Freddie deBoer: The three hot trends in Silicon Valley horseshit:

The snark is strong with this one.

It's one thing to take a product that is already cheap and just fine and replace it with a vastly more expensive version that locks people into exploitative proprietary systems for years in exchange for giving them a 15 second hit of dopamine derived from Going Digital. I mean, Quip and Juicero and whatever Silicon Valley dildo company is selling dongs with DRM-equipped replaceable heads are actually fundamentally selling you a product. It's a horribly, uselessly expensive product that could only be embraced by chumps, but it's a tangible thing. The real next level is just inserting yourself into someone else's transaction and collecting a % while offering nothing. (When this is a job, we call it "consulting.") Why charge a lot for the blades when you can charge a lot for literally nothing?

RentBerry is useful here because the word "rent" is literally in the name. Here's the value proposition that RentBerry offers. For landlords who are already raking in record profits, RentBerry provides a chance at making even more, as potential tenants must set upon each other in a dystopian nightmare auction system that compels them to ask, how much am I willing to pay to avoid sleeping in the park, really? For tenants, RentBerry offers... well, the opportunity to pay more in a pre-existing housing crisis, the chance to make the process of finding an apartment an even more horrific exercise in stress and disappointment, a reason to hate faceless strangers with even more intensity, and more reason to view city life as a ceaseless Nietzschean struggle from which they will never escape. What RentBerry gets in return is, eventually, a % of your already hideously overpriced rent, for the duration of the lease. I bet you can't wait to know a portion of your rent check is going not just to the landlord you hate but also to a company that did nothing beyond giving him the ability to take more of your money! Of course, if you live in New York, your "landlord" might very well be a hedge fund that also funded RentBerry! Sweet, right?

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9 Responses:

  1. John Styles says:

    I didn't realise electric toothbrushes were a tool of The Man. My gums are now woke.
    (Internet enabled ones are obviously ludicrous but it seemed to me to be going beyond that)

  2. robert_ says:

    Soon there may be no more actual 'fixed' prices for anything - it will all be based on a dynamically calculated yield figure, as with airline tickets, and we will spend ever more of our precious time trying to 'optimise' the price for something (or in simpler terms, avoid being gouged) rather than actually living a fulfilling life.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      we will spend ever more of our precious time trying to 'optimise' the price for something rather than actually living a fulfilling life.

      Don't worry, there will be a dozen shitty startups claiming to do the same thing. We'll just have to spend our time figuring out which one of them is optimal.

    • James says:

      Those in exploited hyperinflationary economies, who have to pay for their daily goods in foreign currencies issued by the economies exploiting them by encouraging their leaders to print money while hedging forex contracts against local goods and services, are already doing just that.

  3. DaveL says:

    I'm reminded of K. W. Jeter's book "Noir," a grim meathook future where violating DRM is punished by a lifetime of torture, and the goal of the bad guys is initially to sell people shit in a can, but ultimately just sell them an empty can. Now you don't even have to have a can.

  4. Norie says:

    Hey JWZ read the shit at the bottom about reddit please.

    I'd feel a lot worse about RentBerry if I wasn't convinced that it's emergence - along with many other recently created tech-heavy tools and services for that 'market' - is a sign that the bubble is proceeding like any other bubble, i.e. with the 'this is the new normal, and so this is the way things need to be done from now on' bulletproof confidence phase immediately preceding the vertical drop phase.

