Fake Tech

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31

I see it in tech news constantly, and interact with it on a daily basis…

Fake Tech.

Ridesharing. Gig Culture. Delivery.

This stuff gets lumped in with “tech” because they use apps, but it’s fake tech. Let’s examine how poorly this junk works.

For one, let’s not even start on the business side of things. They never hire anyone, and instead hide behind “contractors” agreements to make sure they don’t have to fulfill any actual employee obligations. Then, their “tech” is full on garbage. If you need to contact the poor, shat-upon soul who toils for the algorithm-chosen amount of pay, they just dump you at a text message instead of guaranteeing you can contact the individual.

I had to deal with Doordash tonight. For a “tech” company, they literally have a 1970s phone system that connects you to an outsourced call center that is completely helpless to do anything.

This isn’t actually technology. It’s a company that hired a few devs to write an app and a backend while some true brogrammers cook up a shitty, exploitative business model.

Fake tech. But the business press thinks that this is what technology is.

Useless!! 😀

Comments (32)

32 responses to “Fake Tech”

  1. Avatar

    Vladimir Carli

    I don't disagree with what you write but always-on connectivity enabled the exploitative business models. The big problem is that there is a growing number of people who reject technology for this reason. Regulation is really required fast

    • Avatar

      jimchamplin

      In reply to Vladimir:

      That’s very true, a great point. If it weren’t for our pervasive connection, this wouldn’t be as easy. These companies can just pop up with a minimal investment - but for some reason need BILLIONS - and squeeze an app off into the app stores and boom. They have “contractors” and clients.


      As Deadpool would say, “Minimal effort.”

  2. Avatar

    jules_wombat

    Yeah well, not much sympathy for the consumer here. These Apps thrive because we the consumer expect services and goods at lowest cost points. All those cheap food delivery Apps, when we could cook our own quality food or go to a restaurant and pay a fair rate. So we should not really complain on the occasional poor service quality if we are not prepared to stump up the appropriate price. What the governments should do is ensure the rights of workers are protected, minimum wage and rates etc. The 'Gig economy' for many is little more than waiting on the dockside for work in the depression hit 1930's.

  3. Avatar

    codymesh

    This is what some people have been calling "late-stage capitalism". The people who work to make these services possible don't get any employee benefits, these companies often disrupt and displace what used to be secure jobs. Worse, these junk companies themselves are often debt-funded and don't turn a profit, and the CEO makes the news for buying a mansion (see: uber).


    The only people who win are the people at the top. For the more vulnerable involved, it's a misery as they wait for the business model to hopefully work out - even as it is headed for a collapse.


    It is reckless behavior from The Adults In The Room (tm). For example, the way Softbank continued to give WeWork credibility even as they showed no path to profitability. There will be people who continue to say that people's struggles are just a result of individual choices, but the truth is that most of these problems are systematic, and the shat-upon souls are just trying their best to not drown.


    The gig economy is the product of greed, exploiting the desperation of people.

  4. Avatar

    waethorn

    "the poor, shat-upon soul who toils for the algorithm-chosen amount of pay"


    Don't pity them - they chose that career path. The "gig economy" nurtures peoples fantasy of instant gratification with no hard work. Maybe if people actually took some personal responsibility for their lives, they'd look for a real job.

    • Avatar

      jules_wombat

      In reply to Waethorn:

      That's unreasonable. If you were running a reasonable Taxi firm in a Town, restaurant or making dresses but now find yourself being undercut by Uber, you may feel different. This is because the modern consumer wants and expects services and goods to be produced at the lowest common denominator by others less advantaged. The consumer is driving this demand in greed, we cannot blame corporates for our own selfishnish.

    • Avatar

      codymesh

      In reply to Waethorn:

      okay, so if it's not a "real job", should this job not exist? should no one do it? no more food delivery services and no more ridesharing? what exactly is a "real job"?

      and if these jobs should exist, who should be doing these jobs? Because in that case there is always going to be someone delivering food, regardless of "personal responsibility".


      Also plenty of people didn't choose this path. Rather, their industries were disrupted by all these junk "tech" companies. And these people do work plenty hard.

  5. Avatar

    minke

    Facebook has over 35,000 employees. Uber has around 22,000. What do they all do? Tech isn't really "fake" just because you don't like the way it works. For example, I hate FB, but apparently it is quite complicated behind the scenes. It is always easy to look at someone else's work and think "that is so easy, they must be lazy." But, you have no idea until you actually do the work. Check out Undercover Boss.

    • Avatar

      jimchamplin

      In reply to Minke:

      Yeah. It's fake tech.


