Sunday, February 28, 2016

An Advocate for Open Access and Privacy Has Been Nominated to be the Librarian Of Congress

The Librarian Of Congress sounds like an unimportant position but it actually is very important for the influence they have over copyright policy in the USA (and the world because of how the USA prioritizes copyright over important national interests).

President Obama Nominates New Librarian Of Congress Who Supports Open Access, Fights Against Surveillance

Hayden was one of the leading voices speaking out against surveillance. As President of the American Library Association at the time when the PATRIOT Act was being debated, she was vocal in opposition, especially to Section 215, which was used to create the phone metadata program that Ed Snowden revealed. What many people forget is that it was the librarians who were most vocal about Section 215 when it was first proposed, as many people thought it would be used to demand things like library records to see what was being checked out -- and librarians are big supporters of privacy.

She's also spoken out for years about the value of free access to information. Here's a 2003 profile of Hayden in Ms. Magazine (where she was named Woman of the Year) in which she notes:
“Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy—where information is free and equally available to everyone. People tend to take that for granted,” says Hayden. “And they don’t realize what is at stake when that is put at risk.”

This is very good news. The broken copyright system is a deadly diseases for the USA economy and has done great damage for a long time. This is a one small step that could reduce the damage that is done. It is good to see President Obama taking a good step in this direction given how much damage he has done with his many other policy decisions, including Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TTIP.

Not blackballing someone because they believe in privacy is also somewhat remarkable given the consistent efforts of President Obama to greatly enhance the survailence state in the USA.

In President Obama's statement he says

Her understanding of the pivotal role that emerging technologies play in libraries will be essential in leading the Library of Congress as it continues to modernize its infrastructure and promote open access and full participation in today's digital world.

This is a good step. I hope she is confirmed. But it is one decision moving the right direction compared to a huge number of initiatives making copyright more damaging to the USA and globaly economy. So while I am glad for this one step, it doesn't come close to erasing all the damage his adminstration has done.

Related: Why Copyright Extension is a Very Bad Idea (2009) - Librarians Standing Up to the Madness (2009) - Library of Congress in Washington DC - I Strongly Support Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Agony of Dealing with Lyft

Lyft messed up my ride, which was annoying but tolerable. I care about helping companies improve so I try to provide feedback when they do a lousy job. Many companies treat you so disrespectfully that they throw out your email without reading it. I even had a health plan send me an email that said: add us to your white list because otherwise you might not see the emails we send you. In the same email they said they would throw away any replies to the email they sent me.

It is very common for companies to treat customers that disrespectfully. Last week I replied to an email from Uber and they provided a reply that was not only not disrespectful (such as throwing the email away unread) but was actually great customer service.

Well anyway, I still didn't like the numerous reports on how Uber treats drivers. I believe that companies should show respect for people, both employees and customers. So I continued to try Lyft (that seems to treat employees better). Anyway with a bunch of hassle then sent me an email so I wrote my reply and right at the end noticed even after all the extra work they put me through by disrespectfully throwing away my first email they were going to do the same again this time. So I'll post here what I wrote, both because I really dislike them treating with with such disrespect and so I can point them to my actual email reply in Twitter (which of course is a stupid way to provide support when more detail is needed than 140 characters but is the only way they have responded to me):

Thanks. I don't know why the gps map showing the cars movement isn't shown, maybe only Uber does that? But if it was it would obvious how crazy it was.

We went 15 minutes out of the way due to GPS failures. Finally the gps went the right place. I don't think it is appropriate to bill me for the GPS added miles. I don't think the driver did anything wrong I think the gps was just totally lame for some reason.

Using the Dulles toll road was my request as it goes right by the location. I am fine with those tolls. Uber cost within a $1 of $25 the 3 times I have taken the trip (not the $38 you charged). This was the first time I tried you all (for this trip) so I don't know exactly what the cost is suppose to be if GPS didn't take us way out of the way.

I wanted to try you all out not because I have had any problem with Uber but because I believe (though really what do I know?) that you all treat your drivers better and I care about how employees are treated. I figured I would at least try you all out some.

This wasn't a great experience. First, I was scheduled to get there 20 minutes early (because it was an important meeting), instead I got there 1 minute late. Second, I didn't get any reply to my earlier emails... oh holy hell after all this I see you failed to give me an email reply here either and are just going to throw my email away again. I can't believe how poorly you treat my responses...

Lyft did follow the tweet to here to read about what they threw away when I emailed them and address the issue with more Tweets. Significantly better than nothing, but still their policy is extremely disrepectful and the time it took to deal with a lousy interface for addressing it due to them throwing away email while claiming to be friends is ludicras. We need competition so that customers have options to avoid companies that provide such disrepectful service - sadly we rarely do: Monopolies and Oligopolies do not a Free Market Make. Even if Lyft manages to survive it will be at most an oligoplistic market (most likely).

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Alternative to Proof of Onward Travel

It seems to me that a business should step into the desire of countries for proof of onward travel. There are many times an onward ticket is not sensible. The countries are worried about people staying and/or become drains on the economy it isn't that they care about having a piece of paper saying you have a ticket out. A business could step in to aid travelers and vouch for people's financial well-being. A long time ago I believe American Express offices were actually used a great deal by travelers. It could start with companies like American Express.

They could provide a financial guarantee. Countries mostly would be thrilled to encourage visitors who are "wealthy" (globally wealthy people may well not think they are wealthy). Credit card companies could make it a feature of gold cards for example...

Digital nomads and location-independent workers often travel one country at a time, without onward travel confirmed. When I was I didn't know how long I would want to stay or where I would go next. The way things normally work, they are much looser with passports from rich countries, and since I have one, I didn't have problems. But as rules get more demanding it could become more annoying and it already is if you have a passport that isn't desired.

Related: Location Independent Living Can Be In Your Comfort Zone and a Good Experience - Economics: Digital Nomads, Visas, Foreign Currency - Transfer Money Between Currencies Using New Providers Not Banks And Save