viv

viv ⭐️

@viv

computer goblin

i love to make things (especially if they're weird). software engineer at msft and author of https://twitter.com/dkpunchbot. check out @hell-labs for some other cool stuff


There is a type of online service that one could call a "utility", or maybe a "staple" - I'm thinking of things like Paypal, Patreon, or image hosting, where the core service, what people are actually going there for, is something a patent office would reject on the grounds of obviousness.

nobody alive on the planet thinks Paypal offers "products." they have an entire department, probably 100-strong, of people who spend 40-100 hours a week trying to make you and me believe that they do. They do not. Paypal is a replacement for a functional banking system, it serves no other purpose and nobody wants it to. If we could do wire transfers without paying $15 and exposing ourselves to inexplicable levels of risk, Paypal would go out of business overnight.

Nobody cares about Paypal's "products," and nobody cares about Patreon's "service" or "features", and maybe .01% of Photobucket's users actually thought it was a social network. The rest needed a place to dump a jpeg in order to shove it onto a forum, in an era when webhost disk space cost noticeable money.

Nobody wants these things to exist. Nobody wants them to have brand names. Nobody wants to go to "Patreon" - we just want to give people money regularly. That is not a product. That is a link in your bank's website that says "scheduled transfer", which for some reason no American is allowed to have.

All these companies absolutely hate that this is what they are to us. Patreon was not created in order to send people money regularly. It was created to become another Fucking social network, because there is no other perceived method of making Infinitely More Money Every Year with a website.

I think that's why all these services have a big internal piss fit, about once every three years, which prompts them to search for the only features people are using, and try to get rid of them - essentially out of spite.

Patreon recently did a Great Big Redesign. They probably spent the last nine months paying fifty programmers to do this, but:

A) It looks exactly like the old one. I can't tell what they changed other than element borders.

B) There is no force on the planet that could make me actually look at the Patreon website for more than the length of time it takes me to copy out a list of patrons to put in a video, click the "pay out" button, or find out what my current income is.

Those are the only reasons I ever went there, and while they can't remove the list of patrons or the payout button, they can and did remove the gigantic banner that has always been on the home screen that says how many patrons I have.

I never gave One Shit about their dumbass analytics, the only number I ever looked at was how much I'm making, and I think they know that, and I think they removed it on purpose because they have no other method of making me stay on their awful website for more than eight seconds.


in reply to @cathoderaydude's post:

All these companies absolutely hate that this is what they are to us. Patreon was not created in order to send people money regularly. It was created to become another Fucking social network, because there is no other perceived method of making Infinitely More Money Every Year with a website.

yeah like the heart of this is that the core addressable base of a subscription management platform is probably what... double-digit millions of people, tops, who have the sort of lifestyle that allows them to do freelance creative work on the side, much less for a living? and the largest creators among them are going to want to + have the resources to put together their own subscription management stuff. so even assuming you recruit all of them, and all of them make $1,000 a month in pledges, your company's total transaction volume is gonna top out at sub-facebook numbers, permanently, barring massive social change, and you only get between 5% and 12% of that.

but the addressable base of a social network is every person on earth, theoretically! and if you shove enough ads in their faces, the sky's the fuckin limit! it's way easier to sell this to investors, especially when you're already moving a billion dollars a year in money and still losing money hand over fist because you can't stop hiring engineers at $150k/year each plus stock grants, and everyone buying in now is buying into a company that's already valued in the 9 or 10 digits, even though for the reasons I already mentioned there's absolutely no way in hell it's ever gonna be worth that much.

this is why I think patreon is doomed to either go public and then go through waves of belt-tightening until it collapses, or get acquired by facebook or google and merged into the hellish morass of whatever the fuck facebook and google are at this point.

fundamentally there's no way on earth that the cost to patreon of sending subscription payments from person to person is actually 7 cents on the dollar on top of the actual payment processing fee they pass on to your patrons, it's just the money vacuum of capitalism that renders hundreds of people incapable of doing a simple job like "put all of the things I'm paying for on a web page where I can look at them" without fucking it up eight ways from sunday

it's absolutely fucking amazing how capitalism makes useful things impossible. efficiency is the absolute bane of this shitshow. if something simply works, and doesn't involve a shitload of copper losses, and has nowhere that you can shove in arbitrary charges (due to peoples inability to gauge how much work is being done to provide given services), it simply cannot exist.

it’s really depressing how the bottomless pockets and insatiable short-termism of venture capital have led to classes of incoming CS students getting richer and more soulless as it becomes The Business Major For Nerds, the whole field is horrifyingly captured by big money and it’s only getting worse

like man, the cool thing about all of this is supposed to be that you can spin around some magnetic fields or move some electrons into or out of a nanoscale capacitor somewhere and suddenly you’ve built a machine to slightly ameliorate human misery, not that if you put together a really cool prototype you can sell 5% of it to sam altman and buy a tesla

unfortunately 'efficiency,' in economic neoliberal capitalism lingo, actually means something completely different from what normal people use the word for or what they will admit it means.

