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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  280 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Tech’s Two Philosophies

I was honestly surprised by how angry this article made me. The problem with the analogy is it acknowledges what these companies think they're doing without pointing out how utterly, totally, predatorily wrong they are.

The author chose to creampie Google for affecting a cutesey accent and booking "a hair appointment" rather than parsing exactly what's going on here - and what's going on here is a fucking travesty. For starters, "I'm just going to get any old haircut between ten and noon," said no one ever. Presuming "hair cuts" to be an elastic good predicated on geographical distance is asinine in the extreme. But look at all the shit that gets filled in:

1) Google works from the latest and then backtracks because it's easier from a processing standpoint

2) Google ignores the hard shit - "just a haircut" is not a question a women's salon ever fields. Preference for stylist? not asked. Length of hair? Not asked. Has she come here before? Not asked.

3) Even the stuff that did get asked doesn't get to the client. You have an appointment at Salon X at 10:30. Who with? Suppose she'd been instructed to get there ten minutes early? Pretend it's a dental appointment rather than a haircut - gonna need you to fill out these forms and be fifteen minutes early also who's your dental insurance?

4) Why that hair salon? Because they're Google's first hit. Why are they Google's first hit? Because their website has the best SEO. How to beat that? Fucking Google Adsense. So now your hair isn't getting cut by the highest review on Yelp, it's getting cut by the stylist with the best website.

But ignore that for a minute. Sandar argues that some unholy percentage of merchants don't have online appointments. the horror! So what's Google going to do?

force you to deal with their system.

I shit you not: the first time Google calls my business I'm getting into the VoIP menu and blacklisting their ass. Because we deal with humans, who are looking for human information, who talk to a human we pay to pass along humanity and the amount of shit that gets lost in the middle is unfathomable. And when it gets dropped, that customer isn't going to be mad at Google. After all, they said "computer, make me a random-ass appointment" and they showed up on time. No, no. They're going to get mad at me. And the best way for me to avoid this problem is to wrap my business around Google.

Facebook is the same problem: They're not bringing people closer together. They're suggesting that I should want to interact with a person who interacted once with another person I interacted with once. There's this whole "garbage in, garbage out" problem that the article completely misses because the author doesn't want to address that none of the tech giants have learned they're forcing garbage on us.

Steve Huffman tried to launch a travel site called Hipmunk. Back when he did it I figured I'd give it a try. It gave me the worst hotel I've ever been in, and from the stories I've told and listened to, the worst hotel anyone has ever been in. But it ticked all the boxes: close to the interstate, close to dining, cheap. It had no way to evaluate whether those dining restaurants were any good. it had no way to parse Yelp reviews to find the two that mentioned finding excrement on their bedsheets (one of which said, and this is a direct quote, "a real human turd"). From Hipmunk's point of view, it had given me the perfect hotel. From a human point of view, it had given me a dire shithole.

None of the companies listed are the vaguest bit interested in helping humans. They're interested in monetizing their data manipulation strategies. And you either pay them, or someone else pays for you, and in all cases they've long since lost sight of the shore on this one.

It's a fine analogy if you take as its basis "and all these organizations are lying to themselves and lying to you." Because you know what? There's no part of the App Store or iTunes that touches the "bicycle of the mind" at any point.

bfv  ·  280 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It's a really stupid way to do what they're trying to do. If you want software to be able to automatically make appointments for you, the way to do that is to have it talk to other software, not call a human on the phone. We've known description logics or models equivalent to description logics were the way to do that since the 80s, and the W3C has been making standards for doing that kind of thing for almost 20 years now. No one but AI geeks have gotten interested, probably because a receptionist is a lot cheaper than a logician. But the sane way to make that work is your website knows how to describe the services you provide in a way programs can reason with, and the users' phone app knows how to decide if what you offer is what the user wants.

Edit: left implicit that an advantage of doing it the sane way is being able to assume that if a business isn't providing a way for customers to automate talking to them, they don't want customers to automate talking to them.

kleinbl00  ·  280 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    It's a really stupid way to do what they're trying to do.

Here's a guess: They Pareto Principled their way to "80 percent of these interactions are bone simple, we just need to fisher-price together some speech recognition and iterative learning and fuck all the rest" without realizing that it's the 20 percent they're willing to scrub that are going to form the basis of everyone's experience.

    left implicit that an advantage of doing it the sane way is being able to assume that if a business isn't providing a way for customers to automate talking to them, they don't want customers to automate talking to them.