    The way the various e-lance platforms handle their 'laboring customers' is pretty toxic given that businesses - the 'paying customers' - that require freelancers should understand that they need in the absolute best scenario as much screening, familiarization and evaluation as permanent employees, and that most will need a _lot_ more. Still, most of the people I know who have used that platform have quickly created off-site relationships with the clients they prefer to work with and collect most additional business through their own channels and, after all, everybody's on LinkedIn. The platforms gradually become left with the worst workers and clients:

    Workers who just frontload the milestones, grab the first payment and disappear; developing world gangmasters with an army of undeveloped-Asia-Asian college students actually producing the work (FYI this is why you set two similar tasks and get two completely different quality deliverables); backpackers in Cambodia who kept to their last three schedules but suddenly go AWOL for two weeks because they get into the LSD, freak out and either lose their laptop or 'need to recover from their experience' aka run off to some high altitude jungle hill that offers no cell signal, a small hostel, fellow travelers and an infinite supply of weed, alcohol, mushrooms, 'native remedies' and frequent visits from local females who are prepared to hang out with insane bearded weirdos if it means they might one day get to eat something they didn't have to catch, grow or buy alive and kill the day of eating due to having no other way of keeping it fresh.

    Clients who pay late, judge every deliverable by nonsense standards purely to request a discount, refuse to pay, agree to pay but never pay, 'pay' but the money never arrives, 'pay' but the amount is totally wrong and you end up having to pay bank fees to get the SWIFT message text to prove they just underpaid you in dollars and didn't actually 'send the right amount of local currency but your bank must be giving you a bad exchange rate' or the old favorite 'all charges paid by recipient' code buried in there so things look okayish at first but a week later your bank receives the reconciliation SWIFT message for the sender's bank's charges, which are mysteriously $100+ and immediately deducted from your account. Do some banks offer a fee structure that has truly massive overseas transfer charges in exchange for large reductions in all other fees? Yes, they do, and they do that because many smaller businesses make overseas transfers, tick 'all charges paid by recipient' (field 71A content BEN, guess how come I have that information etched into my brain...) and either ignore all further contact from the recipient if it's a small-time freelancer, or point to the 'vendor agreement' you had to sign saying that 'transfer charges and unfavorable exchange rate shortfalls' are your scope. Sometimes you get a special exchange rate, too, the sort where the sender's bank doesn't charge them a currency exchange fee but collects instead by applying a special exchange rate that's usually a % or so off the standard 'incidental' commercial rates you get, which is usually itself a few % (sometimes more than a few %, if you're dealing with anything other than the dollar pegged or high volume currencies) off the rate you get if you wanna move $25k and know to call and ask for a guaranteed rate or a forward. Again, you see a shortfall and then have to call your bank for the SWIFT message to see the fee breakdown and what currency was actually sent to you, work out who's at fault and even after they apologize you won't get the difference unless you have another big payment coming in the future, because the difference if sent by a second TT would be almost 100% consumed by fees, and while they may have compromised on their FX rate being wrong, the fees are your scope as per prior agreement, and at this point they're pulling the 'cost of doing business' argument and probably mentioning that 'other vendors don't cause all these problems' (which is true but misleading, big vendors will not 'cause problems' but will definitely keep track, send a yearly roll-up invoice a few months before the end of the FY and then let the two accounting divisions argue until the remaining difference isn't worth paying the accountants to reconcile; the amended roll-up invoice is paid and the small difference disappears by way of an invoice with a letter-suffixed number that doesn't show up in the usual ledger or filing system and may well have been hand-delivered with a similar filing system failure happening on the far side. Two people buy a bottle of their preferred drink