it would be "inefficient" if they charged less than they could get away with. any unexploited opportunity for sickening middleman shit is inefficiency in the system. it is inefficient if everyone who wants a good or service can afford it. even if, indeed especially if, they need it to live.

this is the totalizing force :(

unfortunately 'efficiency,' in economic neoliberal capitalism lingo, actually means something completely different from what normal people use the word for or what they will admit it means.

one of my favorite things about capitalist economics that it's even weirder than this: there's a fairly strong mathematical argument that capitalism is efficient, under fairly defensible axioms and for a fairly reasonable definition of "efficiency", but only under a set of absurdly unrealistic assumptions ("perfect competition") that maybe once described production but now are basically a spherical cow -- a large number of buyers and sellers, no market power to set prices, fungible products, perfectly rational buyers, no economies of scale or network effects, perfect information, and free entry and exit from the market

when I first sat down and read through a microeconomics book and chapter 1 was spent arguing from this blatantly silly model that laws against price fixing are bad, my jaw basically fell off my face

I mean that's The Whole Thing in a nutshell, right? every argument for capitalism, every positive viewpoint on it, is coming from the same place as "everyone should simply be a greek philosopher and we would have no problems."

hell, the same can be said about many things, like our entire criminal justice system. "people should simply not get addicted to drugs" is conceptually very close to "well any Market that would make investments in bad faith or not understand what they want out of products, or any Producer that would make fraudulent products for short-term gains, are not true scotsmen and should not have been counted." fuckin VC Georg

yeah every argument of the entire modern school of economics is predicated on the fucking brainless notion that the only costs that matter for providing a good or service are the ones that go into making it once you've already gotten going doing the thing and have an equal seat at every table with a buyer. cost to start up production is ignored, all logistics are handwaved away as negligible, negotiation and accounting and contracts and every mutually beneficial relationship up to and beyond racketeering are all presumed not to exist. it is assumed nobody can possibly conduct any form of activity that would make it harder for you to operate at the same level as them.

meanwhile real world business and sales is just entirely learning how to exploit this shit. "relationships," they say.

it's not even clear to me what the economics 101 answer to monopolistic tendencies is except to point out that it's a form of deadweight loss (as if the entire system is made of anything but) and kind of act shocked and appalled that someone would "pervert the rules" like that

i barely understand any of the details but even so, I know that at the consumer level prices may be "fixed" in the sense of msrp and profit margins making the spread of actual prices fairly narrow, but as soon as you leave the retail sector prices are a joke concept. any service or product sold b2b can be sold for as little as zero dollars, and it's all due to speculation.

"if we suck this customer's dick now maybe later they'll come back and actually buy something for full price" is already a bad enough thought process on its own, it's basically the thrashing of a dying business. if your product was worth the sticker price people would buy it. by the time you're offering steep discounts you should just be closing your doors, because you have nothing to offer

since every business is failing, by definition, because anything other than guaranteed infinite growth is "failure", I don't think anything gets sold at sticker price, ever. that whole conversion from "customer we're dicksucking to get them to sign the initial contract" over to "normal customer who is now expected to pay list price" never happens. they get dicksucked forever.

with no fixed prices anywhere and every business expecting deep discounts on everything, how on earth could anything ever stabilize? and if the businesses are constantly churning services and products as their expected deep discounts disappear or the quality of the service or product plummets (because it's not being fucking funded by customers paying the cost it requires) then how will their retail products ever stabilize? and so on and so forth

and then you chase it even further back and the investors who start these companies are getting dicksucked too. it's all dicksucking, because it's all gambling, and when the only goal in an entire society, regardless of economic situation, is to try to make someone believe something is too good to be true, you're just going to be in an eternal unending gambling-addict death spiral.

a lot of time that dicksucking is part of a process to extract from every customer the maximum they are willing to pay; by setting an actually insane nominal price and then negotiating with every prospect you can set bespoke price points for every sucker that comes your way and maximize your margins in every transaction. in reality your actual break-even floor price remains hidden. you may even take a "loss" on a line item inside a larger contract, but make it up elsewhere; it's just a shell game at that point.

msrp is actually kind of open racketeering too: your wholesale price is masked to the end consumer, but you set an expectation that every vendor will set the sticker price at the msrp and you may decide to do less business with any reseller who drives the price down, devaluing your product with consumers and preventing you from raising your wholesale price!

the whole price gap there, often a double digit percentage of the end price of goods, is part of the process that goes largely unacknowledged in the econ 101 view of the world: getting goods to their buyers takes work. it requires non-fungible relationships, and has an enormous startup cost.

under the hood, with any of these businesses, it becomes starkly clear: no good or service is fungible. reputation and relationships are enormously valuable and do not get massaged away when they go into some kind of mystical open market. at some level, price fixing is deeply inherent in the basic operation of supply chains.

This would be amazing. I was actually reading a post the other day somewhere about how poor/disadvantaged people tend to lose their phones or forget their passwords, and the only PC they have is the one at the library, so these librarians have to fight the giant behemoth that is Google's security policies just so their patron can log on and pay rent or reply to an important email. If libraries even just offered email addresses that could be reset by just talking to a librarian, that would go a long way I think.