, Ndemic, posted a statement announcing that the game’s content is now considered “illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.” Ndemic says it’s trying to reach out to find out what, specifically, it could change in order to get the game back in China.

Lots of Amtrak Tickets Are 50% Off Today

Image: Shutterstock

If you’ve been considering traveling by train this spring, Amtrak is offering a deal on tickets today that’s worth a look. In honor of Leap Year, Amtrak is offering tickets on a number of different routes at half off.

To take advantage of the deal you’ll need to book your seat by the end of the day today for travel between March 7th and April 8th, 2020.

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The deals are all one-way and on the long-distance trains: Amtrak Cascades, Coast Starlight, San Joaquins, California Zephyr, Saluki, Illini, City of New Orleans, Missouri River Runner, Lincoln Service, Heartland Flyer, Texas Eagle, Hiawatha, Carl Sandberg, Illinois Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Wolverine, Blue Water, and Pere Marquette.

Discounts are also only on coach seats and are non-refundable, although you can make exchanges prior to departure for a 25% cancellation fee.

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All that said, there are some pretty good deals to be had. Tickets from Chicago to Syracuse are just $42 under the deal, and you can get from Portland to Seattle for $18. Here’s a rundown of some of the deals available:

Image: Amtrak

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To see what options you might have, you can search for Leap Day deals specifically on the dedicated page on Amtrak’s site.

Keep in mind these are one-way tickets, so you might want to price out that return trip before you book.

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Saturday’s Best Deals: Video Games, Anker Products, Greenworks Tools, and More

Best Deals of the DayBest Deals of the DayThe best deals from around the web, updated daily.

A JACHs sweater sale, cast iron Gold Box, RAVPower FileHub, and a Razer mouse lead off Saturday’s best deals from around the web.

Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to never miss a deal.

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Best Tech Deals

Today’s Woot is offering a number of discounts on some of our readers’ favorite Anker products. Highlights include a number of portable projectors, battery packs, Qi wireless chargers, speakers, and more. If you’re unfamiliar, Anker makes some of The Inventory’s favorite accessories. They offer a ton of stuff at really great prices.

For the rest of the deals, including be sure to head over to the deal page. And remember that these prices are only available today, or until sold out.

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RAVPower Filehub | $36 | Amazon | Clip the $5 coupon and use promo code WD009221Graphic: Tercius Bufete

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This RAVPower Filehub is a battery pack, an external storage device, and a portable WiFi router all rolled into one. You could say that it’s the perfect travel companion. Here’s what Whitson Gordon had to say about it on The Inventory:

You can see how things get a little complex here. The FileHub’s best use cases, in my opinion, require a little technical know-how on things like DLNA and SMB, so while it isn’t for everyone, it is useful, and has a pretty dedicated fanbase. I do wish the FileHub were a bit simpler to use, though—there’s no option to just connect to the computer over USB, for example, which seems like a big oversight. And seeing as this is not RAV’s first crack at the product line, you’d think they’d have a better handle on it by now.

But for all its little flaws and quirks, it’s still a unique product that could fit well into a lot of different workflows, for a pretty affordable price.

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It’s normally priced at $56, but if you clip the coupon on the page and use WD009221 at checkout, you can pick up this super versatile hub for just $35. That’s the lowest price we’ve ever seen. There’s no telling how long the coupon on the page lasts, so get yours before it disappears.


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With 19 local dimming zones, Dolby Vision HDR support (that’s the good one), Apple AirPlay 2 support and built-in Chromecast, Vizio’s $500 65“ Class M-Series 4K Smart TV is a bargain. We see this full array backlit TV go for $200 more elsewhere. Admittedly, this was $20 cheaper a little while ago but that price did not last long. This is still a solid option for those who want a big TV for not too much money.


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Let’s get this out of the way: the sound quality and noise-canceling on these Mpow over-ear Bluetooth headphones won’t match those of Sony and Bose. But if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for a pair, check these out.

