Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (May 2021)

a dark forest

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing Facebooks dismissal of 530 million users data leaked and actively being exploited, joining the general dismissal of data leaks this month.

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 with Google maps providing eco-friendly routesEurope seeking to limit AI use in society and how Ben & Jerry’s combine activism with business.


Facebook/Nick Clegg attempts to gaslight us all

Ian thinks: Nick’s blog post is cleverly written ultimately saying the right things even touching on algorithmic transparency. However the key message is, you are the problem, and ignores the power dynamic an entity like Facebook really has over their users lives.

What is the dark forest theory of the Internet?

Ian thinks: Yancey (co-founder of kickstarter) shares his thoughts about the dark forest theory in light of a year plus in a pandemic and our ever increasing reliance on the internet. Recently followed up with more thoughts.

Is more data or a more human outlook the future of shopping?

Ian thinks: Data use is a worrying trend and it reminds me how Ford decided the data was the goal of the car sell, but maybe shopping is missing the human element?

How is remote working going to effect the future of work?

Ian thinks: A good summary of the development work if you are a office/knowledge worker. Little for other types of work which seemed a obvious hole in this all.

The doomsday machine: scale is the enemy of human progress?

Ian thinks: The comparisons of Facebook to the doomsday machine is quite a leap but the points made are clear and re-enforces my thoughts about scale being the enemy of humanity

Those face filters were never fun

Ian thinks: I turn off the filters as they are usually not flattering for black skin. However there is much greater affect on women who have their faces and bodies under the microscope every moment of the day causing anxiety and even worst.

A new decentralization pattern library

Ian thinks: Its great to see a pattern library focused on decentralised, distributed applications and systems. Its still early days but do get involved if you see something obvious missing from the current 22.

The future of 3D printing is truly impressive

Ian thinks: There is so much covered in this video, everything from 3D printed houses, food and organs. The most impressive for me after the organs is the bio-mimicry printed structures.

If you don’t know dark patterns, this will explain it all in moments

Ian thinks: Really good to share this with people are not clear on the effects of dark patterns, also interesting to see Trump using dark patterns recently.

Sudhir explores the motivations, mistakes and conflicts of mainstream social media

Ian thinks: Although nothing new, its interesting to hear someone who has spent time with gang leaders and street prostitutes; lend his thoughts to the ugly side of social media from the inside out, in new podcast.


Find the archive here

Bumble, their retention policy and my GDPR

Bumble launches "Dating Just Got Equal" campaign
I’m sure I have said this multiple times, I really want to like Bumble but every-time I try it again, I’m left with a bad after taste (like poor chocolate). I must learn dating apps don’t get better just worst.
Out of frustration, not with the people on the site (thats a whole different story). The mechanism was painful and annoying to say the least (not because of the females pick first).
So I deleted the app and requested my data from Bumble under GDPR law, as I have done for others previously.
Sent the request on 21st Jan, got the first reply on 23th Jan with the usual identity check. I replied on 24th Jan with the credentials which was made easy with my emails asking Bumble to change a profile element in late 2020. Then on 26th Jan I got this…
Hello,

Just to let you know, I have passed your email on to my supervisor here at Bumble who will get back to you as soon as possible.

We’re currently experiencing an incredibly high volume of emails, so it might take a little while longer than normal to get a response from a supervisor.

While we are working super hard to get to everyone, it may be tempting to send a chase regarding the status of your query. However, please bear in mind that we work on a queue-based system here. This means that sending an additional email may push your query further down in the queue and create a longer delay than we’d like.

Please know we haven’t forgotten about you and we really appreciate your patience during this busy time!

Joel
Bumble Feedback Team

Usually I would be on this like a hawk but I kind of forgot as I lost faith in OKCupid and others too. So Bumble sneaked under my radar till the 26th Feb when I finally received this email.
Hello,

Thank you so much for your patience in waiting for our response.

We’ve been dealing with an incredibly high volume of emails recently and have been working hard to get to your query.

Unfortunately, we are unable to proceed with your request as it appears as though your account was deleted more than 28 days ago.

In line with our retention policy, we begin to erase or anonymise your information upon the deletion of your account, following the safety retention window.

