I totally understand why things developed the way they did. The internet is huge and full of bad actors, and a nascent service is in real existential danger of being overwhelmed and swamped by fraud. If you tell bad actors why you're banning them and spend valuable time communicating with them it can put you out of business early on.
But like in so many other arenas, the Valley mentality hasn't adopted to the fact that they are no longer underdog rebels besieged by barbarians on one side and big scary rich corporations on the other site.
The reality is now that these companies are the ruling class, and the users are the general population. And people rely on these services and base their lives on them. Arbitrary and capriciously depriving people of access to these platforms without any kind of due process rights isn't OK any more.
There's a reason we have consumer protection laws, why someone decided we needed things like the Montreal Convention and the FDCPA and CPSC and so on. It's axiomatic that we can't trust monopolistic corporations to do right by the little guy.
This Silicon Valley mentality is increasingly going to lead to pitchforks, torches, and regulation in the near future, it's an inevitability. Rightly so.
I absolutely despise this very common pattern. In the end, the company gets free publicity for screwing you over, and the 100s or 1000s of people in the same situation won't be helped - just because they don't have a massive userbase on social media.
What happens if Amazon, right now, decided that you are not a good customer and deleted every one of your accounts and deleted all your AWS data? As of right now, you can't buy anything from them goods wise. And if you were using AWS as a webservice platform, now, you can't. No recourse. At all.
Your Google account was hacked, but google saw you as a spammer and hacker trying to penetrate Google's security systems. They blast all accounts away that have logged in with your IP address of the duration of the hack. You're now without a whole slew of services. Dead in the water, again. Who do you call? Nobody. But you can leave a badly worded post in Google forums - oh wait, you can't even do that.
Capitalists being the ruling class in capitalism is not new (it's rather the effect that the system is named for), neither is capital being drawn to new technologies that improve the return on capital and reduce the relative power of labor.
People actually have sued against that in Germany, and a German court determined that Amazon has to allow you to recover all your data, and all digital products (e.g. Amazon Kindle books) you paid for.
In the USA, non-negotiable click-through agreements are legal. And we, the citizenry, can give up a good class more of rights then the EU allows. These rights would have protected their citizens, and in your instance have. They do not protect US citizens.
We have small claims, and the hope an instance of the company resides in the state. If not, they can effectively ignore small claims. Nothing to collect from.
There is no scenario where you are not beholden to some corporate entity, and most likely you're beholden to dozens of them to keep you alive and keep your life functioning at all times. The food supply can be cut off by less than a dozen major corporations, and you will die. Less than a dozen major corporations can choke off the supply of fuel or electricity, and you will die. This is true, in one form or another, in every developed or semi-developed nation on earth. Maybe the government acts fast enough to counter that action by said corporate giants, maybe not. It's a system built on the profit motive being the predictable pursuit by said corporations, meaning they overwhelmingly will not behave that way; combined with the threat of military or domestic armed reaction by their respective government (namely that any tech giant can trivially be destroyed any day of the week by the US Government; Zuckerberg could be in chains in three hours if the US Military decides to do it, there are consequences that prevent that as it is).
What happens in ~1955-1975 if AT&T, at their peak of monopoly, decided to blacklist you from their telephone service?
What happens in 1910 if Standard Oil decides to cut off your shop's access to its oil-related products?
What happens if you're in a small town, with Walmart as the primary goods seller, and Walmart blacklists you? Maybe you can drive somewhere far out of your way, if you can afford to, and replace them as an option. At a minimum it severely screws with your life. There's nothing unique about Amazon there, you can order from other online stores, and it might be a huge inconvenience.
What people think is new with Google et al., is not new.
It rather depends on the reason for the decision to put you on the blacklist.
In general, AT&T was allowed its monopoly power under government regulation. A goal of the Communications Act of 1934 was to provide universal telephone service. Section 254(b) lists the Universal Principles, including (4), "All providers of telecommunications services should make an equitable and nondiscriminatory contribution to the preservation and advancement of universal service."
If your service was cut off because you liked to pump line voltage through the phone system, then they could do that because it's a nondiscriminatory meant to protect the phone service.
If they cut you off because you wrote a letter to the editor complaining about their services, then that's discriminatory, and you could take your complaint to the local public utilities commission or FCC ... or perhaps sue as well; I don't know the regulatory history.
In any case, there was certainly government oversight of what AT&T could do, in terms of putting someone on a blacklist.
