Why you should invest in Crypto in 2018

Most folks look at investing in crypto in a one dimension fashion. Investing a portion of your financial net worth isn’t the only way to invest in new technology and reap great returns. Investing your time could pay off wonderfully well in the long run too.

And, I’d like to make the case that it is well worth your while to invest in understanding crypto in 2018.

We’re on the brink of something historic…

In his post reflecting on what happened in 2017, venture capitalist Fred Wilson shared the Perez Technological Surge Cycle. This is a framework by Carlota Perez — a Venezuan scholar on technology development.

If you look at the Carlota Perez technology surge cycle chart, which is a framework I like to use when thinking about new technologies, you will see that a frenzy develops when a new technology enters the material phase of the installation period. The frenzy funds the installation of the technology.

2017 is the year when crypto/blockchain entered the frenzy phase. Over $3.7bn was raised by various crypto teams/projects to build out the infrastructure of Internet 3.0 (the decentralized Internet). To put that number into context, that is about equal to the total seed/angel investment in the US in 2017. Clearly, not all of that money will be used well, maybe very little of it will be used well. But, like the late 90s frenzy in Internet 1.0 (the dialup Internet) provided the capital to build out the broadband infrastructure that was necessary for Internet 2.0 (the broadband/mobile Internet), the frenzy in the crypto/blockchain sector will provide the capital to build out the infrastructure for the decentralized Internet.

And we need that infrastructure badly. Transaction clearing times on public, open, scaled blockchains (BTC and ETH, for example) remind me of the 14.4 dialup period of the Internet. You can get a taste of what things will be like, but you can’t really use the technology yet. It just doesn’t work at scale. But it will and the money that is getting invested via the frenzy we are in is going to make that happen.

Fred has been bullish on crypto since he started investing in it in 2017. So, it makes sense that he’s calling it the next phase.

Or, are we?

Let’s consider the counter point — there was an interesting article on Hacker Noon recently that said the blockchain is most likely useless. Below are the headlines —

Everyone says the blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, is going to change EVERYTHING. And yet, after years of tireless effort and billions of dollars invested, nobody has actually come up with a use for the blockchain — besides currency speculation and illegal transactions.

Each purported use case — from payments to legal documents, from escrow to voting systems — amounts to a set of contortions to add a distributed, encrypted, anonymous ledger where none was needed. What if there isn’t actually any use for a distributed ledger at all? What if, ten years after it was invented, the reason nobody has adopted a distributed ledger at scale is because nobody wants it?

The blogger takes all the use cases discussed so far and takes apart the rationale for a blockchain based solution. It is a fun read. Similarly, “Mr. Money Mustache,” one of the top personal finance bloggers on the internet had a post on “Why Bitcoin is stupid.” In it, he says —

The Cryptocurrency bubble is really a replay of the past: A good percentage of Humans are prone to mass delusions which lead to irrational behavior. This is a known bug in our operating system, and we have designed some parts of our society to protect us against it.

These days, stocks are regulated by the SEC, precisely because in the olden days, there were many, many stocks issued that were much like Bitcoin. Marketed to unsophisticated investors as a get-rich-quick scheme. The very definition of an unsophisticated investor is “Being more willing to buy something, the more its price goes up.”

Don’t be one of these fools.

Reconciling these points of view. Most of us come at problems with a selfish question — what’s in it for me? Or, put differently, is it worth investing in this?

Given this, here’s how I’d break it down. There are two investments we can make in new technology — money and time.

Let’s deal with money. There are tens of thousands of crypto tokens out in the wild. Many of them are nonsensical and some are ludicrous. All save a few will likely go down to zero in value in the next five years. Unless you are a crypto expert, it makes little sense to invest in “Initial Coin Offerings.” And, if you are an expert, you’re likely not reading this post anyway.

There are a few mainstream coins that are in the news — primarily Bitcoin and Ethereum. If you have tens of millions of dollars in net worth, buying a few Bitcoin — assuming it is in the low single digits of your net worth — may be an interesting experiment right about now. But, it’d still be an experiment. Investing in Bitcoin is what institutional investors and Billionaires are putting their money in right about now. So, for most of the rest of us, the time has passed.

In that sense, I agree with Mr Money Mustache’s premise — this isn’t the time to invest in crypto unless you’re open to speculating and experimenting with a sizeable portion of your wealth.

But, calling the blockchain worthless misses the point.

