Officer there is a black man…!

I mentioned a while ago how upset I was when watching the Amy Cooper video in central park. It became plain and clear if you call the cops and say the words “black person is doing X

Heck who could forget the guys sitting in Starbucks?

Heck when I was working in Starbucks (yes it happened believe it or not) there was a older white woman who came every day to read the free paper and rearrange her baggage, using the toilet and all while pouring free milk for herself. Did we ever call the police? Nope, never!

Trevor Noah covers a lot of cases, but he’s got zero on on the hashtag #Airbnbwhileblack. Although Airbnb has made changes, its not enough in a system of racism.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (June 2020)

Boy looks at a possible cure

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by re-reading Anil Dash’s the web we lost essay and hearing doteveryone is closing up after 5 years.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this happening with Luxembourg becoming the first country to provide free public transport.

 


The way Covid19 is changing how we use the internet

Ian thinks: Seeing the charts on how Covid-19 has changed our use of the internet is quite telling and could be a forecast for the post Covid-19 future? I’d like to see different countries than just America of course.

Mozilla puts $75000 into Fixing the Internet

Ian thinks: Mozilla works by actively doing, and their new Incubator programme targeting the toxic venture capital problem of new startups chasing the unicorn dream.

Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on how people adapt to radical disruption

Ian thinks: Channel4 news piece with Malcolm Gladwell has some good news how people react and adapt to radical disruption like a pandemic.

Genuine world changing ideas

Ian thinks: Its impressive to see genuine smart and sustainable world changing ideas all lined up together (here is 2019). They deserve so much more attention than some of the junk some other CEOs tweet.

How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World?

Ian thinks: Thoughtful conversation about where western culture made the wrong steps. Another good episode of team human.

China’s proposal for a new internet explored by American security expert

Ian thinks: Didn’t get around to reading the China proposal for the redesign of the internet in last months newsletter? Let American security expert Steve Gibson talk you through the main points in 20mins instead.

Cory Doctorow foreshadows his next book?

Ian thinks: Hearing Cory talk about corruption, monopoly in the midsts of the covid19 pandemic; sounds like the perfect start for his next science fiction book. Or maybe like Charlie Brooker said about Black Mirrror, its all just too real right now.

Could a state run Airbnb actually work?

Ian thinks: There are many startups which grow to a point they could be better off state/public owned. If France do go ahead with their own Airbnb, it could be a blueprint of what or not to do for the future. Silicon Valley will make a point of saying this is why Europe isn’t financially competitive of course.

What is the optimum ethical public media stack?

Ian thinks: Matt and many others have been talking about an ethical guide for public service media for a while. Now its launched theres a lot to learn and like about the approach taken. Really interesting timing with doteveryone closing its doors.

CRISPR: the movie

Ian thinks: I haven’t seen a better way of explaining how important the Crispr revolution is and ultimately the concept of programmable genes. (here is nature review ) if you can’t access it elsewhere.


Find an archive of previous public service internet notes here.

Not even an epidemic will stop the scammers

The other day I got a request to book my Airbnb spare room. I had completely forgot that I had blocked it out for my holiday to South Korean and Japan, which were cancelled. But hadn’t done anything after those dates, not really thinking my airbnb was still technically open.

The message was a mess…

Hello! Due to the situation in the country, I was sent from my company as a nurse to your city. I really liked your place, it seems really nice. It will be very suitable for me. I’m already waiting for this trip. But I have a couple questions. Please text me in Vhat is a * pp number + F0-ur, tvvo and z-еrrо, then sееve’ntys even, then goes tth_ree, 1’ 5” and 0ne, thre;e, ends with 98. See you soon!

Of course I could smell a scam from a mile away and responded, why don’t you ask the questions you have in Airbnb chat? Then added its lockdown in the UK and I won’t be taking any guests till things change with Covid19.

No reply of course and I rejected the request. But a week later airbnb contacted me.

Hi, Ian,

We’re reaching out because you were recently in contact with an account that was removed for violating the Airbnb Terms of Service.

Airbnb will never ask you to verify a listing or pay for anything outside of our site, through email, or through a third-party booker. If you sent money outside of Airbnb, you may have paid for a fraudulent reservation. Let us know what happened, and we’ll recommend next steps.

If someone asked you to communicate directly by email or through Facebook, or copy and paste a URL (http://www…) into a new browser window, or otherwise pay or communicate outside of the Airbnb website or app, we ask that you stop communication with them immediately.

