Welcome to What We Learned This Week, a digest of the most curiously important facts from the past few days. This week: Uber is going nowhere fast, The US Army wants gamers and YouTube comments are good now.
Uber Is Running Out Of Gas
I have to say, it’s slightly reassuring to see that the tech giants lauded, only a few years ago, as the ones to take over the world are now stumbling.
Facebook continues its deserved heel-turn as the facade of being the nice company that just wants to connect people crumbles, revealing a craven ghoul that only wishes to suck up everyone’s personal information in the noble quest of getting rich. People are finally starting to hear, and hopefully understand, the human cost of Amazon’s “free” shipping.
And now, this week for New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, Yves Smith makes the case that Uber is also on the path to ruin. Not because of it’s terrible treatment of drivers, or even because their founding CEO was a complete asshole, but rather that Uber, as a business, just doesn’t work.
One thing that mostly gets a passing mention in the coverage of Uber’s astronomic growth is that its low prices are not the result of efficiencies created by the Uber app. Uber is literally paying out of it’s own pocket to keep its prices down. It’s been doing this from the start.
Now, you could argue that Uber offering steep discounts was a way to just acquire users, but the thing is, holding a monopoly on car services everywhere doesn’t exactly scale like having a monopoly on how people access and read information online. There are only so many people that need rides, and as Uber is finding out, people usually aren’t willing to pay prices that includes the cost of a driver, and a car and gas and also a global management company that did nothing more than put you in touch with a local driver.
In short: Uber doesn’t offer anything that a local cab company doesn’t already offer. It’s a shame that cab drivers and city transportation officials have had to shout this basic fact at the top of their lungs for the past few years, but at least investors are finally starting to listen to them and just let Uber run itself dry.
[New York Magazine]
The Army Is Turning To Gamers To Meet Recruitment Goals
When I was a young and impressionable teenage boy, the US Army released “America’s Army,” a free-to-play multiplayer first-person shooter. Because I was a young and impressionable teenage boy, I downloaded and played “America’s Army.”
It played like a slower-paced “Counter-Strike” with ironsight aiming — something that “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” would popularize just a few years later — but what was most unique about it was that you actually had to go through single-player training in order to get access to things in the multiplayer game. In some ways it was “realistic” in that in order to get access to sniper rifles, you’d have to score high on a marksmanship test, but in some ways it was overt military propaganda in which you sat through multiple honest-to-god first aid and combat medicine lectures only to unlock a “Press F to heal your buddy” mechanic.
Apparently, the Military is over trying to get people hyped on going to overseas to impose American will through the power fantasies and wish fulfillment of video games. At least, not directly, reports Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio.
Now, the Army just wants to be video games-adjacent. They show up to esports events and host Twitch streams and just kinda shoot the shit but also talk about what it’s like to be in the Army, you know? They’re happy to acknowledge that Call of Duty isn’t real life, but in some ways it kind of is?
Like, Hey man, I love “Fortnite” and getting that Victory Royale but what if I told you the same thing exists serving your country? You know that sense of accomplishment and camaraderie you feel when you and your “PUBG” gets that chicken dinner? Same thing here in the Army brother.
Luckily, I wasn’t very good at “America’s Army” and thus deduced that I probably wouldn’t make for a very good soldier. And also “World of Warcraft” came out around the same time. I just played that instead.
YouTube Comments Are Better Now
By now, we’ve all internalized that comment sections are bad. It’s to the point where most of us don’t even bother anymore. We know exactly what people are going to say down there, so why even go through the trouble of wading into them?
But while we weren’t looking, somehow, the comments got better. Luke O’Neil randomly trawled through ’90s indie rock songs posted on YouTube and found that, mostly, the comments were truly heartfelt. Folks posting into the void about what or when or who this song reminds them of. It’s like people have accepted this notion that no one really cares or reads internet comments, and instead of acting like absolute shitheads, it encourages this raw honesty in people. You know, like how it’s sometimes easier to make confessions about yourself to strangers? Here, that stranger is the uncaring infinite of the internet.
I think there’s also something else going on. This year I started listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac. And, as a consequence, also started listening to a lot of ’80s pop music. A thing that I found myself regularly doing while looking up footage of Fleetwood Mac or Hall & Oates music videos was scrolling down to the comment section and enjoying all the wistful remembrances of these songs. It was like, I dunno, there’s just something comforting about growing an appreciation for something that others have appreciated for a long long time, and then finally sharing in that collective joy… through reading internet comments.
[Welcome To Hell World]