It takes multiple decades for a technology to get mainstream adoption. The foundations of the internet were set in the mid 1960s. Commercial use began in 1989. HTML and the idea of a webpage came by in 1994.

And, yet, it is only now that the consumer internet is mainstream. Businesses, on the other hand, are still moving to the cloud.

So, it might be 6 decades for the internet to become mainstream from when it was conceptualized and it will likely be 3 after promising infrastructure was built. These things take time.

If you want to understand why blockchains matter, think about databases.
We live in a data economy. The largest companies on the planet today own vast amounts of data in centralized databases. Their ability to use this data in more and more powerful ways (using tools like machine learning) is what makes them seemingly insurmountable today.

The core technology innovation underpinning the blockchain has made it possible to have decentralized databases. This was not possible before.

Thus, we can now build networks around these decentralized databases and create new incentive structures. In today’s world, the value of your data goes to a few large corporations. In theory, this would not be the case in a blockchain based world. That’s because anyone who contributes to a network would earn tokens based on a governance system created by the token creators.

Does this mean everything will be decentralized? Probably not. There is still value to centralization in many contexts. But, it doesn’t mean centralization is applicable everywhere either. We live in a world controlled by a few large corporations largely because we don’t have an alternative.

Blockchains promise a world where that might be different. They promise to take us down a path we’ve walked over the past century as we adopted newer pieces of information technology — more democratization and more permission-less innovation.

That’s why they matter.

And, that’s why it is worth investing your time in understanding them better in 2018.

PS: Of course, we’ll be spending plenty of time digging into crypto in future weeks.


Links for additional reading (with 5 of the notes mentioned above)

  • What happened in 2017? — on Fred Wilson’s blog
  • Why Bitcoin is Stupid — on Mr Money Mustache’s blog
  • Ten years on, the Blockchain is useless — on Medium
  • Centralization and Decentralization — on Notes by Ada
  • On Institutional Investor’s take on crypto assets — by John Pfeffer on Medium

E-Estonia – Building a digital republic | My favorite excerpts

Wired had a powerful story about a social credit experiment in China that combines data from the equivalent of Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn to create an Orwellian credit score. It made me wonder about the potential impact of governments armed with the power to nudge citizens based on massive amounts of data about them. As I found myself worrying about the effects of such power, I took heart in a fantastic New Yorker article about E-Estonia.

If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it. And, if you are out of time, below are my favorite excerpts.

E-Estonia is the most ambitious project in technological statecraft today, for it includes all members of the government, and alters citizens’ daily lives. The normal services that government is involved with—legislation, voting, education, justice, health care, banking, taxes, policing, and so on—have been digitally linked across one platform, wiring up the nation.

Today, citizens can vote from their laptops and challenge parking tickets from home. They do so through the “once only” policy, which dictates that no single piece of information should be entered twice. Instead of having to “prepare” a loan application, applicants have their data—income, debt, savings—pulled from elsewhere in the system. There’s nothing to fill out in doctors’ waiting rooms, because physicians can access their patients’ medical histories. Estonia’s system is keyed to a chip-I.D. card that reduces typically onerous, integrative processes—such as doing taxes—to quick work. “If a couple in love would like to marry, they still have to visit the government location and express their will,” Andrus Kaarelson, a director at the Estonian Information Systems Authority, says. But, apart from transfers of physical property, such as buying a house, all bureaucratic processes can be done online.

Digitizing processes reportedly saves the state two per cent of its G.D.P. a year in salaries and expenses. Since that’s the same amount it pays to meet the nato threshold for protection (Estonia—which has a notably vexed relationship with Russia—has a comparatively small military), its former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves liked to joke that the country got its national security for free.

In 2014, the government launched a digital “residency” program, which allows logged-in foreigners to partake of some Estonian services, such as banking, as if they were living in the country. Other measures encourage international startups to put down virtual roots; Estonia has the lowest business-tax rates in the European Union, and has become known for liberal regulations around tech research. It is legal to test Level 3 driverless cars (in which a human driver can take control) on all Estonian roads, and the country is planning ahead for Level 5 (cars that take off on their own). “We believe that innovation happens anyway,” Viljar Lubi, Estonia’s deputy secretary for economic development, says. “If we close ourselves off, the innovation happens somewhere else.”

She pulled out her I.D. card; slid it into her laptop, which, like the walls of the room, was faced with blond wood; and typed in her secret code, one of two that went with her I.D. The other code issues her digital signature—a seal that, Estonians point out, is much harder to forge than a scribble.