If you did share personal information, like a password, please update your password immediately. If you use that same password for any other accounts (like your email), we recommend changing your password there too.

Of course I shared zero but I did find it interesting the scammer pulled on the strings with some urgency and being a nurse. Of course they had only signed up to be on Airbnb that same Month of April (meaning they had only signed up a few days before), had no vertifications, no reviews and the pretext of whatsapping them was straight from the airbnb scammers book.

I imagine there is a lot of desperate Airbnb hosts who might have sent a message to see whats possible?

Could Covid19 be the Airbnb host shake out which was needed?


Updated: 24/4/2020 – Enough said

Some Airbnb hosts are a bit screwed right now. Although the platform has had some trouble before Covid19. I’m sure the platform will keep on going but its going change for some.

Airbnb, a home-sharing website, has seen bookings fall by 40% in big European cities as the pandemic halted trips. It may delay its IPO, which was expected to be this year’s biggest. But despite racking up losses of late, it is well-managed, cash-rich and, thanks to an unmatched global reach that puts up a high barrier to entry, likely to make money again once people get back to travelling.

The Economist

I do not feel sorry for those Airbnb hosts who bought all those extra house/flats for the sole purpose of renting on Airbnb.  They took the living piss extracting huge sums of money and ruined local communities as they did. This could be the world wide shake out of the Airbnb money making mania?

Post Covid19, I’m banking on the emphasis being less on GDP and more on human values.

What to do on a birthday during a lockdown?

Me with birthday ballons

I was lucky to have my big 40th birthday last year, I still have the cards up funny enough. I know others who had their 40th birthday in doors.

But one year later under Covid19 lockdown, I’m considering my options. My partner suggested a mass video call which I could cast to my TV. I could buy one of those going cheap cakes or get a nice takeaway from somewhere special. Also been thinking about ordering a very nice steak from the northern quarter butchers and having that with some lovely eggs. Talking of the northern quarter, I would pay some serious money to sit in a coffee shop right now. I’m not the only one…

Talking of coffee, I finally caved in and started having coffee at home after a nice Airbnb left me a bag a while back. Just in the mornings before work.

And the last leap Airbnb, made me a superhost again?!

Airbnb superhost

So weird, because no one is going anywhere right now. I don’t think I could accept anyone if they did actually book my spare room anyway. Maybe I should block out my calendar but theres little point right now.

Anyway back to the point, what to do on my birthday in lockdown.

I’m open to suggestions…?

Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy

airbnb and the coronavirus

As the coronavirus contuses to cause large disruptions across the world. I now have more of a answer to my airbnb question, should i have hosted a chinese person in my airbnb?

Come in a bit late is Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy.

What does this policy mean?

Eligible reservations can be cancelled without charges, including:

  • Guests who are travelling to or from severely affected areas (for a list of areas affected and covered by this policy, check below)
  • Hosts who are hosting in or welcoming guests from severely affected areas (for a list of areas affected and covered by this policy, check below)
  • Anyone who can’t complete their trip due to official travel restrictions, medical or disease control duties, flight or ground transport cancellation initiated by the provider due to COVID-19, or suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

What happens when a reservation that falls under our extenuating circumstances policy is cancelled?

  • The guest will receive a full refund (including any fees)

  • Hosts won’t incur any cancellation fees

  • Airbnb will refund all fees

  • Hosts can accept new reservations for those dates

  • Superhost status will not be affected

Well at least we are now clear… I guess? However I certainly expect a lot of prejudice behavior coming from the policy change. How would anyone know any difference to be honest?

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Mar 2020)

Microphones on a desk

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the sorry state of the UK during our EU withdrawal or the tech press panic over the corona-virus.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this happening with the rise in unions and labor rights in the gig economy.


Google users in UK dropped into GDPR limbo

Ian thinks: I always thought this was going to happen, once out of the EU our data privacy laws won’t be respected by the GAFFA’s and why would they?

Signaling to the masses, leave whatsapp

Ian thinks: Signal as a behemoth is concerning but its clearly made the best use of open source licenses to keep itself in check. Love the new systems which are being built on the protocol, real opportunity for something very new.

A future without public service media?

Ian thinks: All public service is under treat and hearing the words of the CEO of the CBC, really sends the message loud and clear

Governments who lockout their Public service broadcasters

Ian thinks: Following the previous link, a look at the sorry state of American’s public service broadcasting. The up lift of donations is good but for how long, how sustainable is public donations?

