Rating people, reciprocity and more…

Black MIrror s3ep1

I also like Doc Searls have a problem with rating people.

I’ve hated rating people ever since I first encountered the practice. That was where everybody else does too: in school.

After all, rating people is what schools do, with tests and teachers’ evaluations. They do it because they need to sort students into castes. What’s school without a bell curve?

As John Taylor Gatto put it in the Seven Lesson Schoolteacher, the job of the educator in our industrialized education system is to teach these things, regardless of curricular aspirations or outcomes:

  1. confusion
  2. class position
  3. indifference
  4. emotional dependency
  5. intellectual dependency
  6. provisional self-esteem
  7. that you can’t hide

It’s no different in machine-run “social sharing” systems such as we get from Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. In all those systems we are asked to rate the people who share their cars and homes, and they are asked to rate us. The hidden agenda behind this practice is the same as the one Gatto describes above.

I use Uber now and then especilaly when outside of Manchester for work. I also have used Airbnb and of course host on Airbnb. I’m under no illusion how the rating system influences peoples opnions and behaviour too. Its meant to weed out bad behaviour but always seems to cause unintended consequences. I’m sure the people behind the scence have good intentions but fail to think about the law of unintended consequences.

To be clear I don’t have a problem with rating a piece of media or something non-human, for example I rate most of the media I watch. But rating a person feels a little hostile/weird. As the Black Mirror episode nosedive (s3ep1) clearly demostrates to great effect.

Recently I have been in a few Uber’s for other people (not sharing the fee) and its been interesting to see how people have rated each other. More interestingly is the social contract/mulipulation which spring into action. It starts with the driver stopping the journey and saying “I’m going to rate you 5 stars.” My friend then turns around and says they will do the same, and does. This is classic Law of Reciprocity as described in Influence.

As I tend to think about these things too much, I also find the loop holes in the system equally interesting.

On my holiday to Iceland, the host(s) moved me to another room and I went along with it because I was fed some line about helping them out. But actually there was something dodgy going on, as I met the Airbnb which was moving into my room I had booked.

I was peed off but not quite enough to want seek a refund, I wanted other people to be aware of this and my review explained exactly what happened.  Also brought this up with the hosts the day of this happening and private messaged them through Airbnb. My rating was fair I felt because it was unfair to lie to me about their motives, especially when I’d be very open with them. No rating system could really capture this.

The system is your review goes live once the other person also writes a review. Part of the review is rating out of 5 stars which is the bit which bugs me, because boiling down everything to 5 starts seems too simple.

Generally I only rub sholders with this stuff every once in a while. For example my Uber rating is 4.92 out 5 (partly because I don’t use Uber that much and treat the drivers like people not drivers, I talk to all the taxi drivers regardless). I’m also a superhost on Airbnb because I don’t take a lot of people and very careful who I host at my own place.

Due to these ratings I get a skewed view on each of these system. On uber I only get uber drivers which are rated 4.5 upwards (I hadn’t noticed till one of the drivers pointed it out to me a while ago). With Airbnb I have the luxury of being stricter with who I accept, partly because I don’t need to have guests all the time. However as a guest myself, things are different. Here are my 3 guest experiences

  1. (Japan) was so bad I stayed for 30mins and complained to Airbnb, getting my money back after a long back and forth with Airbnb & the host in question.
  2. (Portugal) was perfect
  3. (Iceland) was good till the end when the host lied and “double booked” the room (see the review here).

But this is about rating people…

Ratings are misleading and a horrible way to understand human complexity. They can be gamed and easily used to spread inequality. We play along unaware how we all contribute to this all.

First to try Uber’s cash payment?

Uber Lux in Amsterdam

Last week Sunday 9th October, Uber really wound me up on the way to a dinner with Herb, Amber and Rick. The Tram didn’t seem to be going to Castlefield and I was late for the dinner, so I decided to use Uber. That was the idea but I spent about 20mins trying to enter in my new credit card information into the Uber app while it complained my postcode wasn’t a zip code.

Yeah thanks for that Uber! No idea why its forcing me to enter a zip code when it knew I was in the UK, had a UK credit card and lived in the UK. Most of the world uses postcodes not zip codes by the way.

Anyway, I tried connecting my Paypal account via the already installed Paypal account. But nothing happened (I wonder if my 2 factor auth was confusing things). So I saw the option to use cash.

Usually I don’t have cash on me but this one time I did; and I ordered the Uber with the cash option, the same way you order it normally. When the Uber came 5mins later (I did think, I could have walked there in the time I spent doing all this) the driver took me to the restaurant and I handed over £20 to which he struggled to get the change for. So I ended up giving quite a large percentage tip, no problem.