Data aren’t centrally held, thus reducing the chance of Equifax-level breaches. Instead, the government’s data platform, X-Road, links individual servers through end-to-end encrypted pathways, letting information live locally. Your dentist’s practice holds its own data; so does your high school and your bank. When a user requests a piece of information, it is delivered like a boat crossing a canal via locks. (APIs)

Toomas Ilves, Estonia’s former President and a longtime driver of its digitization efforts, is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford, and says he was shocked at how retrograde U.S. bureaucracy seems even in the heart of Silicon Valley. “It’s like the nineteen-fifties—I had to provide an electrical bill to prove I live here!” he exclaimed. “You can get an iPhone X, but, if you have to register your car, forget it.” (All too true)

“I’ll show you a digital health record,” she said, to explain. “A doctor from here”—a file from one clinic—“can see the research that this doctor”—she pointed to another—“does.” She’d locked a third record, from a female-medicine practice, so that no other doctor would be able to see it. A tenet of the Estonian system is that an individual owns all information recorded about him or her. Every time a doctor (or a border guard, a police officer, a banker, or a minister) glances at any of Piperal’s secure data online, that look is recorded and reported. Peeping at another person’s secure data for no reason is a criminal offense. “In Estonia, we don’t have Big Brother; we have Little Brother,” a local told me. “You can tell him what to do and maybe also beat him up.”

Traffic stops are illegal in the absence of a moving violation, because officers acquire records from a license-plate scan. Polling-place intimidation is a non-issue if people can vote—and then change their votes, up to the deadline—at home, online. And heat is taken off immigration because, in a borderless society, a resident need not even have visited Estonia in order to work and pay taxes under its dominion.

“If countries are competing not only on physical talent moving to their country but also on how to get the best virtual talent connected to their country, it becomes a disruption like the one we have seen in the music industry,” he said. “And it’s basically a zero-cost project, because we already have this infrastructure for our own people.”

In a garage where unused ambulances were parked, he took an iPad Mini from the pocket of his white coat, and opened an “e-ambulance” app, which Estonian paramedics began using in 2015. “This system had some childhood diseases,” Popov said, tapping his screen. “But now I can say that it works well.”

E-ambulance is keyed onto X-Road, and allows paramedics to access patients’ medical records, meaning that the team that arrives for your chest pains will have access to your latest cardiology report and E.C.G. Since 2011, the hospital has also run a telemedicine system—doctoring at a distance—originally for three islands off its coast. There were few medical experts on the islands, so the E.M.S. accepted volunteer paramedics. “Some of them are hotel administrators, some of them are teachers,” Popov said. At a command center at the hospital in Tallinn, a doctor reads data remotely.

The system also scans for drug interactions, so if your otolaryngologist prescribes something that clashes with the pills your cardiologist told you to take, the computer will put up a red flag.

In what may have been the seminal insight of twenty-first-century Estonia, Martens realized that whoever offered the most ubiquitous and secure platform would run the country’s digital future—and that it should be an elected leadership, not profit-seeking Big Tech.

The backbone of Estonia’s digital security is a blockchain technology called K.S.I.

If Russia comes—not when—and if our systems shut down, we will have copies,” Piret Hirv, a ministerial adviser, told me. In the event of a sudden invasion, Estonia’s elected leaders might scatter as necessary. Then, from cars leaving the capital, from hotel rooms, from seat 3A at thirty thousand feet, they will open their laptops, log into Luxembourg, and—with digital signatures to execute orders and a suite of tamper-resistant services linking global citizens to their government—continue running their country, with no interruption, from the cloud.

“Our citizens will be global soon,” she said. “We have to fly like bees from flower to flower to gather those taxes from citizens working in the morning in France, in the evening in the U.K., living half a year in Estonia and then going to Australia.”

“The idea that an algorithm can buy and sell services on your behalf is a conceptual upgrade.”

He lit several cigarettes, and talked excitedly of “building a digital society.” It struck me then how long it had been since anyone in America had spoken of society-building of any kind. It was as if, in the nineties, Estonia and the U.S. had approached a fork in the road to a digital future, and the U.S. had taken one path—personalization, anonymity, information privatization, and competitive efficiency—while Estonia had taken the other. Two decades on, these roads have led to distinct places, not just in digital culture but in public life as well.

