Author: Harry Lehmann

Five Stars or Nothing

Everyone rating everything out of five is a terrible idea and we are on a trajectory towards this. In April 2016 The Guardian podcast Tech Weekly explored how we are becoming a “rating society”. Uber was the focus. Uber drivers rate passengers out of five and vice-versa. As a passenger, you are apparently less likely to be picked up as quickly if you have a low star rating. And Uber drivers who slip in their ratings risk losing the ability to drive for Uber. Your personal rating is a form of currency. If your Uber driver rating slips “below average” you may need “to come into the office so [Uber] can provide you with some tailored feedback.” The problem is that “below average” would appear to be anything under 4.6 out of 5. On most historical measures a 4.6 out of 5 is excellent. One star out of a possible three under the century-old Michelin Guide is “a very good restaurant.” In the past, experts provided the ratings, not the consumers. Ratings were reserved to …

Time to go Deeper on Blockchain

Blockchain has been getting more attention lately. With the publication of two widely shared articles on the subject, in the Economist in October, one may wonder why is it so important? Blockchain is important because it provides a way to communicate electronically that mimics face-to-face transacting in the physical world. Its implications are massive. Maybe you’ve heard ‘blockchain’ mentioned in the same breath as ‘Bitcoin’. I had heard of Bitcoin. But until recently I hadn’t given it much thought. My first experience with electronic currency was at the turn of the millennium in a book of fiction called Cryptonomicon. Fast-forward about a decade and I couldn’t see how a non-government or gold backed currency could ever have any real value. So I didn’t educate myself. I now know that users of Bitcoin are able to connect directly with each other and exchange the currency. This disintermediates payment systems like VISA, PayPal and SWIFT – there’s no central third-party. If I want to send a friend bitcoin, I broadcast this message across the protocol. Nodes (computers …