Please see our Privacy Policy for more information about how we use your data and your rights. You can read more about our privacy policy at: https://bumble.com/privacy

Please note that this only pertains to the profile registered to the email address you’ve contacted us from. If you have any profiles registered on Bumble with different contact details, please contact us using the relevant methods linked to those accounts.

Hila
Bumble Feedback Team

This answer absolutely drove me to rage because Bumble are hiding behind their retention policy. The only reason their retention policy kicked in is because they left it over 28 days. Its outrageous and I’m not standing for it.

I have given them 3 days to change their stance before I report them to the ICO. Although I still didn’t hear anything else from the ICO about Houseparty.

Expect to hear more soon!

Lets be deadly honest about whats happening behind the dating sites

I had hoped I wouldn’t be back dating again but thats the way things go. Stepping back out into the online dating world I’m shocked how worst things have gotten.

Now OKCupid is now very driven around the hot or not mechanism. If you are on the web site, it is possible to search via questions and a keyword. But thats about it. I got sick of Bumble which once again wants way too much attention and removed the app. I requested my GDPR data again, as I’d love to get to the bottom of the cisgender male issue I had.

However saying all this… It was good to see the buzzfeed post and the connected Reddit thread which was pointed to me via Herb Kim.

Before I say anything, sadly almost zero of this was a surprise to me. Its exactly why Herb sent it my way, having the past talked a lot about the problems with dating.

Anyway I wanted to run through some of the reddit thread and add a touch more.

“We used to create fake accounts and chat with users. It was everything from someone having a premium account that wasn’t getting responses, to bored employees.”

The amount of fake accounts on dating sites is a real problem. All the sites are affected by this problem but the site team blame fake accounts on spammers. Most people don’t realise the problem is actually being caused by the dating site its self. People don’t connect the fake accounts with being ghosted over and over again.

“The algorithms are less sophisticated than you think. … The main goal of the algorithm is always to get you to pay, never to actually ensure you meet somebody in real life, as much as we tried to lie to ourselves that it was.”

With everything we know about algorithms in recent times (bias). Its been mentioned so many times and I made the judgement that this is exactly the same as the birthday paradox.

“Female dating app users tend to sign off for the day several hours earlier than male users, which results in men who log in after about 10 p.m. generally not encountering many logged in female users. In order to keep these men feeling like there is genuine female activity on the site (and thus continuing to pay for memberships), dating apps can pay for entire armies of ‘ghosts.’ Ghost profiles use photos of real women, but are  operated by men, typically young men in their late teens and early twenties, living in France, Serbia, Ukraine, and Russia.”

The fake account problem again but targetted based on stats. Its something I’m aware of but I gather its different for different sites.

“Many apps seed attractive bots to keep people engaged. The bots will send/respond to a couple of substandard questions. ‘How was your week?’ ‘What are you looking for?’ and then ghost. Despite the ghost, the high of matching with a super attractive person who spoke to you is enough to get many people hooked and chasing the dragon.”

You start to spot a pattern with the chats. Heck you can spot pattens in the profiles. For example in OK Cupid, there is something I recently noticed with huge number of profiles which have answered the same 15 questions and in the same way. Their profiles were also pretty new.

“I worked as a software engineer for a dating site in the mid-’00s. Literally every single female profile was fake. They were ‘generated’ profiles using arbitrary data and paid-for lewd photos from various sources.”

I have actually seen packs of profiles (1000’s at a time) complete with photos and data you can buy to populate a new or young dating site. Most are grabs from different sources but when I last spoke to a person, they were suggesting some have been generated by machine learning practices.
As for the data, I have seen SQL and XML dumps but most are CSV and JSON.
Prices? I’m not sure but I gather a lot cheaper than getting real people to sign up.

“Most of the female users were fake. We would import thousands of fake profiles all the time to prop up the numbers and let the men think there were all of these women on the platform.”

I experienced this with Bumble a long time ago. For weeks I could get to through most of the users in my filters. Then suddenly there was a influx of model like profiles. They all had a similar style and shouted to me fake. That’s even before you read the small amount of written profile info, which could be a user or operator not bothered. Either way, its not necessarily someone I would be interested in contacting

“I ran operations for an online dating company (notably not affiliated with Match). IIRC, we were able to determine that it takes on average about three dates before sex happens (I don’t recall how we worked that out, I’m not a data analyst, but presumably it was some keyword-based algorithm looking at chat messages).”