Kaevats told me it irked him that so many Westerners saw his country as a tech haven. He thought they were missing the point. “This enthusiasm and optimism around technology is like a value of its own,” he complained. “This gadgetry that I’ve been ranting about? This is not important.” He threw up his hands, scattering ash. “It’s about the mind-set. It’s about the culture. It’s about the human relations—what it enables us to do.”

The first zero emissions natural gas plant from Net Power

Every time the Quartz team introduces a new series, I sign up. Their current “Quartz Obsession” is a two week series on “The Race to Zero Emissions.” And, today’s series is about the world’s first zero emissions natural gas plant from Net Power.

The logic behind this is simple and powerful. There are two ways we can solve the over-heating of the earth’s atmosphere – a) find ways to reflect the sun’s rays back using, say, Sulphur particles in the atmosphere or b) reduce the amount of Carbon dioxide we send up.

There is no consensus on the downstream effects of the former and would require a lot of international cooperation. But, the latter becomes particularly interesting if we find a way to do so. Most of our emissions come because we burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. And, Net Power’s founders have found a way to create a zero emissions fossil fuel plant. By replacing gases like steam that power turbines with the excess Carbon dioxide from the burning of natural gas, they’ve created a system that is emission free and, as a bonus, more efficient than traditional plants.

This is an absolute game changer and will hopefully go live by early next year. The Net Power team hope to license this technology.

For this transformation to happen, we’ll need more new plants like Net Power created to service the growing electricity demand from electric vehicles. Many think tanks believe natural gas will be the best way to do that.

And, this technology would be a huge step forward.

PS: To learn more, check out the Quartz series on https://bit.ly/RacetoZeroEmissions.

Solving for Carbon Dioxide

This graph is a record of Carbon Dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere from Nasa’s Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii.

Carbon Dioxide warms the planet. The most problem of a warmer planet is the melting of ice caps and an increase in water levels.

But, the other emerging story around Carbon Dioxide is the effect it has on nutrients in plants. Politico recently wrote about the work of Irakli Loladze on how Carbon Dioxide reduces minerals in plants and replaces it with carbohydrates. The article concludes with the following 2 paragraphs.

What he found is that his 2002 theory — or, rather, the strong suspicion he had articulated back then — appeared to be borne out. Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants, like the algae, were becoming junk food.

What that means for humans — whose main food intake is plants — is only just starting to be investigated. 

Researchers who dive into it will have to surmount obstacles like its low profile and slow pace, and a political environment where the word “climate” is enough to derail a funding conversation. It will also require entirely new bridges to be built in the world of science―a problem that Loladze himself wryly acknowledges in his own research. When his paper was finally published in 2014, Loladze listed his grant rejections in the acknowledgements.

The whole article is fascinating. And, so is the discussion around Loladze’s original paper. His central thesis is that excess Carbon Dioxide for plants is like junk food.

(That’s Lozadle tossing sugar on vegetables to illustrate his point)

So, what are we doing about the Carbon Dioxide problem? The most promising piece of technology is a concept called the artificial leaf – a ground breaking invention by two Harvard researchers. More on that on my Notes by Ada note on Medium or LinkedIn.

Just to be clear, though, this isn’t about saving the planet. Solving for Carbon Dioxide will be critical if we are going to find a way to survive on this planet. We don’t read about this stuff in the news because climate change is a dirty word these days.

Maybe we’d have a higher success rate if we stopped referring to all of this as efforts to “save the planet.” Maybe we should call it “save human beings from extinction” instead?

Product Leadership vs Product Management

This is a series of posts that is a synthesis of ideas from 4 sources – Marty Cagan’s workshop on Product Management, Product Leadership (the book), conversations I’ve had with experienced product managers and my own observations. I’d like to explore what building products is all about, the various folks and forces at play and tools and ideas that might help get the job done better.

Product Leadership and Product Management: Product leadership isn’t just about leading a team of product managers. Instead, every technology product manager has 2 aspects to their job – product management and product leadership. This is analogous to the management and leadership of a business. While often discussed in the same breath, they are very different. Leadership is about doing the right things or effectiveness while management is about doing things right or efficiency. Similarly –

  • Product leadership is the time spent on deciding which products to build to add value to customers. The challenges here revolve around “customer/user discovery” or finding “product-market fit.”
  • Product management is running the process of building products as efficiently as possible.  The challenge here is generally around optimizing funnels.