      It's not technology because there's no actual original art. Let's look at your example of Facebook. It's nothing but a combination of existing concepts. The bulletin board existed for years before Facebook made it popular for soccer moms, and online tracking systems were feasible since the first cookie was saved on a hard disk. Did a bunch of coders sink a lot of time into a highly complex system? Yes.


      Is it worthy of being considered in the same category of importance as the first microprocessor? Hell no. Uber will never matter as much to history as the advent of UNIX.


      I don't care about how it works. I'm talking about whether or not it's actual technology. It's the same as "with a computer" patents. Doordash is just "calling for delivery with a smartphone." There's no new idea.


      Never said anyone was lazy. Never said any of the things you claimed. I said that it's not real technology.


      I also complained about outsourced customer service. Others here have said it: These junk tech companies benefit only the tiny few at the top. It's like the .com bubble only with less hubris and more greed.


      Edit: Summation: Doing something different with existing technology does not equal a new technology.

    • Avatar

      codymesh

      In reply to Minke:

      The problem, of course, is that in the case of Uber, the number of employees is artificial because the drivers that make the entire business possible aren't considered employees, and yet, they don't turn a profit.

  6. Avatar

    epsjrno

    While I agree that the service side of these companies such as Uber, Lyft, etc needs so much improvement, it's really difficult for me to agree with you on the contractor side of the issue. One of the ways IRS determines whether or not some should be paid on a W2 or a 1099 (employee vs contractor) is whether or not the worker follows a determined regular shift. The drivers themselves choose their own schedules AND the levels of service provided (bottle water, for instance). The Uber and Lyft apps are more of a go between to get potential passengers in contact with drivers.


    I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong, I'm just relaying that technically the drivers should be treated as contractors under current laws. As a contrast, construction labor is a far worse situation. Since the workers show up at a jobsite on a regular schedule and work set hours under direct supervision, they should be treated as actual employees with a W2 and taxes withheld. The contractors who employ them pay the workers as contractors illegally under current law. Unfortunately, most construction workers don't want to piss off the general contractors so they can get as much as possible so nothing gets reported. Therefore, the worker ends up being responsible for taxes at a self employment rate.

  7. Avatar

    txag

    I think that Uber and Lyft are not profitable for most drivers. But the CA bill screws far more workers: freelance writers, musicians, etc. There are (were) a lot of people who worked a gig existence. Yeah, probably for most people that's not the perfect situation, but not all people. I'm retired now, and a gig economy job would be a nice addition to my monthly income; it would not have to feed and house me.


    The CA law is knuckling under to unions that don't want anybody working outside the union system if they can make it so. They are perfectly happy to screw over 90% of the gig workers if 10% of the workers get into a union and pay dues.

  8. Avatar

    sentinel6671

    Uber and Lyft have just arrived in my city, after years of sweating and bulging of forehead by provincial government and local government. The population has been clamoring and screaming for these companies as a silver bullet to a broken, overcrowded transit system and a monopolistic taxi industry. Whether ride hailing is truly a solution for us is yet to be seen. I feel these two companies are horrible and, as you say, are built on an unsustainable business model. Everyone is determined to ignore reality in the mad rush to make our transportation nightmare go away.


    We'll see what happens when the warts of the gig economy begin to show.

  9. Avatar

    karlinhigh

    I understand that one attraction for ride-share drivers is the ability to work or not work in whatever way fits their schedule. They can come and go as they please, without an employer dictating their schedule. Without the responsibilities of an employee, to me it's not so surprising that they don't get the rights and privileges, either.


    It is a real question, though, if a society wants to allow work arrangements like these.


    If YES, then workers get less benefits than what employees have had in the past.


    If NO, then certain business models are simply not viable.


    In California, they seem to be going for an answer of NO, with the "ABC test" instead of "IRS 20 questions" to determine if an employer-employee relationship exists. Then they have to make exceptions when unacceptable collateral damage appears, such as the discovery that going after Uber this way would also pretty much end freelance journalism. Niche writing takes a big hit, because media outlets often can't afford to hire an employee to produce well-researched, well-written content for a relatively small audience.


    cnbc.com/2019/12/16/vox-media-to-cut-hundreds-of-freelance-jobs-ahead-of-californias-ab5.html

    “SB Nation has chosen to do the easiest thing they can to comply with California law — not work with California-based independent contractors, or any contractors elsewhere writing for California-based teams,” Lawson wrote. “I don’t blame them at all.”

    • Avatar

      codymesh

      In reply to karlinhigh:

      Not having a schedule simply translates to non-measurable work hours, followed by payslips tied to arbitrary (and unfair metrics), and ultimately skirting labor laws.