Some people forget all messages between users are tracked and analysed. All those things you are sharing with another person is being logged and tracked. If you read some of the  terms, you will see they also sell the keyword data

“The most depressing stat…was the histogram of word count in messages. Something like 91% of opening messages were just one word ‘hey,’ and ~85% of conversations were just one exchange long (‘hey’ -> no reply ever). Looking at human, digital mating habits splayed out in data science form was really depressing.”

This is why I stopped reading OKCupid’s Dataclysm, I started to loose faith in humanity with the conversation lengths.

“My roommate used to work at one of the big dating apps and one of the issues they had was that their algorithm changed at one point to more emphatically enforce dating ‘pools’ where people who got more right swipes would only see profiles of people who get more right swipes, etc. With the idea being that it would put people in similar ‘tiers’ to actually match. One big issue they were having was…well, racial ‘preferences’ or sexual racism being pretty amplified as a result. Black women and Asian men especially were being overwhelmingly shuffled down the algorithm because there are a lot of people who will basically automatically swipe left on them as soon as they see they’re a Black woman or an Asian man, even if they were hot as hell.”

https://i2.wp.com/image.slidesharecdn.com/dating-against-humanity-ian-forrester-final-160214222131/95/dating-against-humanity-47-638.jpg?w=840&ssl=1

Its clear by algorithmic bias that users are boxed off from each other. This is why its important to be able to find your own way around the users rather than the way the algorithm presents things to you.
My recent ex made it clear I was found outside of the recommendations. If she stuck to the algorithm we likely would never have met. I know some of you might say, well not everyone has the time to manually go through the site. But if you look at this way, madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I can’t tell you how good it was to read OKCupid members blogs and get in touch. Likewise I’ve been looking for abstract terms across POF to see where people have used it and how. Years ago I had a great conversation with a woman who included a circus skill in her profile. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Diabolo but the Poi is still cool.

My ex bf worked for the Yahoo Italy dating site back in the earlyish 2000s. His job was to pretend to be a woman, and message male customers just as their accounts were going to expire. This would encourage them to pay to renew their subscriptions. Once they renewed, he would ghost them.
He only lasted for a few months due to how unethical it was.

So common and I know a few people in the past who have done this. However recently I met a person who did this for a while for a small amount of money. They are paid to engage with users as they close to the end of their membership period then once they renewed their membership disappear/ghost.
Of course the profile is a fake one, sometimes they are made up by the person or are rotated by the dating site (this has limitations of course, where the ).

A couple met on the dating app I worked on.
Unfortunately, the man passed away and the lady returned to the app where they met for remembrance.
One day, a bug in the system made some profile likes to be sent again after months and she received one from her deceased boyfriend.
Her bug report was heartbreaking.

This is horrible but I have seen similar examples of ex-members receiving emails by accident or their profile coming out of a dormant state. Mistakes happen but this should never happen

Good luck to all the singletons dating in a pandemic, its rough out there and to be fair the dating sites could make things a little easier if they wanted to.

I still have a strong feeling this is all too important to be left to the private sector. Imagine if the covid19 pandemic keeps us apart for another year? Or the next pandemic? We can’t rely on the unethical practices described above to connect people for the future…?

As if perfect timing… The Guardian has a piece about this…

Falling fertility rates have been a problem in the world’s wealthiest nations – notably in Japan and Germany – for some time. In South Korea last year, birthrates fell to 0.84 per woman, a record low despite extensive government efforts to promote childbearing. From next year, cash bonuses of 2m won (£1,320) will be paid to every couple expecting a child, on top of existing child benefit payments.

The fertility rate is also falling dramatically in England and Wales – from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to just 1.65 in 2019. Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 suggest it could now be 1.6, which would be the lowest rate since before the second world war. The problem is even more severe in Scotland, where the rate has fallen from 1.67 in 2012 to 1.37 in 2019.

Apple and their form of privacy

Apple's smug new iPhone ad says privacy matters, just ...

