In/Flux: Seattle so-so in smarts. Seattle's broadband initiative debated. Leaving Microsoft: a win for Mattrick?

Your theories welcomed on the departure from Xbox.
Crosscut archive image.

Don Mattrick

Your theories welcomed on the departure from Xbox.

Kind of smart, at least for a big city

Seattleites have a superiority streak when it comes to the city, but we've admittedly received some validation over the years. Just this year, studies have ranked us the second best American city to live in, the second healthiest, and the best city outside Texas to find a good job. However, if a report by brain game company Lumosity is to be believed, we’re also dumber than 38 other U.S. cities. Ranked above us are Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and thirty-five others (not Portland, don’t worry).

Knowing there must be some mistake in these findings, we contacted Dr. Daniel Sternberg, the data scientist at Lumosity who conducted the study. The results are based on performance in cognitive training exercises. Many of the highest scoring cities were smaller and had colleges, so we asked if limited population sizes helped.

Larger metros do tend to come out lower, Sternberg confirmed. “It's worth noting that among the largest 50 metros, Seattle comes in at No. 8,” he said, above San Francisco and Denver.

McGinn's version of broadband

When it comes to throwing political weight around, The Seattle Times isn’t shy about being obvious — see the paper’s advertising scheme for Rob McKenna last year. But sometimes they’re less upfront about it.

This past week the paper used an editorial to bash Mayor Mike McGinn over his promise to expand broadband coverage in the city, and took some misleading or misinformed potshots. Some claims, like a few neighborhood wi-fi hotspots being “the closest thing to broadband-for-all,” are so wrong they don’t dignify a response. However, the editorial primarily criticizes McGinn for not asking taxpayers to foot the bill for a citywide broadband network.

In light of the announcement that D.C.-based Gigabit Squared will launch high-speed broadband throughout Seattle as part of a deal with the city, we wanted to give McGinn’s office the chance to respond. Spokesman Robert Cruickshank states “the cost to build (citywide broadband) was estimated at $700 million in taxpayer dollars,” which would have required the City Council to approve a ballot measure on the proposal. Rather than engage in that inevitable slugfest, McGinn tested whether the private market would invest in building out the city’s existing fiber network. Cruickshank points out that under the current deal with Gigabit Squared, taxpayers will bear no risk or costs.

Gigabit: We can deliver

The Seattle Times aren’t the only ones discounting news of gigabit internet coming to Seattle. Some current Internet providers aren’t sure what to make of the news either.

As it stands, Gigabit Squared has announced plans to offer 100mbps connections for $45 a month, and 1000mbps connections for $85/month. The service will cover 14 neighborhoods — including a number that are currently underserved in Southeast Seattle — and would make for some of the fastest consumer internet in America.

However, skepticism remains over whether they can deliver, or if this is the equivalent of the Springfield monorail. Given Gigabit Squared has never built something like this, some local providers are opining that it's all hype at this point, or implying the company won’t be able to deliver the speeds they promise. In response, President Mark Ansboury tells us these claims are misguided, saying Gigabit staffers have 25 years of experience building out such networks, and such their project is "feasible and practical."

Our word cloud lacks roses

This may come as a shock, but people believe there are too many frat types in Fremont and Belltown, and too many hipsters in Capitol Hill.

These and other revelations come courtesy of Yelp’s new WordMap, a data visualization feature showing the frequency with which specific words appear in reviews throughout a city. Most findings were fairly predictable, such as tourists sticking exclusively to downtown. However, it did contain one sad revelation — Seattle has fewer neighborhoods with “romantic” spots than any other city covered.

Leaving Xbox

The last we heard from online game maker Zynga, they were pink-slipping hundreds of staffers nationwide, while largely sparing Puget Sound employees. Last week they turned to our area for the biggest hire in their history.

Xbox chief Don Mattrick abruptly announced he is leaving Microsoft — mere months before the launch of their first console in eight years — to take the top spot at Zynga. The move has baffled some, who wonder why Mattrick would leave an industry leader like Xbox for the slowly sinking ship of Zynga, which is quickly becoming known for lifting game ideas and losing their lead in social casino gaming, as well as much of their top talent.

Zynga and Microsoft spokespeople are remaining mum regarding motivations, but the move makes sense for Mattrick even beyond his supposed $50 million payday. Xbox One is in a position to lose the sales battle to the cheaper Playstation 4 come launch time, and a potentially volatile shakeup at Microsoft seems eminent. At Zynga, Mattrick could face a can’t-lose proposition — he’ll be heralded as a hero if he turns their fortunes around, and if not, factors beyond his control can be blamed. We welcome other theories in the comments.

Tech Bytes from Elsewhere

Think Different. About Processed Meat: In honor of Fourth of July weekend, The Atlantic detailed the next wave in hot dog innovation. Something new for next year's barbecue?

Self-Spying Made Easy: Step into the NSA’s shoes, and view your metadata using MIT’s “Immersion” web app.

Please baggage check your grenade: TSA launches an Instagram account featuring confiscated items. Our favorite remains the Marlboro pack stun gun.

Experience a Tycoon’s Music Project: Microsoft co-founder, real-estate mogul and geek hero Paul Allen releases the first single off his new album. A bit soft for our tastes, but not terrible.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins is a journalist and writer in Seattle, and the recipient of numerous national and regional awards. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Seattle Times, The Oregonian, InvestigateWest, Geekwire, Seattle Magazine, and others. He also previously served as the managing editor of Crosscut. He can be contacted at