I mean, let's say I open a nail salon tomorrow. I'm going to google "nail salon scheduling website" and top hit is fuckin' $25 a month. Google ain't disintermediating shit at that price. So... who am I scheduling with? What tasks am I solving? because lemme tell ya - if you've got a business, you're being plastered with offers to do this shit for you. If you aren't doing online booking now, you aren't doing it for a reason. Like us. We have two warring EMRs (one for midwifery, one for naturopathic medicine) that refuse to talk. One of them will schedule Google and CalDAV because they think they're HIPAA-compliant. One of them won't because they explicitly have stated that they don't think either are. We've got to hand-collate. Google's robot is only going to eliminate our ability to talk to the client.

So Google is doing it because they don't want you using everyone else's platform. They want to lock you in that sweet, sweet Alexa silo. Google, the first name of the Internet, wants to get your ass off the web and sitting there natural languaging your way through their vertical integration.

    You walk regularly from home to work. Microsoft and Apple will tell you that the route you take sucks and that you should use their toll road. Facebook and Google will throw up a barricade and waylay you on the way. When you gripe to Microsoft or Apple, Facebook and Google will cut them in on a share and Microsoft and Apple will tell you that the highwayman fee is a value add.

bfv  ·  280 days ago  ·  link  ·  

If they wanted to integrate all the existing online booking services by hand, that would be a reasonable if messier and more labor intensive thing to do too. But using your phone to ask Google to have a chatbot make a phone call to a receptionist to make an appointment for you is some Rube Goldberg shit even if they manage to learn their way into not annoying both you and the business.

It'd be funny to make an app that tries to solve the same problem by making requests on Not funny enough that I'm tempted to do it, but funny.

veen  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    None of the companies listed are the vaguest bit interested in helping humans.

I don't at all disagree with you, here or above. What I wanted to add was that from my personal vantage point, the role of tech in my life, is still that of the bicycle-of-the-mind, despite that idea having long been lost on them.

Granted, that view is largely because I don't feel affected by the downsides discussed - I don't have to deal with their bullshit, and where I do, there are means to get rid of it (e.g. adblockers). I consider that a luxury, and the fact that that is a luxury is problematic, too.

plus I just like cool analogies

kleinbl00  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I get it. I suspect I'm mad because from my perspective, the tech has become pernicious and lame.

- the best phone I ever owned was an iPhone 3G. I can honestly say it's all been downhill since Apple finally added copy/paste.

- I didn't used to have to know exactly what settings to silence every app so that my alarm would work in the morning but Etsy wouldn't wake me up with a sales blast at 3am. Honestly, I was better off with the old Windows phone that had a memory leak when you tried to use the alarm.

- My wife carries around a dozen CDs. She listens to maybe three of them. That used to work for me, too. Now I can play any song I own simply by saying it... assuming the Google lady knows what "Toxygene" sounds like. Because most of the time, it decides I really meant Young Jeezy who proceeds to blast at my daughter in the back seat.

I could go on for hours. We had a half-hour detour yesterday because there was a closed road and Google's answer to "how do I get around this detour" was "make a u-turn and go the way I told you, ass." The road closure has been there for a month - I know this because my city sends me emails, it's just not where I usually drive so I wasn't paying attention. But rather than giving cities a way to keep Google Maps updated with road closures, Google is busily coming up with cutesy assistants so that business owners have to deal with bad text-to-speech robots now.

That bitch woke me up this morning. For some reason, she thought I said "I'm a train" so she gave me videos. And it's not like I was talking in my sleep - I was semi-awake and listening to my wife and daughter bang around three rooms away. Google would just rather punk around with spurious bullshit than make the experience they've already half-assed a little better and it fucking pisses me off.

bfv  ·  279 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I have a 2 TB usb drive in my car. I take it inside and rsync my mp3 collection to it once a month or so. The car takes ~30 seconds to index it when I start up, and has a slightly clunky touchscreen interface to find the directory I want to play. Unlike physical cds I can't safely switch out what I'm listening to while driving, but unlike when I was using physical cds I have around 15k albums in my car and if it happens to be that one time a year when I really want to hear Marvin the Album again it's there for me.

Google Lady sucks, but you don't have to put up with Google Lady.