Ummmm right…

I get Apple are more private about data than others like Google (which pings Android phones so much people are suing for data charges) but there is something about misplaced trust with Apple which always bugs me. These latest adverts and recent news stories say it all.

Downloads outage down issues which is all around Apples Gatekeeper privacy and Apple’s latest OS update Big sur network traffic bypass.

Of course this is all clear reasons why I’m very much in the open source camp. Maybe I won’t understand the code, but someone will and can inspect it or track down the issue without signing an NDA. I urge for people to not blindly trust. Always look out for open code, zero-knowledge security, no logging, transparency, etc

A better way to review books online?

A good read

Angela is absolutely right in her post about the sorry state of Goodreads.

Last year, I lamented the poor design of Goodreads — a much-needed platform where readers can review books they’ve read and track those they want to. Poor search functionality, ugly aesthetics, an embarrassingly terrible recommendation algorithm, and buried club and group features make the site unpleasant to use. Since the story came out, Goodreads hasn’t done much to improve its deficiencies. Instead, it seems content to rest on its laurels as a near-monopoly owned by Amazon, benefiting from its massive existing user base while being, apparently, deserted by its design team.

It is a joke, even ebay has made changes to improve not just the look but experience of their system (not to say its great however). Goodreads feels like sites before web 2.0 boom. Regardless it has a massive audience, I can’t work out why either?

The post talks about all the different examples people are doing to create their own goodreads alternative using sites like Glitch and Medium. Its a good-read (pun intended) but I found it interesting there was no mention of some of the indieweb (hreview microformats) and fediverse systems (Bookwyrm).

Of course all of them require more technical effort than a webly, glitch, etc but I thought it would be worth mentioning.

My Houseparty GDPR data dump

During the start of the Covid19 lockdown, I was convinced by friends to try houseparty and decided it was pretty crappy so stopped using it as mentioned in a previous blog.

After many emails I finally got my personal GDPR data copy. From Hotel Charlie!

I can’t tell you how much hassle its been… even when they sent me a horribly long link (we are talking about 300 characters long) to the zip file, it would expire a few hours later on their Amazon S3 bucket.

<Error>
<Code>ExpiredToken</Code>
<Message>The provided token has expired.</Message>
<Token-...{very large token}...</Token>
</Error>

Finally once I got it… It was a zip file with a index.html and 5 different folders.

  • room_visits / room_visits.html
  • profiles /profile.html
  • photos / 216A9AAE57194410901F8BA7981E63AB (a png file)
  • interactions / interactions.html
  • friends / friends.html

All the .html files are horrible tables for example here is interactions.html

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <title>Room Visits</title>
</head>
<style>
table {
    border-collapse: collapse;
}
table, th, td {
    border: 1px solid black;
}
</style>
<body>
<table border="1">
    <tr>
        <td>Room ID</td>
        <td>Room Visit Start Date</td>
        <td>Room Visit End Date</td>
        <td>Users</td>
    </tr>
    
    <tr>
        <td>e021116-bae-44d6-cc17-9121fbeaccc13</td>
        <td>
    2020-06-45T21:23:11Z
</td>
        <td>
    2020-06-11T21:16:41Z
</td>
        <td>
            <ul>
            
            </ul>
        </td>
    </tr>
    
</table>

</body>
</html>

The data isn’t that interesting but I think thats because I wasn’t using the app just my Chromium browser. I also only friended one person, so its all pretty slim on data.

Not that interesting but I’m very sure theres lots they have on me, however I requested my account is deleted. There is no way to delete your account if you are using the browser and the Android app from within the system. You have to request deletion!

My next GDPR request is for Clearview AI!

The Houseparty is over, time for the GDPR to kick in the front door?

houseparty gdpr request email

I requested my GDPR personal data from Houseparty/Epic games over a 2 months ago when I signed up under my spam email and slight social pressure from friends. I read the privacy policy and almost spat out my tea.

However I found I could use houseparty in a clean browser (chromium) – app.houseparty.com. as there was absolutely no way I was going to install the app on my pixel phone. After trying to play a game with friend I found the video worked but not the actual game.

As we moved on to using boardgamearena.com. I decided I wanted to delete my account and got interested to know how much data they had collected about me in my short time in houseparty.