Whether you want to drown out the ambient noise in an airplane, or ignore your co-workers, these active noise cancelling over-ears are about 1/10th of what you’d pay for the bigger brands. Just make sure to use the promo code MPOW143AH at checkout.

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If you take your home Wi-Fi coverage seriously, Netgear’s Orbi mesh routers are some of the best you can buy, and Amazon’s running a great deal on a brand new system. This Reader Favorite is now selling for just $200.

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Here’s how they work: multiple nodes, or access points, work together to blanket your home in signal. Better still, their glossy design encourages people to keep them outside of closets and drawers and in plain view to ensure unencumbered signal. (Walls hamper signal, bro.)

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This model also offers all the benefits of a modern router (e.g., 802.11ac/Wi-Fi 5 and app-based management) and is currently selling for about $10 off the lowest price we’ve ever seen on Amazon.

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Best Home Deals

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If you’re a homeowner, Amazon’s marked down a ton of Greenworks lawn care tools for one-day only. Inside, you’ll find discounts on an electric corded lawn mower, a chainsaw, pole saw, pressure washer and edger. Just note that like all Gold Box deals, these prices are only available today, or until sold out.

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Today’s Gold Box is lowering the price on a a number of pre-seasoned Cuisinel cast iron pans, skillets and organizers. And, frankly, you’ve got a lot of options.

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Don’t know where to start? Cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens are pretty much mandatory for any kitchen.

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These prices are only available today though, so act fast.


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Showers are so damn relaxing. Quite honestly they should be since we tend to take them everyday (you SHOULD be bathing everyday, I’m not arguing with you over this). For a low $16, you can get a hold of a five-mode shower head with different pulsations of water you can adjust to your liking. It’s also ridiculously easy to install, so even the most unhandy person can take advantage of this deal. Why not buy one for hygiene-sake?

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It’s always nice to save on something that you needed anyway. Example: Right now, you can pick up 40 Glad Drawstring OdorShield 13-Gallon Trash Bags. To be fair, this is neither fun or exciting. But if you like saving money on stuff you were going to buy anyway, ordering this is a good idea.

For what it’s worth, this is the lowest price we’ve ever seen on this particular bag, and it usually sells around $9. Just clip the coupon on the page.

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You might not have heard of Kyoku, but we’ve been big fans of their Daimyo damascus steel chef’s knife and steak knives. So if you’ve been looking to add a paring knife to your collection, or want a budget (and surprisingly good) one for your kitchen, now’s a great time to buy. Use the promo code KYOKU6NH to drop the price to just $33, the lowest price we’ve ever seen.

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Best Lifestyle Deals

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Ah, ribbed crewneck sweaters they may not make you look exactly like Chris Evans, but they can make you feel like Chris Evans (without the millions of dollars, fan, etc.) Use the promo code RBSW to drop the price on these comfy, classy ribbed crewnecks to a low $36.

There are twelve available styles available as part of this sale, that means twelve styles that’ll definitely keep you stylish through the end of winter and during spring. Make sure to pick up a couple before the disappears like the chances of snow in NYC in March.

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Just in time for spring, The G.O.O.D. Shirt by Proof is marked down to $64 at Huckberry. This super soft long-sleeve offers a ton of smart details that you’ll appreciate including: airflow eyelets for breathability under the armpits, hidden pockets behind the main pockets, and adjustable snap-button cuffs. Better still these shirts are available in two colors: desert and slate.

Best Gaming Deals

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Razer makes some of the best gaming peripherals out there, and right now the Razer Viper ultralight gaming mouse is marked down to its lowest price on Amazon. There’s a lot to like about this sleek, comfortable mouse including gaming-level optical sensor and enough RGB lighting to make even the most hard-core gamers blush.

This ambidextrous mouse is also absurdly light. My brother owned this 69 gram mouse for a spell and it felt like I wasn’t using one at all.

