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Active Rain: It Never Ceases to Amaze

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Rain Storm, Union Square” by Childe Hassam. 1890.


In yesterday’s post, Trulia Voices: It Never Ceases to Amaze, I rambled about how “points” (more accurately the ranking based on number of entries) were impacting the quality of Voices answers.

In the comments of the post, Active Rain was mentioned more that once.

Our dearest Lani left this gem of a comment that summed things up nicely:

Any online venue that promotes a user based on how many times they stick their nose in (via Trulia voices or AR comments), there will be an endless sea of uselessness. Take away the points and you’ve got a more sincere system that is comprised of agents answering questions for the consumers’ sake, not for their profiles’ sake.

In a fluke of timing, apparently Active Rain had a little glitch yesterday and {GASP!} points were not being rewarded to members for making posts or comments.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

I suspect there was a flurry of emails sent off to the boyz at AR. Likely a bunch of posts too. Here is one post that I found via Twitter. (It’s “Members Only” so you’ll have to have an AR account and be logged in to view).

Allow me to share a little of this AR beauty….

Truth it, my regular posting and commenting habits are directly related to the accumulation of points. I like seeing myself climb through the ranks. I had a lot of catching up to do, and I worked hard to get where I am. I have linked, invited, posted, and commented with fervor and dedication.

So now my biggest fear is this:

I am not accumulating any points,but am I the only one? Is my competition catching up on me while I’m locked into my current tally? Will I be awarded points retroactively?

Wowsa…. so much for “blogging” for things like learning, sharing, business, networking, friendship, personal and professional growth. Nope, it’s all for the points baby!

The author of the post is not alone. Here are a few comments:

  • It is a bummer not to be getting points if it effects some and not everybody.
  • And yet I wondered … if we do get them later … should I keep commenting? Quite a dilemma!
  • I wasnt real concerned as I figured it was a glitch. Glad to hear it wasnt a glemlin in my box. A day off wasnt too bad either.
  • Yep..pointless here too for Friday…what is life with a day without points?
  • I know it! I am always watching my back, keeping an eye on those that are gaining on me!
  • I was afraid of losing “retroactive” points so I kept plugging away!

And here is my personal favorite:

I had the same dilema yesterday, my end result was, if I’m not going to get points why spend any time here? (my emphasis)

For the record, I was one of the first members of Active Rain. Been there since before they even had blogs. There are some brilliant writers there. I’ve met some fantastic people there that I may not have otherwise met.

But I haven’t posted there in a long time. There’s just too much nonsense and “point grubbing” going on.

I write this post to point out (no pun intended) a living breathing example to drive home Lani’s observation:

Any online venue that promotes a user based on how many times they stick their nose in (via Trulia voices or AR comments), there will be an endless sea of uselessness. Take away the points and you’ve got a more sincere system that is comprised of agents answering questions for the consumers’ sake, not for their profiles’ sake.

While it would undoubtedly improve the quality of the content, I can’t see ActiveRain or Trulia Voices getting rid of their points/ranking system. It’s their bread and butter for having agents load up their servers with free content. Award points, make Top 10 lists, and sit back and watch people fall all over themselves to provide free content for your web site.

You think they are going to stop that for the sake of quality?

 

Jay is the Broker / Owner of Thompson's Realty in Phoenix, Arizona. A self-professed "Man with a blogging problem" he can be found across the Interweb, including at the Phoenix Real Estate Guy blog where he opines on all things real estate and tosses out random musings.

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34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Nick Bastian

    May 10, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    You make some excellent “points,” Jay. sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂
    While I think many people get a lot out of the AR platform, there can be quite a bit of “uselessness.”

  2. Matthew Rathbun

    May 10, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Jay, no kidding, I left AG and went to poke around a bit in AR to goof off. I don’t practice RE any longer so I could care less about points. (Truth be told, I didn’t care when I was selling). I left AR out of frustration for the truly stupid comments that were being left in some very good posts. Agents who have no clue about what they are doing, always seem to have the most obnoxious opinions.

    I shut down AR in disgust for the abuse of such a clever platform and went back to AR only to see your post that summed up today’s experience.

    My quandary originally was to see what folks were writing about there, that generated 100’s of comments; yet only get four or five in outside blogs. Honestly comparing comments I’d rather have the 10 comments on AG posts than the 200 comments on an AR post. Volume of interaction does not equate to value.

    Now, where are my freaking points for commenting here?

  3. Faina Sechzer

    May 10, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Everything I know about blogging I learned from Active Rain. I met many wonderful people and enjoy being part of the community. Very soon after I joined (in response to much point bickering) I suggested eliminating the point system because, as it did not promote quality content. In my opinion AR as a free blogging platform, could still have plenty of content without the points. I have stopped checking mine very long time ago.
    After many AR posts about points and gaming and other blogging “crimes”, I am still pretty amazed by the quotes you cite. Why are these points so important to people? I didn’t think points influence a blogger’s rank with search engines, or what AR does internally for SEO (or am I wrong about this?). In fact, I saw people with fewer points come up higher for the same key words, then people with more points.
    There are other issues with comments and points, which would make this comment into a post.