Making the digital economy working for the 99%

Ian thinks: 3 words – Transparency, auditing, diversity.

Spotify’s plans to take over podcasting?

Ian thinks: The comparisons are spot on and its clear podcasting is going through a massive change right now. Spotify’s play to commodify and dominate is hard to break unless there is experiences they can not own.

Centralising podcasting with trapping techniques

Ian thinks: The writer makes a good point about Spotify taking decentralised open media and locking inside a closed proprietary system. Lessons to be learned for future services we use.

The utopian vision of Airbnb vs the harsh reality

Ian thinks: I like Airbnb, I’m even a host but its clear there isn’t just a problem but its fundamentally broken and actively exploited by too many.

Could containers for web browsing benefit you too?

Ian thinks: Been using Firefox containers for the last 6-8 months and find them incredibly useful. The user experience is a mess and provides an opportunity for design disruption.

Should I have hosted a Chinese person in my airbnb?

Airbnb and the Coronavirus outbreak

Recently I hosted a person from mainland China in my Airbnb. Its certainly not the first time and unlikely the last. They were nice, quiet and respectful of the rules.

But I was talking to a few people and they asked me if I had thought about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? I laughed it off but honestly I did think for a bit before accepting the booking. The thinking wasn’t long especially because I wasn’t happy to ask the question and somewhat discriminate on the grounds of nationality (this is also against Airbnb’s policy)

Talking to others, they felt I wasn’t taking it seriously. Although I will say more people die of the flu and TB than COVID-19! The frenzy in the press is getting insane.

So I had another look at the policy and noticed a addition for the Coronavirus outbreak

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. Affected hosts and guests can find info on our Extenuating circumstances policy for coronavirus page.

This is something which seems to have taken the Airbnb community groups and others by storm

Looking deeper into the new policy I found this part…

For reservations with guests travelling from mainland China to destinations outside of mainland China

The extenuating circumstances policy applies to any reservations booked on or before 1 February 2020, with check-in date of 1 April 2020 or earlier. This applies for guests travelling from mainland China with reservations outside of mainland China, or hosts outside of mainland China with guests travelling from mainland China.

Other scenarios that require documentation

Regardless of reservation date, the extenuating circumstances policy applies to reservations of all global hosts or guests who must change or cancel travel:

  • In order to comply with disease control restrictions implemented by relevant governmental or health authorities;
  • In order to perform medical or disease control duties in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • As a result of flight or ground transport cancellations initiated by an airline or ground transport provider due to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • In the event that they are diagnosed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19 by a medical or health authority.

We ask that all community members be mindful of respect, inclusion, and our nondiscrimination policy when interacting with other members of our community.

So I think I did the right thing. Its not right to discriminate on the location. My guest was fine! However for those worried, you know what I’ll be doing if anything negative happens to my health (ha!)

All complex ecosystem have parasites… including Airbnb

Airbnb basement in Iceland
Looks like a dungeon right? Imagine sleeping down there for a night like I did in Iceland

…The trick is to not let them take over. Something Airbnb needs to think a lot more about!

I stumbled across a huge Airbnb scam that’s taking over London, this story is everywhere but it was Si Lumb who first sent me the link.

After reading the massive long piece I was quite shocked at how elaborate the scam was. I won’t spoil it but its bad then it gets worst still.

Here’s a few choice quotes…

On Airbnb, it turns out, scams aren’t just the preserve of lone chancers. As the short-term rental goldrush gathers pace, Airbnb empires are being rapidly scaled and monetised, with professional operators creating scores of fake accounts, fake listings and fake reviews to run rings around Airbnb, local law enforcement and the guests who place their trust in the platform. Reviews from guests paint a grim picture of people who have been tricked into staying in accommodation with blocked drains, broken fixtures and fittings, filthy floors, dirty bed linen – or, in some cases, accommodation that they simply did not book.

This very much reminds me of when I stayed in Iceland and the host moved me to the basement so he could get another Airbnb in! My experience of Airbnb in Tokyo was awful but at least the host wasn’t lying to my actual face.

All of these accounts are essentially one person, or at least one company. And yet they have all passed Airbnb’s account verification and safety processes, with most supplying government identification, selfies, email addresses and phone numbers. Two of these accounts, though, are more closely connected than the rest: Leon and Robert Lusso Management. And that’s because they both used to be called Christian.