for special occasions or something for their partner or family 'an end of year present from my opposite number at big_client' and the world moves on. In the meantime over in your world, your revelation is 'my inexperience has been exploited and I now suspect every single line of their vendor agreement enables a specific method of fucking me and when I experience the last one that's almost certainly a sign they're done with me. To digress, this usually coincides with being owed a lot more than usual and having few or no due payments from other customers because they loaded you up with work for a couple of months and during that time wanted 'weekly or daily submissions due to translation or publishing requirements' so as to ensure both that you'd be exclusively waiting for payments from them and that they would always have as much as the final deliverable as possible; they will now tell you the contract is ending and ask for a very large 'finalized project' discount (a small percentage, often even a fractional percentage, but applied across all your invoices dating back to the start of the project, and coincidentally reducing the outstanding amount something similar to or ~10% greater than the amount as you would have earned at their usual working pace, i.e. fitting into their usual budget) which most people will be forced into taking as offered or negotiating only slightly due to financial pressure from their constructed circumstances. And if you are flush with cash and can argue for the next five years in a row and are withholding the final products (and of course for written deliverables like manuals, textbooks and tutorials you might be able to withhold 1% of it, and that 1% is probably 1% that you wrote before and is only with you so you can 'apply the finalized writing guidelines' and if time was a factor it would either be used as-is or someone's 'fluent' wife or college-age-child at home would be called up and send it and at the end of the day, it would go in as a small and easily overlooked adequate segment of a generally perfect larger work. Also it'll never be a critical part because those parts are always 'needed for translation or approval urgently'.) then you'll either get a 'partial payment' for the usual amount and argue into the void about the rest, or just told that nothing is being paid due to your 'withholding product and causing us penalties in a defensive manner due only to suspicion without any extraordinary payment issues (because they always pay 30 days late, and you always accept it, so now at the end of the contract you're 55 days after submission of the last invoice (they're 25 days officially late but they've always paid 30 days late so it's 'as usual' and you've 'understood this many times' and 'never stopped work or withheld product for that reason') and day 25 of the current invoice which technically isn't even due yet.' and you should not 'accuse us without any action; deliver the product and expect the usual payment at the usual time' and meanwhile 'you are not forced to agree to the requested discount, we are dealing with budget overruns at the end of the contract and asking if you are prepared to make a minor concession of less than half a percent' but either way, you have to accept that taking a normal payment now - not the windfall you were expecting - and arguing for the rest later is the best choice, but do you know legally you should ask for a partial payment to be made against _each_ invoice because that shows for the future record that they were both received and accepted as correct for payment? That if instead you said 'okay, sorry, here's the product, please pay the 55 day invoice in 5 days, in the meantime I have seen your discount request' then they can say 'we didn't get the 25 day invoice earlier, we just saw it now and it's wrong' or 'you agreed to consider a discount, please hold the invoice' or really all sorts of shit that serves to delay payment like 'we need originals of all your invoices to date, signed and stamped, so there's you off to DHL and minus $50' or 'we have your ID but now we need a notarized hard copy as our tax office has asked for it suddenly to prove you're a foreign business; so now you're off to the lawyer and out $50, then DHL again and another $50', then their accountant is closing your ledger and has to reconcile every single payment made to you but seemingly can only send one email a day, never answers the phone and 'can't use Skype or chat apps due to security policies' - basically, any feasible delay that may or may not include multiple two-week periods of communications blackout due to 'vacation' or 'schedule pressure' or no given reason at all.

