I Am Disgusted with Tech February 23, 2017Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
Tags: Facebook, Uber
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Well, no, not really, especially since it pays me well to do what I do. But I seem to be surprised and amazed (in a negative sense) daily with their behavior, both on the public stage and behind the scenes.
But Uber seems to be bound and determined to support its bro culture and its combative approach to opening new markets. “We’re hurting.” Seriously? This is about as juvenile as it gets, and for a company that’s purportedly worth north of $60 billion, is completely uncalled for. And oh by the way, let’s attack by name the woman who had the courage, and the evidence, to speak out against that culture.
And getting former assistant attorney general (and current revolving door ambulance chaser) Eric Holder to investigate them is like getting the fox to investigate why chickens have disappeared. I can write his report right now: “This company is the paragon of virtue, although it does have random pockets of sexism and racism. They don’t really have to do anything about that, because they are so good otherwise.” If Uber pays Holder enough money, CEO Travis Kalanick won’t even be required to do a public mea culpa.
Uber has done some good, upending an industry that needed to be upended. But it has done so in a way that has created an entirely new class of working poor drivers, and a class of upper-income users who sadly don’t actually have to talk to anyone to get a ride. Or tip anyone (I am sorry, the Uber drivers work for a living, and deserve courteous treatment. Instead, Uber continues to not include a tip function on their app.)
Sadly, I don’t think that Facebook has done any good whatsoever. It has created a mass worldwide addiction that can never be satiated. I see no innovation or value there. And Zuckerberg? He continues to deny what Facebook is and has become, all the while bringing in billions in market value for himself. And uses it to buy his privacy, which he denies Facebook users.
Uber and Facebook, if you are looked upon as the adult supervision of Silicon Valley, then I can’t imagine what is happening elsewhere. It does not have to be like this, but this is what you wanted, and it is so very wrong.
Is a Car Just a Car? August 12, 2016Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture, Uncategorized.
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At this time of my life, yes. My transportation is an 18-year old Subaru that just starts every time. But 25 years ago, I owned a classic Corvette. L-82, large bore V-8. If I could think it, that car could deliver on it. As a teen, I had an old Chevy sedan that moved okay, and let me join the other teens in doing whatever we did with cars.
Uber entire business model is based on the assumption that a car is only transportation. I can hail a whatever sedan Uber sends me to get from here to there. I am pretty much in sync with that, because I need to get from here to there, reliably and more or less on time. I certainly don’t do it in any fancy way.
But I am not everyone. Most news/magazine websites still have an automotive section, and paper magazines like Car and Driver and Automotive News still sell well. Many people like cars, and have an emotional attachment to them. There is a certain beauty in the lines of many cars, and car ownership still remains a reachable dream for youth and adults alike.
If Uber fails, here is where it will happen. For some, perhaps many, travel is not a commodity. The journey is the reward, as Steve Jobs had once said. To many, this is the literal truth.
Uber is selling a way to get from here to there. That’s not a bad thing. But in the case of cars, it is nowhere near everything. Chevy sells tens of thousands of Corvettes every year. Other attractive, fast, and functional cars sell in the millions. They do so not because people need them, in many cases, but because they want them.
Uber works when the alternative is hailing a cab, and its advantage there will be reduced once it starts charging full price, rather than providing a subsidy on its rates.
But some people (many people?) need more than that. I don’t happen to be one of them, at this point in my life (though given my location, I still don’t use Uber), but I can still appreciate the sentiment. I don’t know that Uber will fail, because there is still a significant population that requires only occasional transport from one point to another.
But it is a crack in the business model. I don’t think any cultural shift that occurs will happen that fast or that completely to make cars simply transportation for many people. How many people could decide whether Uber is a global force or merely a taxi company.
I’m Talking About You, Uber September 10, 2015Posted by Peter Varhol in Software platforms, Technology and Culture.
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The question is what am I talking about. You are so not about a “sharing economy”. Virtually all of your drivers aren’t sharing their daily cars, on their normal day to day business, to accommodate the occasional rider. Instead, they are buying extra cars to turn themselves into the modern equivalent of the taxi driver, without the taxi provided by the company. Calling this the sharing economy is a dangerous misnomer. This is a service, just like a taxi is a service.
But that’s okay, even if you’re not honest about it. At the same time, that’s the drivers’ decisions to make. I don’t think anyone is forcing them into what is essentially a part time business. And most taxi drivers are so-called independent contractors anyway, and are charged by the taxi company for the use of the car. I am not clear on the economics, but it must work for many.
And certainly the occasional local ride concept was due for some significant disruption. Taxi service is fundamentally stuck in operations that are at least half a century old. It doesn’t work for the consumer any more. Uber works better for the rider (mostly), and can have some advantages for the driver. As well as some disadvantages, depending on decisions made by individual drivers.
The technology makes a difference. You no longer have to call a taxi company; instead, you signal from the app, tell them where you are and where you want to go, and they are generally pretty responsive.
But the technology only enables the work shift you are attempting. My short term guess: you will continue to be pretty successful, because almost everyone who uses taxis also uses smartphones. My long term guess: this is a transitional technology that will be put out of business decisively by the driverless car. I’m sure you’ve thought of that, and are looking to eliminate the middleman; i.e., the driver. This ultimately isn’t a new model for employment, or the so-called sharing economy. You will be first in line for the mass-produced Google car.
I’m not criticizing that, but I am criticizing your fundamental dishonesty in long term goals. You are not about the worker or the so-called sharing economy. You are about the disruption. You continue to lie, but that’s what you’ve done since your inception.