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Razer Huntsman Elite Gaming Keyboard | $160 | Amazon
Razer Huntsman Gaming Keyboard | $80 | Amazon

Razer’s latest, and greatest gaming keyboard, as well as its cheaper cousin are both down to their lowest prices ever. The Huntsman Elite is down to a low $160, and the regular Huntsman is down to just $80.

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Gizmodo says:

If you’re a gamer though this is a no brainer… This keyboard is really damn nice to type and game on and it will pair well with all the high-end hardware out there intended for gamers.

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So what do you get for the extra $70? Primarily, dedicated media keys and a wrist rest. Otherwise, everything seems pretty similar with these two Opto-Mechanical keyboards.

For me, I’d go with the standard Huntsman for $80. It’s great enough for most gamers.

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It doesn’t matter how old you are, magnets are stupid fun. Speks 2.5mm Magnetic Balls make a terrific desk toy and right now, you can get 1000 Gold Speks for 40% off. Each package comes with a thousand little balls that you can smush and form them into whatever geometric or asymmetrical thing you want. Use promo code GOLDDIGGER to attract this discount to your shopping cart.

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Note: It’s probably a good idea to skip these if you have kids… especially if they’re still prone to putting everything in their mouths.


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Ok y’all, let me introduce you to this cool deal. For a short time you can grab a dope Nintendo Switch Bundle that includes the ever-playable Mario Party as well as a deluxe travel case for $380. But the best part about this deal is you can rack up to $105 in Kohl’s cash, which means FREE MONEY (technically). So why not purchase the bundle, host a bunch of friends at your apartment, and enjoy the company? Snatch it up before it’s gone!


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Shopping for a mechanical keyboard is tough. It’s difficult to grasp exactly what “clickiness” you’re into when all you have is a description on a website. That’s where the Griarrac Cherry MX Switch Tester comes in handy.

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This nifty $15 tool gives you a tactile understanding of what it feels like to press on each Cherry MX switch. This purchase would ultimately remove the guess work from shopping for a keyboard, but when some mechanical models cost upwards of $150 it’s a worthy investment. (Hell, it might even help you decide which of our reader’s picks you should buy.)

It doubles as a weird fidget toy, too, if that’s your thing. But you’ll find plenty of use for this, if you’re the type to evangelize mechanical keyboards—I know I am.

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DEALS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED


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I don’t know about you guys, but I often forget to plug in my (somewhat ancient) iPhone 8 Plus almost every other night, despite the cord being right on my nightstand. I’m sure there are a couple of folks who do the same thing, and I’m here to tell you we don’t have to suffer anymore.

Anker Powerwave Charging Pads have come through at a low price of $17 with a promo code, so you can charge both iPhones and Androids at at pretty good speed. The best part, besides coming in a pack of two is that you don’t have to take off your phone case to get a good charge! It can deliver power with cases up to 5mm thick, so don’t worry about your phone mysteriously falling and breaking its back on the cold, hard floor. I’d grab this duo before it is gone!

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Take your binge-watching on-the-go with this discounted Anker Nebula Capsule mini projector. In his review, Shep said the product is “very well-made” and he appreciated the screen-mirroring feature.

At $349, this is one of the most expensive products Anker sells, but you’re rewarded with some really quality touches, like a soft carrying case, a standard tripod mount, and even automatic keystone correction when you have to tilt the Capsule forward or backward to line up with your screen. And though the projector will charge with basically any USB charger (including portable battery packs, for those extended movie nights), Anker splurged and included a Quick Charge 3.0 wall adapter in the box, so you can top off the battery at maximum speed.

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Use the promo code KINJAD4111 to drop the price of this projector down to just $250. For what it’s worth, I think Anker projectors are the perfect compliment to a Nintendo Switch, and makes couch gaming a possibility wherever you go.

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I love my fancy 11-inch iPad Pro and right now, you can take $125 off the 64GB space gray model on Walmart.