Don't rely on free services for mission-critical aspects of your life. And don't expect free services to provide support.
And no, "it isn't free, you pay with your data" doesn't make it a paid service, it is still free.
Starting on amazon is great, as it really is cheap at small scale, and you can test your shit at large scale for short periods... but it gets expensive fast as you grow, so the more you can do to prepare to move, (or credibly threaten to do same) the better off you are.
And don't put any valuable eggs in a free basket.
Most companies don't even show up to court, because the cost of paying a lawyer is more than you are suing them for in small claims court.
If they did show up to court, they would then have to argue that (a) their terms of service take precedence over the law -- in many juristictions, it is illegal to write a contract preventing someone from suing you for particular conditions.
And they would have to argue that (b) their terms of service are still valid, considering that they aren't honoring their contract in even paying the OP in the first place.
If OP took Upwork to small claims court, it is almost guaranteed that he would get the money owed to him by the clients who paid him that Upwork is currently holding onto illegally.
People mistake them for absolute laws but they can be challenged and many of them are not even enforceable.
Are such agreements enforceable?
As you suggest bringing this to your local trade body and making a formal complaint is probably the way to go. It will take a long time and a lot of complaints to get there though. In the mean time avoid them, both the buy and sell side.
You can derive that is very likely the case based on the intelligence and composure of the rest of their post. You can also derive it directly from the full paragraph text, which is not referring specifically to Upwork, rather it is referring to Silicon Valley broadly, and why "things" developed the way they did with how SV firms have tended to treat customers/users.
The core issue is that Silicon Valley sold a dream: "We can build business without people in its ranks. Instead, we can staff programmers and build glue-logic around our business cases, and automate everything. This saves all the money from hiring people."
The investors bought into that idea. Because if it did work, you can have companies that are 1/10'th the size of previous high industry companies, because all the work is automated. Look no further than all the current crop of companies using software in this fashion. Some AI system "learned" that your combined inputs related a fraction higher as fraud - banned. Or someone checked a box in the wrong location and you're locked out. Or your system is deleting user content at random, and there is no-one to call.
Who ends up being tech support for these new companies? The executives. But that's only for people smart enough to realize to send them messages, or otherwise garner their attention via Twitter, Reddit, or HN and happen to be in the right place at the right time. Even the aforementioned gamification needs to be done for even HN, to get the right post at the right time.
Where do we go from here? In truth, not many places. Non-software companies with real human service will get eaten out of house and home by companies willing to make deals with machines. The VC funding is in AI businesses, not traditional. But one can still choose to be customers at respectful businesses. But the internet makes that much harder, as going online also includes 'selling out' customer service. Some AI will then tell agents "you can't do that" even , if it is what's needed.
You're talking like the only solutions to this can come from the market, and if the market forces won't work that way then we're screwed and must give up.
The real solution to this is customer/employee friendly regulation. I'm thinking something like a rule requiring an easy, timely way to appeal to a human that's empowered to override the automation after any adverse ruling by it; backed up by the threat of fines and legal sanctions. In the current American federal political climate, that's a stretch, but there are other jurisdictions, at the state level and internationally, where something regulation like this might be feasible.
That said, I've worked for a b2c website. The internet is jam packed with scammers. I'd bet it's an order of magnitude worse on sites like upwork where real money changes hands. At least in our case, if we'd had these types of regulations, we would have terminated service to a list of countries that produced little revenue and high hassle.
Obviously we just need to make this kind of behavior expensive enough that execs don't take 20 years to develop a reasonable support model. Hold them personally responsible for their companies, and don't let them hide behind their shitty algorithms.
New users often charge bellow their market rate in order to build reputation on the platform. Then once you get your 5 stars and start making good money you get banned kafka style, lame explanation, no resource.
Looks like they want to keep it a race to the bottom more than anything.
Perhaps Upwork makes more in volume if workers race bottom. Or they are really dumb. Lets hope some insider post anonymously and explain the contradiction.
It only makes sense to do that if they suspect that is the last job their user will take. Otherwise it's better to keep the user happy and keep taking a percentage for all their future work.
It's not Silicon Valley you're railing against: it's blind unthinking bureaucracy. It's a problem that goes back much further than the days when "silicon valley" was all orchards.
Comparing this to private Silicon Valley companies that are't accountable to anyone for their behavior towards individual users actually illustrates the problem neatly.
Silicon valley looks at this problem, and says that it needs to be disrupted. It then disrupts it, by taking away power from organizations that have it, and giving it to itself. We then all pat ourselves on the back and order a rum and coke.
