Author Archive

Rigging Amazon Flex’s gig economy algorithm

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Using a device you can buy on Amazon! Amazon Flex gig takers get crap money to do vicarious work for the 2nd biggest company in the world. To get more gigs they figured out how to game the gig distribution algorithm.

Couriers

Interview with Val Robus

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

I was delighted Val agreed to answer some questions.

I’m not sure how long we know each other online now but it’s been a
good while. How long have you been blogging now and why did you start?

I’ve been blogging since 2009 and I think I got to know you around that time, I also joined Twitter then too. I started blogging because there was a lot going on in my life, my parents being ill etc. I found that when I got the thoughts out into cyberspace my mind quietened a bit.

I suppose it’s different strokes for different folks. I’ve always loved blogging and can’t see me giving it up. Although it has changed a lot over the years, there was no such thing as an influencer back in the day.
I think if people want to blog they should go for it.

As for any tips, I’d say:

  • Be yourself.
  • Don’t expect anything from it. I’ve had a lot of people asking me how much money I’ve made from it which is hilarious.
  • If you are going to post photos try to take decent ones.
  • Don’t use photos that you’ve grabbed from the Internet (unless you’ve asked). It’s probably a good idea to stick to one topic, although I don’t. I just blog about whatever I feel like writing.
  • I liked your post about putting things into boxes, which is a nice
    mindfulness technique.

    Thank you.

    Are there techniques or things you turn to so you can reduce stress
    that you encounter?

    I went through a really bad time with depression, anxiety and panic attacks and strangely enough blogging about that really helped. A lot of my readers felt the same and they were able to offer advice and suggestions.
    I used to go to the opening of an envelope and now I don’t really go to very many places, I found it all quite stressful. If I need to rest I do and I’m certainly a lot kinder to myself. Of course there’s the painting.

    Val Robus
    You’ve been doing paintings the past while and they’re lovely, have
    you always had an artistic calling. What does painting mean to you?

    The painting has really been a life saver. I was photographing various art workshops and always amazed at how people of all ages produced great work. I thought I’d like to try it so a couple of years ago I bought some paint brushes and paint and off I went. It’s so therapeutic and is really my form of mindfulness, when I have a paint brush in my hand I’m not thinking of anything else.

    You write about your family and personal life and your fight to get Jono the healthcare he should have gotten years ago. What has been the result of your writing and fighting for this, have other people contacted you to share their stories?

    I don’t tend to write so much about my family these days. With Jono I firmly believe that the blog helped him get the surgery he needed. He still needs treatment and it’s an ongoing battle but not one I tend to write about now. I’m conscious that he’s getting older and if I do write about the family I always check with them first. We have had a lot of people contacting us in a similar situation and it’s heartbreaking knowing that ten years on things haven’t got any better for people.

    You also have covered grief on your site and on Twitter. I’ve seen other people interact with you about how they grieve too. Grief is unique thing to every person and probably still a taboo to talk about it. Has writing helped you with grief, did you have any supports? has feedback from others who read your site helped you too?

    The blog again really helped me deal with grief. In a strange way it helps me get my thoughts together and that’s a form of therapy it itself. The feedback from blog readers and Twitter users really helped, it made me realise that I wasn’t alone. Just to know there were people who cared was a huge help. I remember walking around in a daze after mum died, it was like being in a bubble of grief but there were many people who understood how I felt and that was a huge support. The online community, on the whole, are very supportive.

    What has been the best moment or moments for you in the past few years
    as a result of writing and sharing online?

    There have been many fantastic moments including being invited to Dublin Zoo for breakfast years ago – I loved this experience. I also did a lot of adventures around the North West Wild Atlantic Way which was just epic, I think being 45 as I was at the time and jumping off cliffs into the ocean was just amazing.

    My dream job that I’m in now is also resulted indirectly from the blog. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’ve inspired them and that’s just so special. I’ll always be grateful to the blog for giving me such wonderful opportunities.

    What do you see your life being like in 5 years time? Work, family,
    the world around you.

    That’s a hard one. I’d like to think my family will all be happy and settled. I’d like to see more kindness in the world, it can be a very nasty place at times and this saddens me. As for myself, I hope I’ll stay as happy as I am now and that I’ll still be blogging.

    ===
    Val’s website is here. Her Twitter is here.

    Hacking the Google Maps algorithm

    Sunday, February 2nd, 2020

    It’s quite simple. Pull a handcart with 99 phones with Google maps loaded on them through a street. Google Maps now thinks 99 cars are slowly moving in that area and will direct people around to another less congested area.

    Google Maps

    Manipulating the algorithm to get hired. Faking it with robot recruiters.

    Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

    South Korea of course is using A.I. to recruit people and get rid of the recruiter. Cram schools are now giving lessons on what to say and what facial expressions to use in order to fool a system designed to replace humans who hire humans and judge these humans on their natural expressions. Confused? The same way we change our accent and voice stressors to have Alexa and Google Home understand us, will we start changing out expressions to keep the robots happy?

    One AI video system reviewed by Reuters asks candidates to introduce themselves, during which it spots and counts facial expressions including ‘fear’ and ‘joy’ and analyses word choices. It then asks questions that can be tough: “You are on a business trip with your boss and you spot him using the company (credit) card to buy himself a gift. What will you say?”

    A.I. predicts lightning strikes. What could go wrong?

    Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

    A.I. predicts time and place for lightning strikes based on weather data. Which means lots of scientists are going to be creating devices to try and store the energy for these strikes. That won’t go massively wrong at all. It’s aliiiiiiive!

    Uncut Gems

    Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

    Uncut Gems. Great movie, the pressure just builds and builds and builds. The style of it though is great. I love that they used New York as a set and let the public just walk through it, oblivious to the filming going on. Massive spoilers at this link.

    The Safdies found that their laid-back approach swiftly caught on and they proceeded to shoot largely unbothered, in the centre of New York City. Whenever they did encounter members of the public staring at the camera, or at Sandler, an incognito PA would slide over and ask for directions to the nearest subway, or the best local eatery, pulling that individual inside the reality of the film, instead of ushering them away. “It creates this bubble, wherein the fiction ends up feeling very real.”

    I made the wave, didn’t I

    Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

    Lord Rutherford, one of the great pioneers of nuclear physics, was a man not unduly self-conscious about his worldly success.`You’re always on the crest of a wave, my lord,’ one deferential interviewer said.`I know,’ said Rutherford, ‘but after all, I made the wave, didn’t I?’

    From Acid Drops by Kenneth Williams.
    While this is meant to be a witty response, I do like it.
    Be your own wave.

    Apple Glasses, Apple Car, Apple Medicine?

    Sunday, January 12th, 2020

    What are Apple up to next?

    Apple really are pumping out the patents for Apple Glasses and VR headsets. Interestingly they’re still releasing patents around car technology. What interests me more are their patents around health. They now have a set of apps on the phone and the watch but I wonder is health going to be the main selling points for all future products?

    Apple glasses holographic elements.

    Apple Glasses detect free fall and ready the glasses for impact.

    The ability for Apple Glasses to change the colour or transparency of the lenses. Also patent here for detection of liquid inside a device and to blast the liquid out with heat.

    Apple eye tracking patents. Multiple applications.

    FaceTime volume goes down or up based on who you are looking at. Clever that.

    And this one is interesting – In surgical settings it allows display information to follow around staff based on their position in the operating theatre. Combine this with their Smart Bedding: Vital Signs Monitoring System. A sheet under your bed sheets that can record your vital signs like heat rate and respiratory rate. Then the Apple health Parkinsons app which seems really well considered.

    Apple car safety system pre airbag deployment.

    Fluffy Links – January 6th 2020

    Monday, January 6th, 2020

    Not done one of these in a while.

    I love this. The patriotism angle. American magazine likes our skin cream that we use for everything.

    And another example of very local news but it’s going to get you coverage online and in print.

    True story behind The Irishman. Lot of stuff in the movie is true it seems. Wow, America was/is riddled in corruption. The balls the way they carried out the killings too. You know your killer.

    Seán Moncrieff is planning his funeral. It’s a good idea. Not only will it reduce the stress of loved ones on what to do but it gives you more control too. In addition it allows you to mark your end point and then plan back from there so you set objectives for your life.

    Good thread from the Abortion Support Network on the state of play around abortion in Ireland. Lots more needs to be done to support women.

    Big fan of A16Z and their content is always fantastic. Here are some of their consumer tech best posts of 2019.

    Instagram ads for doo dahs and gadgets. Take a screenshot and open AliExpress app and do an image search. That €15 product is there for pennies. Paul shows you how to do it:

    Max Richter:

    The key word for The Leftovers is “departure”. It is a question of expressing the passage from existence to non-existence. That is why I used instruments such as the piano, the harp or bells, whose sound decays quickly to nothing.

    The Leftovers is one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. It’s so sad. There’s so much grief and I think shows how humans will react to tragedy. I must rewatch. Well done to the showrunners for letting the writers do what they did.

    Another great show of the decade was Pose and I love that Patti Lupone was on it and played an 80s business person that she would hate in real life.

    My 20 best business posts through the years, in my view.

    Friday, January 3rd, 2020

    It seems I’ve written a lot of things on business over the years and to be honest I’ve forgotten most of what I wrote. I’ve gone though my archive and have pulled out posts I think are worth reading. 20 in all from 2008 until 2019. I have cringed a few times though.