Outcomes my GDPR request, I send it to data-requests@lifeonair.com and nothing. I resend it to support@houseparty.com and get my response. Back and forth then finally…

Houseparty Support

May 08, 2020, 20:46 +0100

Hello Ian,

Thank you for your response.

I’m glad that you’ve reached us regarding your request. We received your data request. Our team is working on pulling the data, and you will receive your data within 30 days.

Please feel free to contact us if you need any further assistance.

Regards,
Romeo Tango

As you see can see the date of May 8th was 34 days ago and yes I get Covid19 but I’m not expecting the much data back. Unless there is a ton coming my way?

Either way I’m annoyed at being messed around at the start and also them not taking it seriously. I’m still not convinced Romeo Tango is real to be honest.

ICO submission

So enough, I’ll let the ICO deal with it all.

 

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (May 2020)

Silicon Valley TV show

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by celebrity culture on lockdown or looking at the sorry state of instagram during lockdown.

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 in litmus test of thoughts from 45 non-journalist students from 17 nationalities students about the post-covid19 mediascape.


China’s plans to fundamentally change the internet stack from the bottom

Ian thinks: China’s attempt to change IP by going to the ITU is substantial and quite terrifying even in the face of the misinformation warfare. For anyone creating devices/services/apps for the Chinese market, its a real wake up call.

The secret market for your web browsing data

Ian thinks: These secret markets/ecosystem for personal data has been revealed over and over again. But this reveal is based purely on our web browsing data but is no less scary

How much is data worth?

Ian thinks: The discussion about the price of data pops its head up again. Its a difficult question but its worth something to someone.

But I have nothing to hide? Really?

Ian thinks: Really good video summary you can share with friends and family, for those who “have nothing to hide…”

Sorry was that, EST, BST, GMT, CET or just UTC?

Ian thinks: A good balanced look at what would happen if we all switched to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time. Makes some very good points on both sides. Tom Scott, adds his views from a programming point of view.

Snowdon on the privacy woes of Covid-19

Ian thinks: Vice interviews Edward Snowdon about how the different governments are taking advantage of our fear around Covid-19

Lilian Edwards proposal for Contact tracing

Ian thinks: Lilian is very creditable and while everybody is concerned and focused on contact tracing technology. Shes approached it from the equally important angle of policy.

Abolish Silicon Valley and rethink our future

Ian thinks: I haven’t read Wendy Li’s book yet but she makes some good if a bit over optimistic in points. But shes got the scars to back up every point.

Time to talk seriously about Universal basic income?

Ian thinks: Good to see a view outside the silicon reality distortion valley. Discussions for the post Covid-19 future lean heavily on Universal basic income.

Always been meaning to read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism?

Ian thinks: The dutch broadcaster VPRO kindly posted their documentary with Shoshana Zuboff online for all the people who didn’t make it through the 500+ pages of her book. Not deep enough try the 2hr lecture.

I may reconsider getting a Google home mini now

Google local apk diagram

When I got my Pixel 2 it came with a Google home mini. I decided I would give it a shot so other people can control the Hue lights in my flat.

However I was deeply disappointed to find I could only make it work if I open up two holes in my firewall, allowing Google Home mini to talk to Google then Google talking to Philips who then talk through my other hole in my firewall to my Hue lights!

Even saying the above is a clear sign of how stupid the whole thing is…

So annoyed I sold it straight away. But it looks like I wasn’t the only one who fed back to Google how stupid this all was and early last year they included some code in their SDK to include local access.

Now it looks like its ready and I noticed Philips Hue and TPlink are one of the first lot of services to support this.

If this works as it says I may buy a Google home mini or I noticed the Google home hub is going for half price right now. Of course I’ll make sure the firewall stay closed and will be watching how people find the local access. What a field day people will have if Google screw this one up…!

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (April 2020)

After truth

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the amount of infected people with Covid19 or the huge amount of scams cashing in on our Covid19 fears.

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 people rising to the challenge of 3D printing valves and open-sourcing the results.


