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Blogging from Sydney | Australia
Some past thoughts
Monday
Oct162017

As a customer, why I'm quitting Uber

I used to use Uber about twice a year, at other times I'm a huge public transportation fan. The change to require tipping to get a 5 star rating (because people respond to incentives) is a complete surprise to me.

In essence, Uber didn't learn anything about setting (and appropriately notifying the public about changing) their tipping expectations. As the most likely source of my surprising and only less than 5 star rating several months ago (the driver never told me either), I now don't see any value in Uber over the tried and true taxi system, where it is well known tipping is expected, and even very clearly visible on both the airport receipts and cab windows that tips are not included (and thus expected in the US, unless say the cab is really dirty or smelly). Further it's far less likely to be able to come back and haunt you Black Mirror style. It doesn't look like the average person gets to have a say in that either.

The sad part is eBay has known this forever, as a seller it's not even possible to leave a negative or neutral feedback rating for a buyer. Uber's sneaky change and failure to learn the lessons of history has cost it a customer permanently.

What's particularly sad to me is that it could be a simple monetisation route to keep everyone explicitly happy - as a customer, pay us 20% more on the fare for each star rating bump, at least half goes to the driver. Because reputation can matter, and people (including cab drivers) do matter.

More context: https://www.thezebra.com/insurance-news/1074/should-you-tip-your-uber-driver/

P.S. That says nothing about allegations of sexual harassment leading to mass firings, it sounds like they have a lot of work to do.

Thursday
Oct052017

'The great Australian nightmare' alive and well in Sydney, Melbourne

Nice one, this wonderful article by Emily Cadman, while it as Michael Pascoe points out contains some errors, it still made my day:

http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/the-great-australian-nightmare-alive-and-well-in-sydney-melbourne-20171004-gyujbr.html

Monday
Sep252017

Helping start something - Australian Affordable Housing Party

Disclaimer: These views are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Australian Affordable Housing Party, Dick Smith's Fair Go, the Australian Labour Party, the Liberal Party (of the Menzies era), or any other individual or organisation.

 

For years I've been concerned about rising housing unaffordability in Australia. Rational Radical's graph here covering the period from 1880 to 2014 describes it better than I can.

Australian governments, such as the Menzies government in the post-WWII period knew owning your own home (at a reasonable price and thoughconnected to appropriate infrastructure) was first and foremost for shelter and security, basic human needs not currently provided in the rental market. Owning a home is a critical core piece of the presently smashed Australian Dream that laid the groundwork for the 1970s multicultural pact and is a huge driver of intergenerational wealth inequality within Australia.

Our investment-property laden politicians deserve to be reminded of that reality, or they too can continue to ignore the lessons of history (and perhaps be doomed to repeat it).

So that's why when Andrew Potts decided to start something called the Australian Affordable Housing Party, I was ready to jump up and say "me too" and pitch in with support when I can between my other responsiblities - to serve God as best as I am able to, to keep myself in good health, to put food on the table via the good job (thanks Joe) I currently have, and my hobby of teaching robots to play soccer.

Most likely I'll continue watching this from the sidelines, perhaps even from the US (presently the land of Trump, for better or worse, whether or not "The American dream has failed"), if I can engineer an opportunity to build some perspective, while Australia wonders collectively about the underlying drivers of its lost decade when for instance real incomes grew just $3 per year.

That's the balanced me that would accept a slow melt. A part of me would actually welcome a recession and a >50% fall in prices - because "Price is what you pay, value is what you get", and I suspect most people know a family home isn't really worth $1.3 million, it's still just 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen/dining and car space. As a thought experiment, it could be government-mandated that housing is priced exclusively in housing stamps (a play on food stamps) and you can only get them by working for the government.

The current system is a trade that I believe happens to be a very poor one resulting in a massive transfer of wealth from the younger millennial generation who are often still laden with tens of thousands of dollars of student loans, to a select few investment property owners and developers, such as Harry Triguboff. And to be honest, I actually voted for developers in the recent local council elections, developers have a responsibility to maximise their shareholders (which could be just themselves) return on investment so they can stay in business; it is governments which have a responsibility to ensure there are enough developers in the marketplace that there is reasonable competition between them, and most importantly that there is enough housing supply available to meet the demands of the expected future population.

Thus the fixes to this engineer's mind are potentially very simple - reduce demand by reducing immigration to the long-run average of 70,000 per year, such as Dick Smith's Fair Go campaign has proposed, reduce demand by reducing tax incentives encouraging speculative "pina colada" investment in property such as halving the very generous 50% capital gains tax discount and allowing negative gearing for new builds only; or increasing supply through releasing more land and enabling developers to build on it, and building the infrastructure to service that land.

It doesn't really matter whether new infrastructure comes through governments or developers - last I checked I'd rather pay a new infrastructure levy to finance some kind of municipal bond (or equivalent) than actually dig up a front yard to build a sewerage pipe, lay fibre optic cable or electrical cables, and I certainly wouldn't be wanting to build a school or hospital myself. Well-connected high-speed rail or better yet a hyperloop could also be wonderful alternatives.

A bit more about me - I have participated in the rental market for the past 3 years after living with parents for 8 years (so after 5 years of university, I'm currently at 6 years saving for a house dwelling deposit), and as I have a good job, don't own a car or have addictions like smoking or drinking and paid off my HECS-HELP debt early, this is telling me the system is currently broken.

That doesn't make it my responsibility to fix this broken system, but I'm happy to contribute towards anything that I believe might fix it, like being a founding member of and donor towards the Australian Affordable Housing Party.

Monday
May152017

I'm back!

I'd like to say there are some absolutely wonderful people at Wesley Mission and kudos to them.

Saturday
Mar252017

Final post?

So after several days of back and forth, and thanks to my parents neglecting to tell me pjschmidt@bigpond.com would lapse, it's come to my attention that I'll need a Notary Public to prove I'm me and thus that I once owned http://peterjs.com/ but a NP is something like $250 + GST for something I use about twice a year.

By and large no one will probably read this at https://pzrq.squarespace.com/ but it's there if anyone really wanted to track it down. Might let Squarespace lapse too, it was good while it lasted but didn't get me HTTPS soon enough when I was looking at it, and especially with this new straw I think it just isn't something I derive sufficient value from relative to the cost, especially compared to hosting something on AWS/GCP/Azure which I'd actually find a fun challenge if I had the time.