Folks in smaller organizations tend to spend most of the their time wrestling with product-market fit. Thus, smaller organizations requires product managers who are comfortable wearing the product leadership hat. In larger organizations, senior product leaders or product managers leading “venture bets” tend to spend more time wearing the leadership hat.

In summary, wearing the product leader hat involves spending time wrestling with questions around product-market fit while wearing the product manager hat involves spending time wrestling with optimizing funnels. 

Leading a product: A successful product is one that is valuable, usable and feasible.

When you are deciding whether to build a product, you work within these constraints by thinking of the market, the customer and the/your company. This process requires the product leader to go through a process of customer discovery (in lean start up parlance) to ensure she is building a product that has hope of finding product-market fit. Or, put differently, the product leader tries to find a customer to validate her hypothesis that her product solves a real need and is, thus, valuable. Once the value is ascertained, she can begin scoping a product that is usable and feasible.

This is best visualized when you think of the primary tool a product leader uses. For the product leader, a product strategy document is a great tool to align people around the vision. A good product strategy document includes the following –

  • Problem Statement/vision: Describe the problem we’re trying to solve and, in the process, paint the picture for what we’re trying to achieve.
  • Principles: Clear guardrails that help us make decisions.
  • Strategy/Hypothesis: Answer the questions – “where do we play?” and “how do we win?”
  • Vision Roadmap: Outline what we’ll need to build in the coming quarters/years to solve the problem.

Of course, visionary product leaders don’t just write a great product strategy document and leave it at that. But, building a compelling vision with clear product principles and a strategy are the first step. We’ll cover the rest in later posts.

Managing the product: Once you agree on what to build, you put on your product manager hat to lead the process of building the product. In doing so, you take responsibility to balance the perspectives of the business (value), design (usability) and engineering (feasibility).

The primary tool product managers use is a product roadmap in some form. Again, we’ll cover roadmaps in detail at a later time.

The 3 axes of value, usability and feasibility are very useful as you think of skills product managers tend to build. A model (that builds on this and that) I’ve found helpful is that of “explorer, scientist, driver.”

  • Explorer PMs lead with design thinking. They are very curious about users and the market and build instincts for what matters to users and what doesn’t.
  • Scientist PMs lead with analytical/engineering expertise. They know their funnels and dig deep into their data to find insights and product improvements.
  • Driver PMs lead with business acumen. They’re great at moving the organization to build products that their customers are ready to buy and understand what it takes to go-to-market with them.

This model brings forth a couple of interesting insights. First, I’ve noticed that great product folk tend to have 2 of these 3 traits and learn to build teams that balance their weaknesses.

Second, different types of products tend to require different expertise. For example, B2C products tend to require more of an emphasis on usability and feasibility while B2B products tend to place more of an emphasis on value and feasibility over usability. My hypothesis is that this means PMs who prefer the explorer hat work better on consumer products while PMs who prefer the driver hat work better on business products. This also points to what folks need to do to learn complementary skills. If you want to build your explorer/design skillset, work on consumer products. And, if you want to work on building out your business acument, work on a B2B product.

Finally, the ability to lead with analytical insight is increasingly becoming table stakes.

A question for reflection, then – how much time do you spend wearing the management and leadership hats in your jobs? Does the ratio feel right to you?

Horses, cars, and the disruptive decade

There’s an interesting, oft-repeated, story among technology geeks about the difficulty of getting forecasts about disruption right. In the mid 1980s, AT&T hired McKinsey & Co. to forecast cell phone adoption in the US by the year 2020. After racking up what must have been a multi million dollar bill, McKinsey said the answer would be 900,000 subscribers.

They were off by a factor of 120x.

Currently, the forecasts from leading energy analysts and think tanks on Electric vehicle adoption shows ~30% adoption in 2040. Clean energy guru Tony Seba believes things will work out different. He predicts that all new cars will be electric by 2030. In addition, all new cars will be, at minimum, semi autonomous by 2030. And, finally, all new energy will be solar by 2030.

It is very hard for us to predict the future because we are wired to think about improvements linearly.

But, technology growth is never linear and generally occurs due to a combination of technological innovations that combine to make new things possible. The current artificial intelligence wave was not made possible by deep learning algorithms alone. Instead, it took parallel computing (GPUs) and the ability to process big data that made deep learning algorithms effective.