What does that have to do with this? Well...
The reality is now that these companies are the ruling class, and the users are the general population. And people rely on these services and base their lives on them.
That's exactly how this feels. It's everywhere in Silicon Valley. And when you try to talk to them and point out that maybe this is unfair, it's like they don't even grok it. "Fairness? Morals?"
It's about power. The power to control you and have you obey. You either have power or you don't. And unless you build something, you have no power at all.
Those are uncomfortable conclusions. It pretty much defines what you have to do in life, for years, if you want to be in a position where anyone will listen. But that was always true – the world just makes it more obvious now.
But... It's also exciting. We have the ability to acquire power. It's true that most of us won't acquire funding, which is what we really need to influence the world. But at no point in history has it been so easy (relatively speaking) for a side project to suddenly influence the world. If you were a farmer in the middle ages, you were boned. Ditto for most of the present world today.
Isn't it weird? SV suddenly became the ruling class; you're exactly right. And no one has really been talking about the implications yet.
Most of his comments that I've seen are rarely on topic, and are followed up with an artifact of his mental illness, which is tragic, but typically has no bearing on the subject. So yeah, people downvote those comments that have no bearing on the discussion.
I was so terrified to post any of this or to speak publicly about anything that it was very hard to read the replies. I was sort of skimming them holding my breath for the inevitable backlash. I happened to read your reply, and it happened to be nearly a verbatim description of me, completely by chance. And me replying about Terry was also by chance, since Terry was the first example that popped into my head of someone who has it way worse.
The truth is, I've been struggling with a few mental problems, and it's been very difficult. Partly because of how carefully you have to conceal them so as not to be labeled and shunned, or at least treated differently.
Somehow in the heat of the moment, it all made complete sense that my mental instability was so obvious that people were talking about it. And I was so stressed about the entire situation that I immediately started replying without thinking. That's more than a little stupid, on a few axes.
But um.. hi. I have a few problems. They're not so bad. And I try to remember to be thankful that at least it's not anywhere close to what Terry's going through. But they do get in the way of social interactions. This whole thread is arguably some evidence of it. Suffice to say, I empathize strongly with Terry and I wish that there were a way to include him in some activities.
When you're completely isolated by almost everyone you care about, it starts to get to you after awhile. I don't know what's up with me but I'm just going to take a break and focus on making the alt-HN good.
Sorry again. I tried to find your email but it's hard to locate. In hindsight my replies to you are incredibly embarrassing (more like mortifying, but whatever).
> I was so stressed about the entire situation that I immediately started replying without thinking.
You're not alone, there are plenty of times when I read comments I made the night before and wince at what I've said. :P
If you want to talk, my email address is my HN username with a period instead of an underscore at gmail; it's probably a better way to have this sort of discussion.
It's not really an exaggeration to say I felt insane. And like a worthless excuse of a washed-up community member. I know this isn't the goal of the penalties, but the psychological effects after 90 days are quite real.
Other people, though, take the opposite approach and paint him as a saint, willing to paint over the negatives.
Good point. Which kinds of negatives?
It's an important question for alt-HN. It seems like it'd be mostly harmless to let Terry post there, but your comment hints at possibilities I hadn't considered.
I'll probably lob an email your way. There are a few crucial questions to answer before alt-HN goes live. Like "What should we focus on?" and "What color should the topbar be?"
Everyone is convinced the new topcolor should be x. Unfortunately x turns out to be thread local to whoever's speaking. (Ba-dum tss.)
Do you think it's possible to launch a site with an arsenal of bad jokes? We've got hundreds. "The Bikeshed" would be a good name for a bar in SF.
Thanks again. Really. You have no idea how nice it was to find empathy anywhere in the replies.
Being jobless and homeless, as well as estranged from his family. His apparent inability to interact with the rest of society, or even really to participate in our consensus reality. He appears to have Tourette's as well, and doesn't seem to have much ability to control his ability to spew racist pejoratives when he's upset.
I would absolutely go to a bar called The Bikeshed, especially if it had an LED sign outside, and with every drink you got to push a button to increase/decrease one RGB value.
I see it as he is trying to reach out, but he is downvoted because why? What effects does a downvoted have on someone? I know I feel bad and I'm generally a person that says "eff it" to a lot of things. I would also like to believe people, especially here on HN, who are much smarter than myself, or so I would like to believe, have all read the same articles and comments I have over the years.