Your living room has an agenda

Ian thinks: Christopher Wylie covers the natural progress of linked data, surveillance, iot, smart cities, data ethics and echo bubbles in a short diatribe. Taken from ANTIDOTE 2019

Doughnut Economics explained by Kate Raworth

Ian thinks: Kate made the link between human needs and the environmental demands to support life on earth, in such a engaging and simple to understand way. This is the kind of connected thinking which will drive forward much needed changes.

Hacktivists: From Anonymous to Luzsac to Occupy

Ian thinks: Great documentary about hacks, hackers, hacktivists and their political interests. Free to watch in full on youtube

Throwing out data ethics with the bath water in the age of Covid-19?

Ian thinks: Great examples of where data ethics has been squeezed or sidelined during a more immediate threat. Something we should all be aware of.

Summary of Open hardware fighting Covid-19

Ian thinks: There is so much about open hardware hackers doing incredible things to battle Covid-19. This short video sums up so many great projects in one go and gives some great advice for those wanting to help.

The local global revolution which was waiting for its moment

Ian thinks: Helena and Douglas discuss the importance of localism or decentralised, can serve and solve the problems of people. Douglas’s monologue about Covid-19 and how our current media is warping our perception is so apt.

The status-quo is over, the world after Covid-19

Ian thinks: I started to do a similar post but Vice beat me to the punch with this vast (USA focused) post highlighting the opportunities and questions we should have post Covid-19.

Stealing card details in a flash

Ian thinks: As our contact-less cards limits raise to 45 pounds per transaction. Fascinating to see with great convenience comes great opportunity for those who want to prosper quickly.

Nothing spreads faster than disinformation on the internet

Ian thinks: There is a formula for mis/disinformation (fake news if you must) and its been exploited to the max. This documentary highlights the problem stopping on news we all have heard including . Don’t have HBO, here is a Guardian review

Staying safe and staying humanly connected

Ian thinks: I couldn’t help but end this Covid-19 heavy newsletter with a positive video from Vox showing how we are staying safe and connected during this world wide pandemic. Very touching…

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

A little tale of my motiv ring

My Motiv ring on my hand

I really enjoyed having my Bluetooth Motiv ring really, it is great except a little while ago it started to not sync properly. Reporting the wrong battery percentage, syncing inconsistently, asking to be upgraded and just being a general annoyance.

I complain back to Motiv and they tried to diagnose the problems I was having with the ring. After a few days they asked if I was playing volleyball with the ring on? I said yes and they suggested using the other hand when playing volleyball. This sounds fine but the problem I have is being ambidextrous in something’s like sports is I switch hands all the time.

I explained I bought the ring for the whole point of wearing it during sports because my pebble watch can not really be worn while playing volleyball.

They suggested a replacement ring however their UK/European supplier has changed and they couldn’t issue a replacement over the winter period. I’m thinking Brexit might have something to do with this? Anyway cutting a long story short, I was completely refunded and I get to keep my current faulty ring. Good stuff from Motiv and I may consider getting a replacement once I see what happens in the near future (maybe a second version will support a few more knocks?)

In the meanwhile, I relooked at the Oura ring 2 but frankly its a lot more and there are some serious flaws in the Android app (no google fit, export, etc).

I’ll stay put and keep wearing the Motiv ring till its completely useless, as its still capturing data and the app is still syncing with google fit.

Rethinking the user experience in age of distributed networks

Planetary.socialIt was David who reminded me to blog about planetary.social, which recently was announced on twitter by Tom Coates.

I feel this is one of many to come. Not another social networks, but the idea of rethinking the advantages of decentralised, federated and distributed networks.

When I saw Aral’s talk a long time ago at Thinking Digital, I have been wondering why don’t more designers look at the advantages and rethink them into completely new user experiences?

Imagine:  Decentralised, Its not a bug its a feature

I like what planetary has done with the FAQ page. You would also expect them to shy away from the underlying networking technology of Scuttlebutt (which is hard to explain to people use to centralised models of social networks). They took the underlying technology and turned it into a competitive business advantage, without breaking the ethos/promise of the technology.

So you got Aral, Tom and many more examples coming out of the Indieweb movement including Aaron

This is the future… Good ethical technology, good ethical design and good ethical data practices = Great new user experiences.

This might sum up the talk I’m thinking about for Agile Manchester 2020.

https://twitter.com/agilemanc/status/1219991870899675136