Energy guru Tony Seba calls this “technology convergence.” Convergence happens when a group of technologies come together to make new things possible.This is why technology adoption follows “S curves” — they don’t occur linearly.

To illustrate this, this was 5th Avenue in New York City in 1900. There is one car in the photo.

In 1913, it was hard to spot the horse.

My belief is that we will see the adoption of electric vehicles and solar accelerate in the next decade. Autonomous vehicles will follow closely. It is an exciting time as it will actually enable us to make significant progress to our climate change goals as a global community.

It is a decade that will be similar to prior periods of technology upheaval. For the longest time, the big oil cartel and coal powers will all seem to dominate.

Until they won’t.

Longer version of this note on Medium or LinkedIn.

Building reputation and incentives into marketplace products | Thinking Product

This is a “Thinking Product” post where I have more outstanding notes questions than concrete thoughts or a framework. I haven’t given the subject of reputation in marketplaces much thought. But, I thought about reputation this week as I took four Uber rides during a day of travel.

The driver side of the marketplace. I read an interesting post today titled “Give me my reputation back” in which Gavin Kelly lays out a case for portability of reputations. He writes –

The popular image of this segment of our economy is of free-wheeling, hyper-flexible freelancers who come and go as they please. Gig-workers can, after all, work through whichever platform they wish, for as long as they wish. The free-market distilled. 

Yet this is a partial account. It overlooks a barrier to mobility: the non-portability of their customer ratings and reviews. This is no side-show. You can’t, as Henry Ford said, “build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Ratings crystallise hard-won reputations; they are the passport to future earning power. Lose them and, regardless of experience or prior standing, you are pretty much starting from scratch.

This state of affairs is all the more odd given that, to avoid being treated as legal employers, platform-companies like Uber present themselves as mere online notice boards used by independent businesses to pick up trade. Strange, then, that these businesses can’t move these reviews with them.

I think this is a valid thought and one that is similar to the argument that we ought to be able to take our data on centralized platforms and move it. I don’t expect the gig economy companies to take action. But, our regulators need to pay more attention.

The rider side of the marketplace. Uber has been more upfront about the rider rating (i.e. the average rating you receive from drivers) and you now see it the moment you touch the options menu. I had a few thoughts here and questions here –

  • Rating manipulation: Uber says it doesn’t reflect individual changes to ratings, for example. But, it is pretty easy to tell. For example, I received three 5 star ratings and one 1 star rating on Wednesday. It was easy to tell because I saw an immediate change in my rating and the last change involved a large fall from 4.74 to 4.64. So, is it possible to manipulate your own rider rating? Here’s an example – what if I gave a 5 star rating and a generous tip to the driver right after I finish the ride? Wouldn’t the driver know immediately and reciprocate? Similarly, what if I “got back” at the driver who rated me one star by giving him a one star rating? Could Uber update ratings after a 24 hour period instead? (I did neither – but am curious)
  • Feedback for a one star rating: I was really curious about the reason for my one star ride. I was waiting for the driver, greeted him, stayed quiet until he needed directions within our apartment boundaries and got off. I wondered if the rating was a mistake and asked Uber support if there was a reason for this. But, Uber support just gave me a list of generic tips. What if the rating system persuaded both riders and drivers to give at least a line of feedback if they gave an extreme rating – e.g. one or two stars?
  • Introvert bias?: I would be really curious for studies on the correlation between introversion and Uber rider ratings. If I’m taking an Uber after a work event or a social occasion, the last thing I want to do is have a conversation with my Uber driver. But, an extrovert would be have differently and my hypothesis would be that extroverts have higher Uber ratings, on average.
  • Kids bias?: Another bias I’m more certain of is that against parents traveling with young kids – especially if the driver isn’t a parent himself/herself. How do you correct for such biases in these rating systems? Do you bother?

As we move toward a world with more marketplaces enabled by mobile phones, I wonder what the consequences of such rating and reputation systems will be. I’ve heard great things about an episode of Black Mirror where everyone is obsessed with their overall rating. What happens in a world where we feel constantly watched and judged?

While I was curious about ratings and reputations in marketplaces during my Uber day, I definitely felt judged when I got my one star rating. For some reason, I’ve had issues with the Lyft app on my phone over the past few months. But, the one star rating with no explanation pushed me to uninstall and reinstall the app so I could use Lyft next time.

I’ll be back with more notes and questions after using Lyft on my next travel day in the coming months. :-)