    2008. I suggest we should run our own good conferences in Ireland. And years later I put my money where my mouth was. I still think the same today. Loads of opportunities and loads of people want to know new things. For me my next conference will pay the speakers for their time so that adds more cost but is doable.

    2008. Kind of “be the change you want to see in the world” but I suggest that maybe we should be our own hero. Take example from your heroes but then make yourself one too.

    2009. I came up with the wacky idea of me being a Summer intern in your company. My company was obviously making too much money at the time but I was also getting bored. The idea was to get me into new industries to understand them which would allow me to broaden my knowledge and could then work with more companies. Stories I have from a trading company in particular are still being used by me today.

    2009. I think this could do with editing and a re-write but it’s about finding your own groove or your own flow and working in that. I guess it’s about breaking out of the frequency you existed in if you worked for someone else. Sometimes it’s your frequency, sometimes it isn’t. I know why the Caged Bird sings.

    The caged bird sings
    with a fearful trill
    of things unknown
    but longed for still
    and his tune is heard
    on the distant hill
    for the caged bird
    sings of freedom.

    2009. I’m happy to share all the training documents I’ve spent hours and days and weeks putting together. This is about making your work available for free. When I did that, I got lots of work back. If you give something away for free it spreads far and wide and it gets you more customers in the end. It also shows your confidence in your ability and ensures you have to keep updating your work to stay ahead of people. I’m actually going to do this for all my documents in 2020. Stay tuned. Now, don’t devalue yourself either. Do charge for work, do not work for exposure.

    2010. Business communications document. I was on to something with this. Precursor to me figuring out strategy documents. Showrunners have documents that describe the characters in the universe their TV show is in. A character would never do X but would definitely do Y if this happened. Now you do the same for a customer. My strategy documents now talk about psychographics and demographics but I might come back to this as companies might get this more.

    2010. Speaking as an introvert or former introvert, public speaking can be tough. Some tips on how you can do it. It’s about the slog. Just keep doing it. Short bits that eventually turn into longer bits. I reference the documentary about Jerry Seinfeld getting back into stand up and he just works so hard doing lines in every club, many times in one night. Eddie Murphy recently talked about there not being short cuts and for him and his new show, he has to go back out and work from the bottom up. Now I love public speaking. The thrill of getting up in front of a crowd and winging it!

    2010. No excuses, just start something. That poetry, that new business idea. Just do it. There have been a few of them over the years. I guess nowadays it’s almost the opposite of what is in the post re: cheap office space but you can still do it. I may do a 2020 version.

    2013. Pork in Every Fucking Dish. This is about being your own authentic self and not letting people dictate what you are about. This is a mantra that I remind myself of a lot. I think for the past few years I put that away. No more! Must get this made into a badge.

    2013. Moments of Truth. A quote from a Netflix strategy document. Building an experience and prior experiences so that people when they want to be entertained or to pass time, decide on Netflix.

    2013. Starting before you know what to do. A quote from a young enough Zuckerberg. As relevant now as it is then. Have an idea and then build it. Today we have people being brought into “pre idea” startups. Would ya cop on!

    2014. Starting a business in 2014, some thoughts. Linking back to other posts. Getting very meta.

    2014. Thoughts on creativity. We’re all creative, we just need to massage it out of ourselves after it was beaten away deep into us over time. Sometimes we need to learn a language or a skill to extract it.

    2014. Just Fucking do it yourself. Less of the “someone should do something” or “why didn’t you do ..”. The tech is there for you to do it yourself. No to the gatekeepers.

    2008. And? The fear of failure. The worry that you’re not good enough. Every idea you don’t execute is a failure. Do it for even one day and you’ve done better than before.

    2015. Starting a startup is hard though and some thoughts that might help you along.

    2016. Mentoring, get mentoring someone but maybe become a mentor. You learn lots from doing both.

    2017. Pattern recognition. I need to refine this idea. I think some of the best business ideas come from people seeing patterns and systems and then tweaking those systems. Software will eat the world is all about automating those systems with software or routing those systems to somewhere else. AirBnB lets everyone rent out a “hotel room” in their home. It might be you’re good at spotting short cuts or speeding up your work tasks by using an online too. I think you can learn to spot patterns over time. Business biographies work like that as a form of training databases though they need to cover how the business was formed and the struggles. the 5th book from some business bore won’t cut it.

    2017. Fuck you, pay me. My time is precious. Wanting to meet me for a coffee costs me dearly. I know my value. I think a lot of people do not see their value. Own your value!

    2018. Just a band. Route around obstacles. The Internet was built so that if there was a nuclear war, you could route around damaged parts of the network. If you are prevented from doing something, route around it. Don’t be dictated to by old standards and old rules.

    2019. Training data. Books, YouTube videos, talks, podcasts. They can all help inform you to start or be better at business. The same way we give machines training data, we can feed ourselves training data too.