During Cyber Week, I picked up both the Pro and the regular 2018 iPad, and there was no question which had more power and a better screen.

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While most people would be happy with the standard iPad, I couldn’t suffer through a non-laminated display. I’m also really excited to use it in tandem with the latest Apple Pencil, which is more convenient, and easier to hold.

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If tasked to design the perfect power strip, I’d want to include: a flat plug, surge protection, a nice clean design (nice enough to keep on a desk,) and, of course, a USB-C port. Luckily for me, Anker already made that power strip. The Anker PowerPort Strip PD 3 features nearly everything you’d ever want for a power strip and, right now, it’s down to just $26. No coupon necessary.

But if you’re looking for a larger surge protector with more outlets, consider this one with double the number of AC plugs. If you clip the coupon on the page, the price drops to just $40. It, too, has a built-in USB-C port and two standard USB ports.

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If you’re in the market for a new, dependable gaming mouse, look no further than the Logitech G604 Wireless Gaming Mouse. At $80 and with 15 programmable controls and six separate thumb buttons, you can have your characters (literally) in the palm of your hand. You can also toggle between Bluetooth and lightspeed wireless connectivity — the choice is quite honestly yours. Plus, with one AA battery, you can go up to 240 hours of gaming. Imagine what your Sims characters could get up to in that time? A lot. Grab it before it’s gone!

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If you’re looking for a terrific pair of budget ANC Bluetooth headphones but don’t want to pay $300+, checkout these TaoTronics Hybrid Active Noise Canceling Headphones. Usually selling for about $110, if you clip the $10 on-page coupon and use KINJA649 at checkout the price drops to $80. That’s incredible.

I’ve been using these headphones for the past couple of weeks and I’d highly recommend them. Of course, the sound quality and ANC can’t match those of Bose or Sony, these can dampen enough noise to make your music really sing.

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Oh, yeah they sound pretty good, too.

They offer a stable Bluetooth 5.0 and charge via USB-C which is nice. In fact, if you plug ‘em in for 5 minutes, you can get 2 hours playback. They’ll typically last you for 30 hours before they need to be recharged completely.

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Give ‘em a shot, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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If your router doesn’t include enough Ethernet ports for your liking, this 8-port gigabit switch from Netgear is a cheap and easy way to solve that. This current $15 price is the best we’ve ever seen. Want lower latency for Overwatch? More reliable Netflix streaming? A better-performing Plex server? Ethernet is the only way to go.

Unlike a lot of the switch deals we’ve posted here, this particular unit offers management software to give you some controls to “configure, secure, and monitor your network.”

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Looking to reinvigorate your wardrobe in time for spring? Look no further. Nasty Gal, one of the hottest women’s clothing stores to come out of LA, is enjoying a massive 50% off storewide sale as we speak. (And yes, that includes sale items.)

New arrivals featured in the sale include a wool houndstooth jacket for $57, faux leather heeled boots for $38, and a warm $36 floral mini dress that’s perfect for the change of seasons. Shop the sales section and you’ll find a stylish $42 denim boilersuit, a $19 oversized turtleneck sweater, and a wide variety of badass faux leather pieces to show off your goth side.

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Everything is 50% off for a limited time, or 40% off if you opt for free shipping, so act fast before the deals pass you by.


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Are you ready to start streaming your insane gameplay? You’ll need to pick up this discounted Plugable Performance NIX Video Game Capture Card. This capture card is a must-have to start recording and streaming your frags and inane gameplay banter.

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Of course, it’ll work with all of the streaming platforms and services out there, like OBS, plus it’s basically plug-and-play which is fantastic for beginners.

While you could just go the processor route for lower-tier, retro games, you’ll need a dedicated capture card like this one to stream demanding gameplay. Better still, it’ll work with consoles, too. This unit is $15 less than its usual selling price and a lot less than something from Elgato.

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Today, the physical copy of Civilization VI is down to $15 for the Nintendo Switch. The game has changed quite a bit since its original release, and this is the best price we’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, you’ll still need to pony up for the expansion packs. But that’s totally optional.

