Huber Horan:

In reality, Uber’s platform does not include any technological breakthroughs, and Uber has done nothing to “disrupt” the eco­nomics of providing urban car services. What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency. Its multibillion dollar subsidies completely distorted marketplace price and service signals, leading to a massive misallocation of resources. Uber’s most important innovation has been to produce staggering levels of private wealth without creating any sustainable benefits for consumers, workers, the cities they serve, or anyone else. […]

Starting in 2015, Uber eliminated most of the incentives it had used to attract drivers and unilaterally raised its share of passenger fares from 20 percent to 25–30 percent. Almost all of Uber’s margin improvement since 2015 is explained by this reduction of driver compensation down to minimum wage levels, not by improved efficiency. These unilateral compensation cuts resulted in a direct wealth transfer from labor to capital of over $3 billion. Comparable cuts at Lyft resulted in a labor-capital wealth transfer of $1 billion.

Johnson Banks:

“If it’s ‘out there’, don’t we own it?”
Well, it depends. To claim a ‘level of distinctiveness’, it’s usually down to time, and the rule of thumb is seven years. Use a logo for that amount of time, consistently, that people can see and recognise and you begin to establish some ownership of that idea. There are certain ways around this, usually for global brands that can establish a new ‘look’ quite fast. British TV channel, Channel Four, were initially faced with issues because on paper, ‘channel four’ is a generic name, so inherently hard to register. But they were granted an exemption because they were quickly able to demonstrate ownership.

Shannon Mattern:

We’ve long conceived of our cities as knowledge repositories and data processors, and they’ve always functioned as such. Lewis Mumford observed that when the wandering rulers of the European Middle Ages settled in capital cities, they installed a “regiment of clerks and permanent officials” and established all manner of paperwork and policies (deeds, tax records, passports, fines, regulations), which necessitated a new urban apparatus, the office building, to house its bureaus and bureaucracy. The classic example is the Uffizi (Offices) in Florence, designed by Giorgio Vasari in the mid-16th century, which provided an architectural template copied in cities around the world. “The repetitions and regimentations of the bureaucratic system” — the work of data processing, formatting, and storage — left a “deep mark,” as Mumford put it, on the early modern city. […]

Why should we care about debunking obviously false metaphors? It matters because the metaphors give rise to technical models, which inform design processes, which in turn shape knowledges and politics, not to mention material cities. The sites and systems where we locate the city’s informational functions — the places where we see information-processing, storage, and transmission “happening” in the urban landscape — shape larger understandings of urban intelligence.

Benedict Evans:

There are about 5.3bn people on earth aged over 15. Of these, around 5bn have a mobile phone.


Have you ever wondered why, if Dark Mode is such a revelation, it took Apple 35 years after the first Macintosh to revert to the look of the light-on-dark CRT-based monitors of the Apple ][ and IBM PC era? Were those green-on-black and amber-on-black screens really so wonderful?

No, they weren’t, and one of the Mac’s most significant design decisions back in 1984 was an interface that put black text and graphics on a white screen, just as had been done in books for hundreds of years.

Nicolas Kemper:

Accretive projects are everywhere: Museums, universities, military bases – even neighborhoods and cities. Key to all accretive projects is that they house an institution, and key to all successful institutions is mission. […]

So, why do cathedrals take so long to build? Because the finish line is besides the point. Cathedrals are so compelling because they make visible the continued commitment that every building, city, and institution requires of their participants if they are to survive. Cathedral building ritualizes construction; they are compelling because they are never finished.

Near-realtime Earth observation resources.

The takeaway: “What you eat matters a lot more than whether it’s local or organic, or what kind of bag you use to carry it home from the store.”

Also, this on fish.

Alex Danco:

As Cooking As A Service expanded from <10% to 25-30+% of our eating, we grew to consume and expect a far greater selection and variety of food compared to when we did all our cooking ourselves. Our consumption choices around what food we eat gradually pivoted from “What am I able to cook for myself” to “Is this exactly what I want to eat, yes or no?” Once you transition into “is this exactly what I want, yes or no” territory, it’s very hard to go back; it becomes a part of the standard of living that we expect.[…]

From a couple of anecdotal conversations I’ve had with restaurant managers about this, it seems like once you open yourselves up as a restaurant that can be found on the delivery apps, a huge percentage of your kitchen volume switches over to fulfilling those orders, and your front-of-house costs get hung out to dry as increasingly unnecessary. Flexible, modular kitchens that are available for rent for any chef who wants to cook in it, and that have easy access to delivery cars and which pay for no front-of-house extras seem pretty obviously like the next iteration of back-end Cooking as a Service, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them pop up everywhere soon enough. If they can collectively bring down the cost of outsourced cooking another 20-30%, I think the economics start looking pretty compelling for outsourced cooking (including delivery) to effectively pay for itself out of the savings incurred by paying for ingredients and cooking equipment in bulk. At that point, kitchens start to truly become optional.

Flexible, modular kitchens. What’s basically being described here is Deliveroo’s dark kitchens: containers that restaurants can rent to deliver food in areas that they couldn’t otherwise reach.

New York Times:

Thus is the business model of WeWork, recently valued at $47 billion, now only facially about commercial subletting. All its accessories serve to buttress its real product: “office culture” as a service. When people at the company try to explain that culture, they invariably resort to talk of positive energy sources and the obligation to heal the social fabric — a vocabulary traditionally associated with utopian architecture, 1980s academic communitarianism or ayahuasca experimentation. […]

WeWork had contrived its turnkey member culture to make freelancers and entrepreneurs feel as though they worked at Google.

Interesting read on what product WeWork is selling — not mere office space but culture as a service.

I worked from a WeWork for around three years. Although I liked the space and the many perks it offered I wouldn’t say their culture was the best. Or maybe I just didn’t like the pretence of high-fiving each other for working (hustling, in their gergo). Do what you love, hey.

Google is forgetting the old web

Some people think Google has stopped indexing old parts of the web. Even supposing that’s not the case, that there isn’t any memory loss going on, it seems to me that in recent years Google has tweaked its ranking to give more prominence to what’s hot and trending, the new over the old. The first page of a Google search is more often than not just a collection of news articles. Smaller design choices — such as the news carousel featuring at the top of most searches — have put more weight on recency over accuracy, on articles about the latest developments of a situation over less noisy sources.

One other major shift in how Google views itself happened around the time voice assistants entered our lives — being that they need to return straight answers to be useful, not a set of options. That’s when Google started using machine learning and algorithms to return direct answers to queries. It works when the answer is factual, such as the height of a mountain or the distance from a place. It’s less trustworthy when asked about an event or a situation, seeing that it seems to return whatever is popular at the moment.

That’s saddening, even if no forgetting was happening. This focus on novelty over knowledge diverges from my mental model of the Web. As Tim Bray writes, a permanent, long-lived store of humanity’s intellectual heritage.

Seth Godin:

It’s probably easier to create heavily adorned mash-up than it is to produce a Field Notes notebook. Stripping away the artifice doesn’t always leave something pure. It often creates banality, the simple commodity that’s easy to buy cheaper one click away. […]

If Nike announced that they were opening a hotel, you’d have a pretty good guess about what it would be like. But if Hyatt announced that they were going to start making shoes, you would have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what those shoes would be like. That’s because Nike owns a brand and Hyatt simply owns real estate.

Basically an automated Bechdel Test.