Seen this many times on Airbnb, this is why I always look through the reviews of the hosts for patterns. Its the same way reviews on most sites you have to check for scams.

I noticed from my experience as a host (super host even), lots of guests don’t do the research. Don’t get me wrong, the scams are elaborate but few read the reviews and ask the right questions of the host.

According to Inside Airbnb, a service that scrapes Airbnb to shine a light on the platform’s impact on cities around the world, there are an estimated 36,964 listings on Airbnb in London that are listed by a host with at least one other listing. While Airbnb presents itself as a sharing economy company, the business of hosting is becoming increasingly systemised and professionalised, with critics arguing that businesses are able to make huge sums of money at the expense of local residents who are unable to access properties locked away by the short-term rental gold rush.

So what, if anything, can be done about it? To date, attempts to adequately regulate and police Airbnb listings have been spasmodic at best, leading to a patchwork of confusing, siloed approaches. In December 2019, more concerted regulation efforts were dealt a blow when the European Court of Justice ruled that Airbnb was an “information society service”, not a real estate agency. Such rulings mean that cities must continue to act alone – with mixed success.

Really interesting to look at inside Airbnb as a host in Manchester. But its clear councils can’t keep up with the Airbnb (gravy) train and the scammers know this too well. Could Airbnb do more stop this? Yes a bit but honestly…

All complex ecosystem have parasites. – Cory Doctorow

So ironic being a Airbnb superhost again

Airbnb superhostI have no idea why but I was given superhost status again for my spare room which I open to Airbnb. I only raise this because its certainly not something I’m bothered about or will make a great deal of. I find it ironic as I was being told off by the airbnb algorithm not that long ago.

Why is airbnb only just waking up to this?

being told off by airbnb

Although what happened over the weekend in New York was awful, I find Airbnb’s response too slow and too late.

CEO Brian Chesky announced on Wednesday at The New York Times DealBook Conference four changes the company will be implementing. The changes were also announced in an email to employees Wednesday.

Here are the four key changes:

1. All listings will be verified by the end of 2020 by a combination of the company and guests. Chesky said that he wants to “make sure we can stand behind every single listing and host,” for photo accuracy, the correct address, and safety.

2. Airbnb will now have a guest guarantee in the scenario that guests arrive at a listing and the listing does not match photos and descriptions.

3. A 24/7 hotline with real people will be available to address issues that come up.

4. Airbnb will review what it calls “high-risk” listings.

Its like they only just woke up to the fact people are doing very bad things with their platform. I mean why does it take loss of life for them to finally wake up?

You should disclose smart speakers to guests

Someone at Mydata mentioned this interview during our panel last month and finally had a read. Very happy BBC got the Google’s Rick Osterloh to say “I disclose smart speakers to guests.

After being challenged as to whether homeowners should tell guests smart devices – such as a Google Nest speaker or Amazon Echo display – are in use before they enter the building, he concludes that the answer is indeed yes.

“Gosh, I haven’t thought about this before in quite this way,” Rick Osterloh begins.

“It’s quite important for all these technologies to think about all users… we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity.”

And then he commits.

“Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it’s probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate.”

I very much agree and I think everybody should do this. Will people do this? Not a chance, although I wish they would. I do tend to go into a room and jokily say the different wake words. Just incase…

I remember writing about my Airbnb in Barcelona experience and I have to say Airbnb’s criteria of what a camera is good.

This area of social data surveillance is tricky but something which is being researched/explored by the likes of myself at BBCR&D.

Familiar stranger and wellness

milgram familiar stranger

Theres been so many times in the past when I blogged about the breakdown of social bonds between strangers. One of my favourite books is Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, I still need to read reclaiming conversations. The smartphone is a easy target to point at when thinking about this all.

The thing I hadn’t really considered is the effect of the mental ill/wellness epidemic maybe slightly caused by loneliness.

This is why I find things like Uber quiet ride pretty scary when you take the long view. Which of course Uber isn’t, as they try and make public transport redundant as its not convenient enough for our lives.

You can outsource pretty much every aspect of irritation in your lives. But you can’t outsource loneliness, or pain. Like a dystopian sci-fi plotline, we are allowing Silicon Valley to make our lives as convenient and seamless as possible.

But there’s an app for everything now, which means no more phone calls to the pizza shop, no chit-chat while waiting for the bus. The little white earbuds, and their more aggressive, noise-cancelling cousins, are shielding us from this terrible outside world.