      That's the real story: it means the destruction of work-life balance and no limits on working hours, which is not a win-win. It is convenient for employers, not employees.


      • Avatar

        karlinhigh

        In reply to codymesh:

        Would those same criticisms apply to freight brokers and owner-operator truckers?


        truckerpath.com/blog/what-freight-brokers-do/


        Maybe not, because Hours of Service rules. (Which truckers usually hate, finding themselves forced to make non-optimal work-life choices in order to satisfy rules designed to protect work-life balance.)


        Beyond that, how are Uber, Lyft, etc different than freight brokers? They find people who need transportation and find drivers to provide it.

    • Avatar

      Vladimir Carli

      In reply to karlinhigh:


      the fact that riders can make their own schedule is a scam, it’s bait to attract them. Profits are so low that they completely loose ownership of their time. They have to work 18 hours a day to earn a living for themselves and their children. It’s not humanely acceptable

  10. Avatar

    lvthunder

    You get the gig culture stuff because quite a few tech writers are part of it. They just go by the term free lance journalist. I don't mind it because it allows people more flexibility. With the ridesharing companies the drivers get to pick when they are working. That could be beneficial to people who use it to make some money in addition to their main job.

  11. Avatar

    wright_is

    Exactly, I've never understood why Uber and Co. are so "sexy" and "tech", it is just a glorified taxi booking system, and here in Germany, the taxis do it better and they work within the law, meaning that their cars and passengers are legally insured, in the event of an accident. This has nothing to do with tech, as such, or as much as a company producing widgets using an ERP system.

    Only with less respect or conscience.

    • Avatar

      justme

      In reply to wright_is:

      Similar to @earlster, when I lived in the Midwest of the US, taxis were...unreliable. You could ring for one, and depending on the part of town you were in or the time of night, they may - or may not - show up. Taxis were generally in some state of disrepair. Public transit (where it existed at all) shut down before midnight and was not considered reliable outside of normal work commute times.


      Uber and Lyft by contrast showed up when you wanted, where you wanted - and at least the vehicles I rode in, were clean and comfortable.

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to JustMe:

        Over here, you need a professional driving license in order to carry people for hire and you need commercial insurance - which you can only get if you have a professional driving license.

        Uber were taken to court and banned, because they didn't ensure that their drivers had the correct driving license and they didn't ensure that they had commercial insurance - a legal requirement in Germany for driving for hire.

        That means that if an Uber driver with a normal license has an accident, they are personally liable for all costs and personal injury claims, as their private insurance is null and void in such a situation. They will also lose their driving license if they are in an accident - or even just stopped by the police. They could also face gaol time.

        There are perfectly good taxi apps here. The drivers are controlled, the cars are controlled, the state sets the per kilometre rates and ensures they are insured and have a valid license etc.

    • Avatar

      earlster

      ... here in Germany, the taxis do it better ...


      Unfortunately that is not my experience at all. They work well in city centers as long as a Taxistand is close by, but good luck in a smaller village, or even at the outskirts of a city at night. Unless you happen to have the local number available on your cell phone, it's a huge hassle. And you better speak German to talk to the operator.


      I have plenty of concerns and issues with the Uber/Lyft business model, but they have done an amazing job by bringing car hailing via an app to the masses, without that kick in the rear cab companies would still be in the stone ages. While ride hailing apps are no rocket science, some of the features are extremely customer friendly.


      It also enables access in less populated areas that is better then just Taxis.


      German and old style US Taxi companies are more or less a monopoly, with all the associated problems.


      Simply increasing rates through regulation might help fix at least some of the ride hailing issues. And maybe also some proper regulations of the gig economy, without throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  12. Avatar

    Daekar

    I have used Doordash... I don't understand how they sustain their business. If the amount they tacked on to the cost of the food was smaller, I'd use it constantly, but it is absolutely not worth it on a regular basis.


    Ridesharing and gig culture drive me insane. It's like the glorification of disempowerment and decreasing financial stability. Hell NO.

    • Avatar

      jimchamplin

      In reply to Daekar:

      It’s just more shady business. Not only do they charge for delivery, but they also tack on fees! None of those charges are to pay the driver. That’s the tip you give. Hilariously they ask you how much you want to tip BEFORE the order.


      But the more I think about it, it probably keeps clients honest.

  13. Avatar

    lwetzel

    Great Post! Humanity needs to come to their senses.

  14. Avatar

    rocky3128

    Yes Ihis isn’t actually technology. It’s a company that hired a few devs to write an app and a backend while some true brogrammers cook up a shitty, exploitative business model.

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