Tag Archives: fix

How They’re Gaming Yelp

yelpNever underestimate the human desire to game systems. Why expend actual effort when you can “win” by cheating? Because, to the victor go the spoils. Today I’d like to explain one way that business owners go about gaming their reviews.

So there’s this thing called Yelp. They claim to be generally positive system but the dictionary definition of the word “yelp” is: “a short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm.” Yeah, baby. Those are my kind of reviews. Let’s go negative and keep it that way. Don’t believe me? Look it up in your own dictionary.

I went to the trendy meat cafe and they served me an elk burger that was oozing blood. That’s how I earned “connoisseur of raw elk meat” on my Twitter profile! And, oh yeah, you better believe I yelped it as soon as I got home.

My understanding is that Yelp frowns on business owners asking for reviews. That’s bad form in a reputation system that’s supposedly driven from a wellspring of organic experiences from normal people like you and me. Normal! Yeah, right.

Here’s how the gaming works:

You place an order on a website. A few days or weeks later you receive a survey request. “How did we do on your recent order?” and what not.

You’ll likely be given the ability to enter some comments and provide a rating. If you give them a good rating, they’ll say thanks and provide a clickable link to the Yelp website where you can enter a review. If you give a bad rating, they only say thanks. No linky for you.

Voila! It’s as simple as that. The system just got gamed. The preliminary survey is nothing more than a sieve to sort the good eggs from the bad. The good eggs are passed along to Yelp and the bad eggs go down the chute. You might think that businesses appreciate negative feedback most of all because that’s vital information to help them improve. You’d be wrong. Why waste time on that shit when you can be gaming the system instead?

This is just one small example of gaming. People in the world of business spend more time thinking about stuff like this than they do on actual products and services. And they’re really good at it. That’s ingenuity.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to nosh on some raw elk. RAWR!

Fixing Social Security in a Fair Way

Image source: Punch Debt in the Face

Image source: Punch Debt in the Face

Yes, yes! To Guru-San you listen. The debt! Remember your failure with the debt!

So yeah, I’ve got the solution that fixes Social Security. The whole thing. Once and for all. The big enchilada. And it does it in a fair way, too.

To those with 10% approval ratings I say, “Stop fiddle-farting around and pass my legislation. Stat!”

Allow me to introduce the Frozen Unilaterally Contributions Kablooey Act of 2013.
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Hollywood’s summertime blues

Hollywood Sign

Everyone say it with me now: Awwwwwwwww!

Poor, poor Hollywood.

Hollywood is feeling sad because the summer of 2011 had the lowest movie attendance since 1997. That’s so sad. So all you peeps in the industry only made thousands of times my yearly salary? Wow. I feel for you. Truly!

Because I am a benevolent guru, I’m willing to take a few previous moments out of my day to offer a little advice that just might help you out of your doldrums. Even though I know never in a million years will you listen or follow this advice. You’d rather die first, right?

The solution is simple. Make the movie going experience more fun than licking all the urinals in town.

The problem is simple. Your product is defective. Seriously. Who the fuck wants to go to a theater and sit with a bunch of rude and disgusting assholes?

Hey, I’m serious. Not once in my life has a movie theater ever given half a shit about my “experience.” Not once!

Not once have I ever seen a movie theater eject people for talking. For answering cell phone calls during the movie. (Even during United 93.) Or for any reason.

Never have I seen anyone ejected. Ever. The fact of the matter is this: Movie theaters have no system for proactively protecting the experience. Actually, I find that a bit mind boggling because that experience is their product.

In the world of business there is sometimes a principle which holds true: Don’t give a shit about your product and your bottom line just may be affected.

Fix that and maybe more people will decide to try your product again. Until then, fuck it. We’re willing to wait and watch at home.

Fix your product and they will come. I’m mostly talking to the theater chains here, but I’m also talking directly to Hollywood. They’re nitpicky about all sorts of other things, I think they should give a shit about their end users, too. They should team up with the chains to improve things. It is only to their own benefit. The reality is simple: If people find it too unpleasant to go to the movies they’ll eventually decide not to go, especially when faced with ever-growing exorbitant ticket prices.

Make going to movies fun again, dammit. Or shut yer bitching about declining attendance.

Goodbye means we are done

Rude? What is this "rude" of which you speak?

It’s been a couple of months since I left my old job. Yeah!

Today I wish to present a blast from the past and recount a conversation I had with my office manager that took place shortly before my last day of work.

The background information is this: I worked at the company for over five years. During that time, among my other duties*, I programmed their ecommerce website entirely from scratch. Because the boss was so picky, only a homegrown and highly-customized solution would suffice.

* I was also forced, against my will and under threat of termination, to do things like: Retail sales floor, customer service phones, production, secretarial and janitorial. I naively thought I had been hired as “webmaster” but found out that even job listings can be viciously “bait and switch.” In fact, my actual job title was often just a tiny slice of my day.

So there I was, called into my manger’s office, and this is pretty much how it all went down:

“After you’re gone, when we find bugs in the software, you’ll fix them for free, right?”

Holy crap! What a thing to say. This really floored me. I mean, how rude! The sheer audacity of it is truly staggering.

I’m still so proud of the way I responded.

“Absolutely not.” I was unequivocal.

The manager had the balls to put on a bewildered look. “How can you say that? You wrote it, right? Any bugs in there are your mistakes. Don’t you stand behind what you do?”

Sad. This was truly sad.

“Sure I do. But let me ask you a question. When is the last time you heard something like this? An employee leaves a company and two weeks later a mistake of theirs is found. Have you ever heard of that employee going back to the job and fixing the problem for free?”

Even amongst all the greatest assholes of the world this caught my manager flatfooted. Yeah, delicious!

“Look,” I continued. “When I was working as an employee for this company, I gave it my absolute best. My goal was to provide the highest quality product I possibly could. Even so, there were two problems. First, I’m human, and I will make mistakes. They will happen. Second, I had absolutely no control over my work environment. Computer programming ain’t exactly like painting the Sistine Chapel, but it ain’t ditch digging, either. It’s hard and requires intense concentration and logic. It’s not exactly the kind of work that can be done in a blender. Yet that’s the environment that has been forced down my throat for the last five years. That sort of environment increases the error rate. I’m sorry about that, but that’s just the way it is.”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing just a wee bit here. Call it artistic license. 🙂

“So what happens when we find bugs? We’re screwed?”

“As I see it, you have three choices. Live with it, fix it yourselves, or hire someone to fix it for you. As your employee, when mistakes were found, I could fix them as part of my day. You didn’t require me to clock out and work for free. As your ex-employee, you still have the same option, as long as I remain willing and available, of course.”

And so it came to pass that I would not be fixing every bug from the last five years and doing it for free.

After I left the company we briefly negotiated a renewable weekly contract where I would work from my home office for 20 hours a week. But their final offer was insultingly low and I refused. I now do ongoing work for them, as needed, but at my final offer of an hourly rate, not theirs. After five years the tables have finally turned.

And yes, if I’m working as a contractor, I stand behind my work. That means I fix bugs for free. But I also control my work environment.

Sometimes it is good not to be the employee.