    Anyway, returning from the digression, you've not reached that ugly conclusion yet and are still spending time arguing over fees every single time you get paid and trying to reconcile late (of course!) payments that are 'vaguely similar but with no consistent percentage difference' to your invoice totals and of course don't have the 'payment against' invoice number on the SWIFT message; or your bank doesn't show the SWIFT message field text on the credit advice or statement and it turns into yet another reason you end up having to pay (again! yay!) for the raw SWIFT message text to be sent to you.

    Then there's the customers that give you a job which requires access to their infrastructure or data, which they grant via giving you global read/write across absolutely every database and datastore, and global admin/root via 'the admin account' that's used by all number of people, has no country-of-origin or IP-of-origin restrictions, no auditing and then realize removing your access means changing a key or password and ensuring countless people, systems and god knows what else are updated, so they just assume you're not going to log in again and don't. That or they don't remember the individual credentials they gave you and didn't set them up to expire, or something along those lines.

    Either way you end up with unrestricted access to their shit and inform them of that, then get fired rapidly after being unable to complete your task due to 'incompatible internal practices' aka shit like the above or because what they want is ridiculously easy and you did it but when you restarted Service A on Machine A - having specifically confirmed that the service was also provided by machines that were definitely! working! and definitely! monitored! and definitely! not! overcapacity! - a cascade of failure occurred, which was your fault because you restarted it, or requested that it be restarted, or upgraded it (which was your job), or just found a situation where nobody knows what happened let alone why but you're the only new variable so out you go.

    These customers inevitably get hacked to a complete standstill three weeks later and immediately threaten you, report 'your unauthorized access' to the e-lance provider and everyone they can think of and basically slander the piss out of you for as long as they can get away with.

    Now it's a monthly occurrence with them and true to form they have no auditing and zero proof of anyone doing anything, but the damage is real.

    In general these platforms encourage their most professional providers and counterparties to leave and negotiate privately, and everyone left there is basically encouraged to be unprofessional as hell because that's just what's left, a mess of messy people.

    As for Quip... well I have no idea why someone would want an electric toothbrush with a service plan. I have no idea why someone would want an electric toothbrush, at all. I travel, sometimes, and stay at home sometimes, and I don't ever think about a toothbrush. If your destination or location lets the cleanliness of your teeth remain relevant, you can buy a toothbrush there. If you were to travel to the middle of the Amazonian rainforest, you would be able to buy a toothbrush in every town along the way that had either electricity or a paved road, and every single one will clean whatever you scrub with it, and if you get bored one day and follow a youtube 'how to really clean your teeth' video diligently using a super-eco-special store brand recycled-everything toothbrush, your teeth will be cleaner than ever before. And also fuck floss. Only Americans floss, and it does nothing unless you have bridges and weird shit in your mouth. Floss has _never_ entered my mouth and the only cavities I have at the age of 44 are on the tops of two molars; which were filled with UV epoxy in some random Taiwanese dentist I decided to go to to have an irritating tooth removed I'd been postponing since childhood because for some reason that particular day I felt that I was an adult now and could deal with it. I was so hyped for the decades-delayed entry of the needle into the gum to begin the procedure that I forgot to breathe and fainted, so I can't tell you whether the local hurt or not. I guess it does hurt because they normally burn like hell. C'est ├ža. If you buy an electric toothbrush with a service plan you're just fixing a label to yourself that says 'I'm a sheep, please shear me on a regular basis. I will give you money for basically no reason at all as long as I get _something_ in return I can tell my friends about.'

    The juicer. People who buy a juicer want fresh juice. If you could make the pre-prepared stuff in a bag taste like fresh juice by coming up with a special bag, a method of squeezing the gluons and quarks, a special preservative or basically anything like that then you'd have one hell of a product. A 'juicer' that extrudes from a bag an excessively pulpy juice that tastes pretty damn similar any of the other 'not-from-concentrate but still not-fresh' pasteurised carton juices is... not a product. People still bought it though. I'm entirely convinced you could sell dogshit sundaes if you got the right people to promote them on instagram.

    I find it very hard to judge anybody that finds yet another way to convince the people that can afford things like this to buy them. It's an art. It's convincing people that there is in fact another device they have to buy so that they can do an old thing in a slightly more physically convenient new way in exchange for very new price and very new limitations and it's going to have an annual subscription, and it's going to have DRM, and it's going to literally fucking physically break itself with a special mechanism designed for that sole task if you try and override the DRM too many times, and it's going to have wifi, and it's going to join a DDoS swarm and it's going to tell your xbox to mine bitcoins when you're not looking, and it's going to turn the thermostat down so you blame the electricity bills on that 'smart home thermostat' instead. Ultimately, whatever it is, it's going to sit there so your neighbors or visitors see it and feel reassured that it's okay for them to have one too, even though they've had it two months, never really used it and don't really know what it's for either, much like you. They're totems, ikons and shrines. If the alternative is tithing 10% to the church then I'd much rather they tithe 10% to Mammon so my QQQQ and my SPX and my BRK.A keeps doing that same old thing that makes my life bearable by enabling me to sit back and watch these people dance like the puppets they are.


