January 26, 2023

Snippet: Hands On With Walmart’s New (But Buggy) ‘Text to Shop’ Feature ☍

Sarah Perez for TechCrunch:

Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop: via text. Last month, the retail giant launched its “Text to Shop” experience which allows mobile consumers across both iOS and Android devices to text Walmart the items they want to purchase from either their local stores or Walmart.com, or easily reorder items for pickup, delivery, or shipping. However, the chat experience as it stands today does not come across as fully baked, our tests found. The chatbot said confusing things and the user interface at times was difficult to navigate, despite aiming to be a simpler, text-based shopping experience. […]

Customers more recently began receiving emails to alert them to the fact that “Text to Shop” was newly available, which prompted our tests. The feature was also highlighted in Apple’s announcement of its new Apple Business Connect dashboard, which allows businesses to manage and update their information on Apple Maps. Here, Walmart partnered with Apple so customers who visit the Walmart business listing card on Apple Maps could tap on a “message us” button to get started with a “Text to Shop” session.

I wonder if this can be used to bug them about enabling NFC on their credit/debit card terminals? Walmart seems hell-bent on doing everything but allowing Apple Pay/Google Wallet Pay in their stores.

Snippet: Unified ID 2.0 Is the Hot New Privacy Violation on the Web ☍

Nick Heer:

Second, I am not sure many people think their email address is an inconsequential piece of information. Not to undermine Chen’s reporting on the gross new standard known as Unified ID 2.0 and the myriad ways your email address is tied to your identity, but I think many people are wary of spam at the very least.

You must consider any of your contact information a personal identifier if you do not already do so. After all, how often do you change your email address or your phone number? But you should not need to — worthwhile privacy legislation would restrict their use and prevent the kinds of data enrichment companies that require us to treat simple contact details with the sensitivity of our Social Insurance Numbers.

I’m so sick of the creepy, privacy whack-a-mole game that we have to play because no one is legislating on our behalf on these matters. Conversely, the marketing/advertising machine is so preoccupied with whether or not they can, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Snippet: Twitter Tumbleweed Watch ☍

Dave Karpf:

I just want to share some back-of-the-envelope math. I’m increasingly convinced that Twitter (or at least the network neighborhoods that comprise my Twitter experience) is becoming a ghost town. Here’s why:

The “lightning” in this case, was the whole “Bretbug” dustup back in August 2019. Before Bret Stephens got mad and wrote to my provost, I had about 9,000 followers on the platform. After his weeklong tantrum was over, I had around 40,000 Twitter followers. That number has held pretty steady ever since — today I have around 42,000. That’s… a lot. On paper at least, it makes Twitter a much larger and more valuable megaphone than I am likely to have anywhere else. […]

But that number — 42,000 Twitter followers — has begun to seem hollow. When I tweet something, it isn’t actually viewed by 42,000 individuals. It’s seen by the subset of those 42,000 people that happen to be staring at Twitter’s chronological timeline at the time I send the tweet, plus anyone who is shown the tweet through Twitter’s algorithmic timeline. And that reduced-megaphone turns out to be a lot less irreplaceable.

I’ve popped in from time to time on Twitter, and it seems that my timeline has become a ghost town, too. Even taking into account the mass exodus of tech folks, it seems that a lot of the other posts by people I follow just aren’t appearing. There have been other similar observations of just missing content. While I don’t get caught up in the numbers of reach for my own content, the thought of missing content from other people that I chose to follow is concerning.

Snippet: Some Google Employees Didn’t Realize They Were Laid Off Until Their Badges Wouldn’t Let Them Into the Office ☍

Aaron Mok, Kate Duffy, and Sawdah Bhaimiya for Insider:

Google employees were notified early Friday morning by email that they’d been laid off — but if they didn’t check their inbox before commuting to work, they were in for a tough surprise.

One laid-off Google employee, a software engineer who requested anonymity to speak freely, told Insider that he witnessed one of his co-workers repeatedly try to scan his employee badge to get into Google’s Chelsea, New York office, only for the card reader to turn red and deny him entry.

His colleague was clearly confused, the former employee told Insider, and after his badge failed to work, he walked past reception toward the staircase that led up to the office, where he was met by a security guard who escorted him out.

Laying people off should be done with care—even if the business took a day or two to properly communicate with everyone and leave them with their dignity, it’s not going to disrupt regular operations much. Instead, they were basically thrown away in a horrible, dehumanizing, impersonal way (especially with the toxic assumption that they’d be checking their inbox before coming into the office). And people wonder why there’s no loyalty to employers in this day and age—crap like this happens way too often.

January 23, 2023

Snippet: Enshittification ☍

Corey Doctorow:

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

I’ve seen this way too much and there are a few businesses that have followed this pattern but haven’t died yet. It’s a bit depressing because I can make a list of web sites, stores, services, etc. that I can go back and say, “Man, remember when x was good? I miss that.”