And we are lonelier than ever. Our communities are disintegrating, whether it’s the corner store bought by a billionaire developer or churches being replaced by Instagram or the fact that I have never met or even seen my nextdoor neighbour. We are at a crisis point.

You could easily point the finger at Airbnb too, something which was about people sharing homes with strangers; now is about hotel like experiences. Airbnb haven’t helped things wither with their plus listings. Don’t get me wrong I understand, but airbnb originally was different.

I keep saying it but noticed I don’t think I have ever wrote about it so directly.

Public transport along with lots public services could be the decider between a epidemic of loneliness. I mean where else are you going to experience familiar stranger and that essential head nod. Rubbing shoulders with strangers clearly is good thing in the long run, you wonder why more people are flocking to our over crowded cities? I think there is something in the social object theory and I’m not the only one. Bonding with strangers builds friendships, builds neighbourhoods, building communities, which builds societies?

The data is still not 100% but I think this is essential research material.

Manufacturing algorithmic good behaviour?

Taxi sign

I read that Uber is now going to start punishing users with low scores by cutting them off.

Uber is now requiring the same good behavior from riders that it has long expected from its drivers. Uber riders have always had ratings, but they were never really at risk of deactivation — until now. Starting today, riders in the U.S. and Canada are now at risk of deactivation if their rating falls significantly below a city’s average.

“Respect is a two-way street, and so is accountability,” Uber Head of Safety Brand and Initiatives Kate Parker wrote in a blog post. “Drivers have long been required to meet a minimum rating threshold which can vary city to city. While we expect only a small number of riders to ultimately be impacted by ratings-based deactivations, it’s the right thing to do.”

For drivers, they face a risk of deactivation if they fall below 4.6, according to leaked documents from 2015. Though, average ratings are city-specific. Uber, however, is not disclosing the average rider rating, but says “any rider at risk of losing access will receive several notifications and opportunities to improve his or her rating,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.

This is another example of the insanity of  algorithmic telling off and the secrecy is stupid.

Airbnb telling off
Airbnb telling off for my 4.8 rating

Airbnb is still telling me off/trying to help with my score of 4.8/5 with 34 Total reviews and 76% 5 star reviews.

Mainly because I don’t accept most people into my flat. There’s no understanding about timing, workload, etc. In the algorithms view, everyone should be maximizing the amount of people using the flat. They keep trying to push auto-booking on me. I expect it will become a requirement one day and I’ll leave Airbnb as its completely unsuitable for me.

The whole idea of perfection is flawed and humans are never perfect. Sure Douglas Rushkoff has lots to say about this in #Teamhuman.

Update June 2nd

Talking of Uber, there was interesting piece in the Guardian around the same time, which could apply to Airbnb too. What is Uber? Forget the sharing economy – it’s just a libertarian scam.

 

Airbnb Has a Hidden-Camera Problem – You telling me?

Airbnb monitoring warning
You would never guess it was a listening device from the picture

I was reading a piece in the Atlantic about Airbnb and the camera problem.

Of course this has super relevance to me after my experience of a Airbnb in Barcelona last year.

Airbnb’s rules allow cameras outdoors and in living rooms and common areas, but never in bathrooms or anywhere guests plan to sleep, including rooms with foldout beds. Starting in early 2018, Airbnb added another layer of disclosure: If hosts indicate they have cameras anywhere on their property, guests receive a pop-up informing them where the cameras are located and where they are aimed. To book the property, the guests must click “agree,” indicating that they’re aware of the cameras and consent to being filmed.

I do find it really interesting because Airbnb class listening devices such as Amazon Alexa as cameras too. I did think this would be very difficult to police. The transparency is welcomed, as before you had to search pictures for anything which looked suspicious.

In January, Bigham discovered cameras in his rental that he says were never disclosed. After he reached out to the Trust & Safety team, representatives told him he and his family had in fact consented to the cameras because they were visibly displayed in photos on the listing. After Bigham’s blog post on the ordeal went viral, Airbnb apologized and refunded his money.

But Bigham says customer-service representatives for Airbnb twice sided against him before reversing their original decision, and only after his blog post was widely shared online.

“No one really seems to know what they’re doing,” Bigham said in an email. “And it seems like it’s only going to get worse.”

In a statement, Airbnb said: “We have apologized to Mr. Bigham and fully refunded him for his stay. We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings. This host has been removed from our community.”

As usual the public stink causes Airbnb to actually do something. I wonder how many complaints get shoved under the carpet?