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Just be sure to place your order before Gandhi nukes the deal.


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Skincare is so important. If not for your actual skin, but for the all around relaxation that comes from it. Infused with aloe and lactic acid, Anjou’s Dead Sea Mud Mask will relax your skin and help with inflammation. Plus, it’s only $10, so it’s cheap enough to give it a try. So why not grab a bottle, slap some on your face and close your eyes for about 15-20 minutes to let the mask do it’s magic. If you have sensitive skin, I would recommend placing a small amount on the back of your wrist just to be safe! Snatch one up before it is gone!

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Enter The Gungeon is one of those games I’m admittedly terrible at, but I still play just because it’s so much fun. With so many ridiculous guns to try out and the ability to play with a friend, it’s one that deserves to be on your Switch.

Better still, this is $10 off what’s currently on Amazon.

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While spring is out here teasing us with bright sunlit skies and mid-50 degree weekends (hey, that’s t-shirt weather here in New York), it’s time to start thinking about your next vacation. And so long as you book by March 15 and travel by May 24, Hotels.com is sweetening its (up to) 40% discount with an extra 15% using the promo code TRIP15.

So that international trip you’ve been putting off because the lodging is too expensive? Yeah, it’s time to book it. Get out of town and escape to somewhere free of haunting thoughts about tomorrow’s board meeting or your college exams, or whatever is eating at your brain right now. Everyone deserves a break now and then, so why not you?

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Hoodies are timeless. They are appropriate for any point in your life and if anyone says otherwise, they are a narc. With spring right around the corner, it’s time to reintroduce ‘em to your rotation.

Of course, you can’t keep wearing the same Billabong hoodie you’ve owned since high school.

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Luckily for you, Jachs is blowing out a ton of zip-up hoodies this week. Some are even lined with sherpa for a super luxurious (and warm) feel. Just use the promo code HD20 at checkout to see the discount.

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They never said cooking is an exact science, but it is always a good thing that you know how much of one thing that’s going in a recipe, especially if you’re really about portion control. Well, the Nicewell Food Scale can definitely come in handy. It’s only $20, has four high-precision load sensors and can even subtract the weight of a plate or container for an accurate measurement. Not only that, but it has a waterproof surface, which is ESSENTIAL for any cooking gadget. I’d get one before they disappear.

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There’s nothing like some savory, somewhat crunchy bacon, and a dedicated bacon press makes that process so freaking easy. It’s only $15, and it can transform your bacon-eating life. If you’re like me and can’t stand a fatty curl that comes with your bacon strips, you should definitely take advantage of this deal. Or, if you’re not a bacon aficionado, you can use it for hamburgers and handmade grilled cheese — the possibilities are endless. Make sure to grab one of these before they’re gone!

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Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White is selling for a low $30 right now. I, in fact, have been waiting for a good sale on this particular game. With Studio Ghibli art style, this JRPG truly is special.

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For what it’s worth, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier called the game “whimsical, charming, beautiful, fascinating, smart, pleasant, challenging, slow-paced, grand, surreal, and aggressively colorful.” (Read the rest of the review here.)

Despite being $5 more expensive than Black Friday, this is still a solid bargain on a terrific game.

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If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer to strut into work donning a fresh pair of Yeezys and a beat up Champion sweatshirt. But sometimes employee comfort doesn’t totally align with workplace dress code enforcements. That’s why J. Crew is trimming 50% off its office-ready styles this weekend including blazers, suit pants, khakis, ties, belts, and more.

What’s more, the factory is chopping up to 50% off everything else. So even if you’re comfy with your current professional wardrobe, you can keep it casual with a new pair of yoga pants or a fun pair of polka dot high-rise chinos. For an extra dose of savings, you can snag an additional 40% off clearance items. That cute floral top you’ve been eyeing? It’s $21 with the promo code LEVELUP.