This petition response shows how much Uber has changed

Uber has just responded to a group of petitioners protesting Uber’s background check policies in India, following the alleged rape of a passenger by a driver with an assault record. After the petition reached more than 63,000 signatures, Uber India safety lead Deval Delivala wrote a 600-word apology, explaining the steps the company is taking to improve its driver vetting process in the country.

Thursday night, the company said it will start doing its own background checks on drivers, instead of relying on government certification programs to vet the drivers adequately.

600 words might not seem too long to the average person, but by Uber’s standards this is a humble pie manifesto. It far exceeds the length of apologies or safety explanations Uber has sent to media in the past. I realized when rereading my old stories on Uber that it’s a complete 180 from the company’s response to assault incidents in 2013.

In the apology, Delivala covered everything from Uber’s reaction to the alleged rape (it was a “deeply sobering reminder that we must always be vigilant”) to what it taught Uber about background checks in India. She explained how the company is trying to strengthen its system, through things like a document verification system and an incident response team. She finished up with a bold promise: “We will repay [your] support with action and live up to the trust that you have placed in us.”

It may just be lip service, but it’s a new, refreshing kind of lip service. As recently as September, Buzzfeed found that Uber sent media the same two sentence response to any situation involving passenger safety, whether a rape, assault, or pedestrian injury. During one of Uber’s biggest scandals when an executive threatened to dig up dirt on journalists, CEO Travis Kalanick famously issued a 13 part tweet apology with very little apology actually included. After the rape of an Indian passenger in December, he published a blog post that was only 100 words.

These may be inadequate responses to terrible incidents, but they’re still far better than Uber’s old way of dealing with safety issues. In 2013, Uber used to claim it wasn’t responsible for its passengers’ safety. It didn’t think it was culpable for the actions of drivers or passengers on its platform (much like Facebook wouldn’t be responsible if one user threatened another on the site). Uber’s then-spokesperson told me that point blank after an SF driver hit a passenger. He said, “We’re not law enforcement…If law enforcement pursues this, we would cooperate. But we’re a technology platform that connects riders and providers, so it’s not our job to investigate.”

The apology shows how far the company has come. It still has major ethical issues and PR tactics to iron out, but at least it has started accepting responsibility for the incidents that occur through its service.

How to excel in a social media world

Like it or not, these days, if you’re in public, you’d better be comfortable with anything you do being captured and possibly even posted online. I thought I’d provide some tips from the PR industry to help you feel better prepared for those impromptu publicity events.

Preparing for a social media world

Technology is rapidly changing and is quickly becoming a more social and integrated part of our lives. With ever-evolving devices, social networks, and online video capabilities, we’re increasingly moving toward an “always on” existence, which has implications for our privacy and our professional lives.

Be Willing to Put Yourself Out There

If there’s one thing I’m figuring out, especially lately, it’s that you have to be willing to make the approach. You have to be willing to ask for what you want. Ask the person to be a guest for your blog or podcast. Ask to be covered on another person’s site or radio show. Ask someone to join you for lunch or coffee. Just ask.

Take Center Stage: Promotion & Publicity

stage doorJust the sound of the word “publicity” can make some of us want to run for cover. It brings to mind uncomfortable and awkward times in the spotlight, and while many of us want our businesses to succeed, it may take a while to adjust to the idea of being center stage.
I recently spoke with Nancy Juetten of Main Street Media Savvy about how to overcome the fear of publicity. The great thing about the tips that she offered is that many of them are things you might already be doing to some extent, which makes the whole idea of publicity a little less daunting. By becoming comfortable with these tactics, you’ll start inching your way into the limelight, and you’ll gain more attention for your business in the process. Read More about Take Center Stage: Promotion & Publicity

At Home With the New Mac Mini: My Setup and Impressions


I recently received my brand new Mac mini in the mail, and, as it always is when I get a package from Apple (s aapl), it was a joyous occasion. For once, I didn’t have to find someplace to cram a huge box, since the packaging is size-appropriate for such a small desktop.

My afternoon the day it arrived was spent going through the extremely satisfying computer-lover’s ritual of setting up a new machine. I didn’t do an automatic set-up using one of my existing machines, because the mini was going to be used primarily as an HTPC, and as such I wanted it specially tailored for such a narrow focus. I wanted to devote as much of the 4 GB of RAM, 2.26GHz processor, and 120 GB HD to media playback as was possible, so I skipped a lot of my usual software installs and went with the basics. Read More about At Home With the New Mac Mini: My Setup and Impressions