    Oh and get the fuck off the reddit defaults, Jamie. They're insufferable. It's just kids, kids kids kids. Kids commenting on the adult world from their kid perspectives. How many times can you see obvious high school students talk the same high-school nonsense and not realise that you're not among equals?

    "Comey just dad-dicked the President of the United States." - just some generic moron I picked, there's no shortage

    "She's stealing bc they're already struggling." - in a thread by a kid trying to stop their housecleaner mom from cleaning out a client's jewellery because 'they have plenty'

    "I don't know who get's this jobs, probably top one in a 100 university graduates in their field. I guess the rest of us are just useless fools who will scrape by on the crumbs." - someone who wanted to work at SpaceX. I guess only the anointed ones 'get's this jobs'.

    "Yes and then [Oliver North] used that immunity to paint himself as the mastermind and sole actor in the plot, which freed Reagan from being charged and didn't do anything to Ollie because he had immunity. Personally, I think that's why they didn't give Flynn immunity." - from a person who was clearly swimming around in their dad's nutsack when Ollie took the stand. How many times did Ollie say on the stand 'the idea of a mere lieutenant-colonel coming up with...'? Like 1000? OKAY.

    "I work at a bar in Downtown Los Angeles. We charge a 3% surcharge to every meal to offset the increase in minimum wage. This surcharge is optional. It can be removed upon request." - hey Jamie, try it. It works in LA!

    "Also, the real penalty with a suspension is that the kid's parent has to use up a vacation day to be home with them." - fucking lol

    "Yes, changes in FAA rules and laws would be considered politics. Yes, even if both parties opposed net neutrality it would be politics." - moderator of r/videos having no idea of the difference between politics and governance.

    "What about dyslexic people? Are they below average intelligence?" - in a thread about illiteracy being a sign of poor intelligence. Nitpicking on the internet proves... you could be an interpretive proofreader of legal documents, I guess. Or you just have an insatiable need to have your say even when what you have to say is zero (which is 99% of the time).

    "Also, higher population = more risk" - on healthcare. Okay.

    "That's the thing, she's otherwise a really cool and likable woman. She just hates immigrants, but if you talk to her about it, she'll say she doesn't hate immigrants at all. She'll deflect behind "stealing jobs" and "criminals" like they're not buzzwords for what we know she really thinks. I guess, if we're not dancing around the subject, she's a really cool and likable person who's sometimes racist." - someone who claims to be 30 discovers the dichotomy of man.

    "I don't put anything larger than maybe a grape in my sink, and I still periodically have to run the garbage disposal. I imagine if you actually did throw bones down there it would break, or at least that's what my parents always told me - I haven't tried it myself, naturally." - another one wandering through life with your eyes closed and headphones on, bouncing off the walls and doors. FUCKING LOOK SHIT UP.

    "You're the only one here that doesn't seem the agree that this happened. So there you go." - apparently a Nixon staffer recently literally admitted that the administration instructed the CIA to produce crack and flood ghettoes with it. Who knew? I guess the news is so busy nowadays they're overlooking a senior official of a recent Republican administration admitting that they were running a literal 'exterminate all the blacks' campaign on the city streets throughout the nation.

    "I think people that participated to it have eluded to it though." - when backing down from the prior. Elusive, the truth is. Elusive, their ability to select the correct word is. Stupid, I allude to you being.

    "It's not, both are just passive consumption, and equally mindless" - video games are passive consumption. How exactly do you passively consume a game that requires constant input? If video games are 'passive consumption' then so is downhill mountain biking, after all gravity is putting in all the effort, I just have to watch the trail and steer.

    "Mercury fillings should not be used but dentists use them because it's easier to do." - lol. They're harder to use and more expensive. You don't get them anywhere in the damn world. I get that conspiracy theory threads aren't going to attract the best comments but a conspiracy theory about something that isn't even taking place? Okay...