One doesn't need to engage if one does not want to, but where the hell is the humanity?
Sorry, the more I think about this the more upset I get.
Besides, where does that policy end? Will we let Torvalds post free-verse poetry? Should Brendan Eich be allowed to write political screeds?
Did you know youtube removed all of his 850+ videos? That was actually tragic. Archive.org has copies of most of them but no one sees them anymore.
Also, did you notice? He singlehandedly built an OS. If I'm destined for a similar fate, I'll take a quiet life filled with skill.
Besides, it'll be entertaining. I have quite a show planned!
Let's not romanticize what he's going through.
I'm not sure what your problems are like, but I'm glad you've found a positive way of dealing with them.
Terry's videos being gone is actually pretty tragic; they were interesting, and his accomplishments can't be denied, and should be documented.
He can't control himself. He has no choice but to experience life through his eyes. He's excluded from pretty much every group he tries to join. Yet he persists.
Not only do I respect that, but I am starting to see why everyone conceals any whiff of mental illness. As soon as you reveal this fact, you become labeled and publicly known. And for people obsessed with their reputation, that'd be a risk.
In the same way you can't control whether you're gay, you can't control whether you have certain problems. Mine are nothing like schizophrenia, so it was a little amusing to be given the same treatment. But if hypothetically it were true that I suffered from some, your reaction would be to shake your head and call it tragic. That says a lot about the community.
No one can force anyone else to care. But it's a problem I've thought about a lot. Are we doomed to the Reddit and HN duopoly + faux-edgy 4chan? And Reddit is inherently balkanized due to the nature of subreddits. If you want to talk about problems with like-minded people, your options are severely limited. You pretty much have to create a throwaway or retreat to safe spaces. I've benefitted from both. Can we do better?
One experiment was to invite people to message me on keybase:
The response was awesome. A lot of them opened up about some really heavy things. We talked philosophy, morals, and mainly just gave people a shoulder to lean on when they needed it. I don't know whether it had much effect. I could tell some people didn't get much out of it, though I tried. But for others it was like uncorking a bottle, and there were often fascinating people on the other side of the screen.
This suggests a way forward, but I'm not sure what. It doesn't scale. But maybe it doesn't need to. I have time.
The thing is, when you bring people like this together, and they act as a unit, they can have an impact on the world. It's a force to harness.
Yet they never get this opportunity, because we're all so busy with our own lives. Why put up with someone's nonsense? Why not just hit that block button if they're giving you trouble? Poof.
That's little consolation to the human on the receiving end. We have no choice but to experience life as the master of our own existence, confined to the limits of our skull. Your thoughts are immediate; no words are required. Everything seems so obvious to you, because you're at the center of it. You're forced to be.
That poses a problem for people whose minds don't fit society's tight molds.
As a community, our reaction has been to dismiss these stories as tragic and to move on with our lives, or to quietly prune them so they can't bother anyone. But as one of the pruned, I can tell you that it's a lonely existence.
My hypothesis is that there is a way to build a place for everyone to come together. Terry's case is difficult, because he seems unable to prevent himself from copy-pasting gigantic walls of text (among other things). But if you were to actually explain to him that the problem is the walls of texts, he at least has a target to aim for that he can occasionally hit. Maybe not often, and maybe only once a month, but those few times would bring him happiness. That's only possible if you're willing to actually speak with them.
I'm not sure yet how to accomplish this, but I'm resolved to try. Slack might be part of it.
The overall point is that it's not helpful to shake one's head and label them. From a game theory point of view, it's better to harness everyone's talents rather than isolate and deny them just because of some mistakes.
I thought their metamoderation system was great. The issue with Slashdot is that you had to be one of the chosen few with mod points that day to contribute to moderation.
Learned it from Reddit - upvotes are free, and it may make some people happy, so why not.
There is already Lobsters, afterall.
The regulation on style instead of substance on this site really make me question their commitment to intellectual / productive conversation.
Sometimes I wonder how long someone like Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, or Theo de Raadt would last on this site. I don’t think very long. A site that would ban the most influential hackers of our day simply for bad etiquette doesn’t really seem like a site for hackers.
(and i'm sure various industries before that)
I created a new twitter account and a few days lates it's banned. I haven't even had a chance to follow/tweet or do anything.
Forgiveness is an important part of humanity that, at times, must be enforced.
You can test this out- try to get customer service as a yeoman and try to get customer service as a valley baron.
So, lesson learned- never enter true occupation data in a field when registering.