Honestly I was surprised it worked, as I always thought of Uber as credit card only. While waiting for the Uber, I did search for using cash with uber. But didn’t know till Chris tweeted tonight, I might have been one of the very first in Manchester to try the option.

From the MEN piece.

The cash option has already been trialled in Singapore in a bid to attract more users, and now Manchester is set to be the first city in Europe to undergo the experiment.

In a statement, the private hire firm said: “We’re excited to announce that Manchester is one of the first cities – and the first one in Europe – to offer cash as a payment option for all riders in Manchester.

Looking at my Uber app, Cash is an option just as it was over a week ago.

I have given up telling Uber support the difference between a postcode & zip code. I found I could edit the old credit card entry rather than add another one. This meant the postcode would be set already and the other things I could enter without causing validation errors.

My photo used in Seattle and Ride Sharing article

Uber Lux in Amsterdam

Ben Metcalfe sent me a link to my photo which was used in a article about ride sharing in Seattle. from when I used Uber in Amsterdam,. Of course theres no problem with it because I mark most of my photos creative commons attribution, non-commercial sharealike.

23and…everybody

I saw a tweet which included the unstoppable Aral about 23andMe

You may remember I wrote about my thoughts about joining up and then a follow up.

Well…. as per the tweet

Today, 23andMe announced what Forbes reports is only the first of ten deals with big biotech companies: Genentech will pay up to $60 million for access to 23andMe’s data to study Parkinson’s. You think 23andMe was about selling fun DNA spit tests for $99 a pop? Nope, it’s been about selling your data all along.

Since 23andMe started in 2006, it’s convinced 800,000 customers to hand over their DNA, one vial of spit at a time. Personal DNA reports are the consumer-facing side of the business, and that’s the one we’re most familiar with. It all seems friendly and fun with a candy-colored logo and quirky reports that include the genetic variant for asparagus pee.

Its not even shocking…

We all (well some of us) knew this was coming. It does make me wonder how far companies such as 23andme will go?

I started listening to Andrew Keen on Triangulation today before leaving for work. I only got 10-15mins through when I found myself agreeing with Andrew on something (and it really hurts me to say so).

He mentioned something about Uber and the value of these services. 23andme I imagine would be added to the example pile too.

Lets change the world?

I won't change the world....

Its not unknown for me to say “Lets change the world

But Umair Haque writes about why this kind of thinking drives him up the wall.

Auughhh. Like yours, my skin crawls every time I hear it. “Changing the world” is the latest nails on the chalkboard of Modern Life…an eye-rolling platitude…a gut-churner of a buzzword…shouted daily by thousands of high-fiving business-class wannabes in chinos…the worst invention since the Company Theme Song.

Ebola? Who cares!! Dude!! We’ll call them emergency Ubers!! Climate change? Buddy, chillax!! We’ll send the flood victims tacocopters!! No life? No problem!! Everyone can have robo-friends!! They’re better than humans!! Unemployment? Let them Taskrabbit!! Who needs a career…an education…a life…when you can be a butler?!

Don’t worry, bro!! Dude!! Don’t you get it? Digitally connected superwatches will rescue us!! They’ll make us transcendent superbeings!! The Human Condition?! We’ll app our way out!! Glory be!! Hallelujah!! Sing it with me!! We’re not just here to make money, we’re…changing the world!!

I do see what he saying and his examples picking out the mentality of Uber, Taskrabbit, AirBnB and Tinder is spot on. Maybe the creative disruption these guys hide behind isn’t really creative disruption at all?

Think about it for a moment. Do you think Travis from Uber or the creepily misogynistic guys from Tinder “changed the world” more than Jonas Salk…Galileo…Einstein…Gandhi…Martin Luther King? Do you need a brain transplant…and asoul? Are you a dummy? There have always been billionaires, tycoons, hucksters. But there haven’t always been polio vaccines…cosmologies…theories of relativity…civil rights.

Those are the guys who really changed the world, and to be fair they didn’t shout creative disruption as they went about it.

Changing the world isn’t helping your bro find a date by coding an app. Changing the world isn’t feeding your frat house by building a tacocopter. Changing the world isn’t turning life into a perma frat party by making a shot that can fulfill all your daily nutritional needs.

Things that make people…butlers, chauffeurs, maids, courtesans…debtors, sharecroppers, zombies…don’t change anything. They are merely more of the same. They redeem no human suffering; enhance no human potential; spark no human accomplishment; transform no human being. They do not create anything truly worthy that might not have been otherwise. There is no greatness, nobility, goodness, justice, or truth in them. There is merely the same old ugliness, cruelty, despair, and self-deception that has always been.