    "I'm the type that doesn't want attention from the teacher. Being called out and told to answer a question on the spot wrecks me, so even if I knew the answer I wouldn't be able to tell them it. So I get terrible grades on class participation. I hate it." - someone who doesn't realise their teachers aren't just teaching the subject, they're also trying to encourage normal interaction.

    "It's a good skill, but this method definitely doesn't teach that skill." - and someone else who thinks non-special-educational high schools should teach people how not to be cripplingly shy. Teachers are trained therapists now, who knew.

    "It's it more due to the trees blowing around blocking the dish, than the actual rain anyway?" - trees blowing around during a rainstorm affects the quality of a satellite TV signal. Okay. I mean, what the fuck even? It's not the 4000ft of recently-water-filled-air between the dish and the satellite, it's some leaves and wood and shit 'blowing around' deflecting those electromagnetic waves.

    "A text messaging app has no business accessing my location. If I needed to give it to someone then I'd text them my address or directions to my location." - "Hi, I got here, I'm on the same beach as you. Oh it's a 5km long beach with a shitload of people on it? I would send you my GPS location but I can't let my text app have that permission, sorry. Let's meet by the instead sea.' Get in the fucking sea.

    "Why don't phones' GPS systems work in rural areas?" -> "Phones use cell signals and not actually GPS" followed by maybe twenty or thirty replies defending that position to the three or four people who pointed out that actually, phones they do have a GPS receiver and included both iphone and android instructions to prove it.

    "We tried the free for all snack box. We tried preaching moderation. We try to set a good example of not snacking unnecessarily. We always easy dinner at the table as a family. It's usually a nutritious home made meal. Not crap from a box or the freezer. It didn't change anything." - parent that tried nothing that would actually be recognizable as discipline.

    "No emotional cheating, either." - r/relationships is cheating, really. The /new of that subreddit is populated by a very earnest cadre of trolls, I'd bet money. The muppets who show up to upvote the terrible advice and expand upon it... Man, I feel bad for them if they're taking it as well as giving it.

    "He will be reelected with an increased majority." - -500 karma? I mean I think that's a bad outcome but that would be fairly standard for a president that doesn't entirely fuck their first term. Reinforcing the echo chamber on r/upliftingnews and ensuring the only problems addressed are fantasy.

    FYI, this isn't even uncommon. These days I pretty much just read the funnies until I see something stupid and then comment to try and right the wrong. The problem is, that's the first thread every single time on the defaults. There isn't a single frontpage default-subreddit thread that doesn't have many many people in need of immediate and severe guidance. The above comments are all from the past 14 days of my history, and I absolutely do not troll. I try and legitimately help those who are either wrong-wrong or far-too-dumb-wrong. I don't know how they feed themselves. I'm also entirely excluding political threads because I appreciate people have subjective opinions there, but it's hard not to get into it when people (many many of them, I've seen this so often) come up with stuff like 'the Dem's won't go for impeachment because they'll get Pence who's worse' - do you really think that being able to turf the president out less than 12 months into his term wouldn't be a legendary political victory? Nixon wasn't impeached, and Clinton was acquitted and his impeachment only for some minor pussygrabbing. How stupid can you be to think that any chance to impeach Trump wouldn't be instantaneously seized upon? Do these people think Ford would have stayed in power if he hadn't pardoned Nixon? Are they REALLY THAT STUPID?

    Use reddit, unsub all the defaults and enjoy. Or browse /all with all the text-based defaults and political nonsense filtered. Your mental health will thank you, and you still get all the cool art and linkage.

    Take care man, you're too old to deal with these children.

      • Norie says:


        Sorry, I got a bit carried away. You're an educated person, now you have something fascinating to read. People on rare occasions even pay for my writing, although it is usually on more technical topics.

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