Next week, my notes will encompass a lot of cryptography. I’ll be attending Real World Crypto in San Jose. If you’re there and would like to meet, feel free to let me know!
On Tech Unions
On a Hacker News post, someone brought up the topics of unions for tech workers. I’m interested in this idea, but there are concerns I have:
- What are the costs?
- What benefits do they bring?
- How centralized is the Union?
A major problem I have with Unions is how centralized they are. I think I prefer the IWW’s methodology of one-big-union, but for tech this is difficult as everyone may have different interests. Largely, I think the major interests diverge at organization size. If there were tech unions, I think they’d require different unions for startup workers and enterprise/large company workers.
Side question: are union workers willing to give up “some rights” to ensure the success of a startup, for example?
If the Union is also centralized, I fear that it will fall to corruption and bureaucracy. Both of which are devestating for any worker’s organization.
Perhaps a decentralized application can replace a centralized union?
A few particularly interesting thoughts/questions I had this week are:
- What is the composition of the modern avant-garde movements?
- What counterroots exist against mainstream art culture?
- What can be learned from these movements?
I’m far more familiar with the answers to these questions as it relates to sound-based mediums. In contrast to visual art, I don’t have the slightest idea what the answers to these questions are.
I asked a friend of mine (who is also an artist) what she thought of this and her response was quite poignant:
I feel like those things can only be known if you are within those movements. I wouldn’t know because I don’t really exist within those groups.
I really liked her answer because, well, I believe it to probably be true. Without an art history education, these questions are going to be more difficult to dissect. I think I’ll follow up with some folks in the local contemporary art community here to see their opinions on this.
I’m also unsure how well the typical art academic will be privy to these answers. Perhaps these movements exist only in something similar to radical affinity groups. Certainly, the avant-garde movements will be rejected by art academia before being accepted.
Perhaps a better question to ask is, “Which artists are breaking the rules?” Of course, I think I’ll need to figure out what the rules are before being able to adequately find answers to that too.
On Coffee Shops
I spend a lot of time at coffee shops working, hanging out, chatting with friends, etc. I’m an active regular at my local coffee shop and, because of that, I’ve learned a bit about the operations side of things. I’m significantly interested in alternative business models around coffee shops to drive more revenue.
It seems the best strategy to operating a coffee shop is to drive as many regulars to the shop as possible. A regular spends almost 5-6x more money at a shop than an average customer. If a shop can get more regulars, they will generate far more revenue. Therefore, the business model should be centered around gaining as many regulars as possible.
An interesting business plan would have two continuous phases for revenue generation:
- Regular capture phase – a phase during which the shop will drive customers to the shop and “capture” as many regulars as possible. During this phase, operating at a loss may be acceptable, especially if it increases the number of regulars. Let the ratio by which a shop is spending money to a single regular be described as the dollar-to-regular ratio. This is the amount of money a shop spends to capture a regular. Ideally, this cost is as low as possible. This ratio is key for the second phase.
- Wealth extraction phase – a phase during which the shop will extract as much wealth as possible from the regulars captured in phase one. Given the dollar-to-regular ratio from the first phase, the goal is to extract wealth from each regular at a number that is greater-than the dollar-to-regular ratio. Let the scalar by which the average regular spends more than the dollar-to-regular ratio be called the wealth scalar. The goal is to get the wealth scalar as high as possible during this phase. Shops should also use this phase to reward regulars for spending their money. Rewards incentivize regulars to return and also incentivize customers to become regulars to acquire these rewards/perks.
A shop can either synchronously or asynchronously perform these phases. The goal, for new customers, is to get them out of phase one and into phase two ASAP. Likewise, for regulars, the goal is to keep regulars in phase two for as long as possible.
A business plan that emphasizes regulars over customer walkins is incentivized to maintain high quality coffee. This is akin to creating a community. A model like this is probably easier to do with the aid of the, already established, local coffee community. This will give the shop the most support and increase its chances of success.
Who are the Galleanists of the digital activist movements? This is a question that I’m longing for an answer to. While I respect the EFF a lot, their tactics are questionable in efficacy. Personally, I would like to see a significant increase in the amount of time they spend in court.
I don’t think an organization like the EFF will be the savior we all need for our digital rights. Ideally, it’s encompassed by a decentralized group with common ideals. I would like to see a group, like Crimethinc, take the lead for a decentralized digital rights movement.