I think what I took away from everything Umair wrote is the empowerment for all. Even I have been thinking a lot more about the gotchas when using Uber and even AirBnB. Everything is tied into an algorithm, how fast you reply, how slow, collecting and build reputation for you which you have no control over. Even when you decide to opt out, its a problem. This is all without even looking at the overall societal, social and humanity effect of dancing with algorithms (as I am now calling it).

Its all very good critique and quite a bit to think about next time I shout “lets change the world!

Data portability and uber

With all the recent stories about the already dubious (or maybe  devious would be more fitting) Uber. Even I am starting to question how much I can really ignore, especially the God mode (yes I was aware via friends but balancing out how much benefit it brought to myself)

Helen Keegan reminds me of what I have been ignoring (I added the links by the way)…

How about throwing their dodgy off-shore tax dealings and encouraging sub-prime loans to drivers for a shiny new car without guaranteeing any work or taking any responsibility? Or maybe the lack of insurance and vetting of drivers? I’m sure there’s a bunch of other things too. And they’re not the only big tech company behaving like this mind.

Shes right, theres a lot of black marks. To be fair it was Mr Sparks which highlighted the attitude as it was being trialled in Manchester. However if you don’t like what Uber is doing, best look at what most of the silicon valley tech companies are doing. Ok so say I wanted to leave because I am sick to the back teeth of what their CEO is doing (I left Godaddy for this reason to be fair) what happens now?

Uber Lux in Amsterdam

Delete the app fine, but what about the account, data deletion and where next? I have to start again at Hailo? Why can’t I take my  reputation with me?

Theres no way to kill the account in the app, so people have asked them to kill the account. Maybe you can trust, Uber will delete the data (haven’t looked at the Eula recently to see their policy around this).

Unless specified otherwise in this Privacy and Cookie Policy, we will retain your information until you cancel your Uber account, or until your Uber account has been inactive for a year. If you wish to cancel your Uber account or request that we no longer use your information to provide you services, please contact us at support@uber.com. Upon expiry of the one year period of inactivity, we will alert you and give you two weeks to re-activate your Uber account or retrieve any personal information you want to keep. After deletion of your account we will anonymize your data, unless these data are necessary to comply with a legal obligation or resolve disputes.

Ideally you should be able to take you’re trip data and give it to another company. Dataportability please! I’ve been in a similar position before. At the same time it should shutdown the account.

My only hope is Uber upped the game of the other taxi companies out there…

Don’t be Evil Uber indeed…!

Imagine Uber for Hugs

sometimes, a hug is all what we need

Not sure where alexis lloyd heard it from but I love the concept… and could easily team up with the free hugs campaign.

Imagine watching your hug coming in on google maps, 5mins, 2mins, 1min… text comes in saying your hug is waiting outside the door for you… You could rate the hugs and get a nice description of the hugger before hand.

If I understand correctly, the engine which drives Uber is already being used elsewhere and could be re-purposed for many things including hugs.

Maybe thats what the world needs right now? Lazyweb make it so?

Uber drives its way on the UK scene

2014-01-26 | 23-52-16

Uber has soft launched (I guess, is the best term for it) in Manchester and the impact is interesting to watch. Uber is basically a ride sharing network (legally I don’t believe they can call it a taxi service Thanks Chris for pointing out UberX is a legal and licensed Taxi service).

Its quite simple, you sign up and install the app and you can see all the uber rides around you. To order one, you simply request that one pick you up from your exact location. Then say where you want to go. That simple. Unlike most taxis, you can see exactly when and when your ride is coming and heck you can even start walking somewhere and the driver will see your exact location change (great for when trying to get out of the rain for example). No phoning an operator, trying to get through and trying to explain where you are.

There have been apps for taxis but most of them suck and although Uber isn’t perfect, its better than 99% of whats out there.

The fact your payment is done through a connected credit card rather than cash or even debit card is a massive advantage. Frankly these guys have something which is pretty useful. I can’t tell you the amount of times, I have had the taxi driver pull over at a cash machine because I don’t have the cash or they don’t cards. Heck once I stopped at my destination and then had to get back on the road to find a cash machine because their card machine wasn’t working! (seriously!)

But its not all good news, I’ve been tracking Uber’s problems in America and theres even recent problems in Europe.

However, Uber is the perfect example of how the internet when embraced is disrupting traditional business forever…

From the Cluetrain manfesto… rule #89

We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

I do feel for the taxis company’s but they had their chances and may have blown it? Just like the music business and many others, they really need to up their game or feel the heat from Uber, as their drivers leave for the Uber deal…