  4. Chris Lengquist

    May 10, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Amen.

  5. Jonathan Dalton

    May 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Great post!

  6. Elaine Reese

    May 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Like Faina, I learned so much in the beginning months of AR and acquainted with some very high-quality agents. However, sadly most of them have left – including you Jay – so the value AND the potential to learn, has deteriorated significantly. They’ve sadly opted for the points (quantlity) over quality. I believe that it would be a much more reputable platform if they did away with their points. The frivolous posters would go away as would all the spammy comments.

    I now spend more time reading the outside blogs because they prove far more thought provoking and provide a great deal more real estate information.

  7. Marc Grossman

    May 10, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I agree with you that there are those that are point mongers. Read those comments that you cited in addition to the others that felt differently. I don’t care about the points one way or another. You state that without a point system the quality would be better. Yes, you would get rid of a lot of riff raff, but you would also lose a lot of the quality bloggers as well. You know the ones that say that they are not into the points, but they are way up there and actually love it.

    But like Faina states, I also don’t think the points have anything to do with SEO ranking. I check some of my rankings daily to see how and where people are coming to me from and I’m quite surprised how high my AR posts rank.

    You know for what AR costs me, if there is something that I don’t want to read or think is garbage, well then I can just move on to the next one. There is always a lot of quality posts to be read there and surely a lot to learn.

  8. Patrick

    May 10, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    ” I know it! I am always watching my back, keeping an eye on those that are gaining on me! ”

    I am amazed someone would actually write that. Did they use their real name?

    What would be more frightening, is to have to negotiate with that agent, for real money, not points.

    I have met with several buyers and sellers through Trulia. I really don`t hang out on AR.
    Wednesday I wrote a contract with a buyer from Trulia. We lost out to a cash buyer… #@&!%.

    My point, During lunch my clients, they told me why they picked me instead of others on the Trulia thread.
    Simple, I was the only one who did not BS them. They wanted a straight answer and I gave it.

    I will never forget how they smiled, rolled their eyes, and laughed when remembering how Realtors would give them a phone # and say call them. ” Yea, like were gonna do that!” They said.

    I am a top voice (#9) on Trulia.
    #1 in Gilbert BTW.
    #10 in Phoenix WTF.

    That never came up at lunch. As you already know, and 99% of the other Realtors don`t know…….It`s the answer, that counts, nothing else.

    Personally, I think my good looks also play a big part.

    So who cares? If these Realtor clowns are focusing on ranking and points, they are not focusing on the Clients. The smart clients know this, Which means less competition for me.

    Good day & Good luck

  9. Linda Davis

    May 10, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    The day I can trade in my points for shoes is the day I start caring.

  10. Jay Thompson

    May 10, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    “Yes, you would get rid of a lot of riff raff, but you would also lose a lot of the quality bloggers as well.”

    Marc – they’ve already lost a lot of quality bloggers. There is still a lot of good stuff there, no question. It’s just far simpler to me to put good quality blogs into my feed reader that I know will deliver consistent quality post after post as opposed to wading through the crap and self-promotion at AR to find the good stuff.

    AR Points have zero to do with SEO. Google doesn’t know or care how many AR points you have. The one possible connection might be if you are one of the chosen ones that get “featured” regularly. Featured posts tend to stay “up front” longer, so could conceivably get a little extra “google juice” from that (though I doubt it).

    The only good points do is get you listed higher on ARs state and national lists. The benefits of that is in theory if consumers come to AR looking for an agent, they may chose one at or near the top of the list. I used to be #1 nationally and was at the top of Arizona for ages. (currently 6th in AZ, and 2nd in Phoenix).

    It never did squat for my business.

    I’ve had some agent referrals from people I met on AR back when I was active, but never a consumer contact. I know others have had different results according to them.

  11. Jay Thompson

    May 10, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    @Linda – your AR predictions on your Carnac post were hysterical! You can have my 100K points if it’ll help your shoe problem. 🙂

    @Patrick – Openness, honesty and being genuine will always get you ahead.

    And yes, they used their real name. Even came back later and said, “I never said all I cared about were points!” (I’m paraphrasing)

    Uh, yeah. You did.

  12. Ricardo Bueno

    May 10, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Striving to be a professional/expert in anything really, requires a little continuing education. Between attending monthly Sales/Team Meetings, your Broker Caravan and other seminars hosted by your Board of Realtors and picking up an industry trade magazine or stopping by to read material from your feed reader or hopping on to A|R…it all contributes to that continuing education process. Active Rain, Agent Genius, the RE blog-o-sphere in general all has some great content. To think that you’d abandon it because you won’t get any “points”, well…what does that say?

    @RealtorTed and I laugh at some of the answers we see on Trulia voices because you can tell their blatant advertisements. Now don’t get me wrong, we gotta advertise ourselves at some point or other otherwise it’s to our detriment if we don’t but at some point we have to provide some good quality content.

    I stop by A|R not because of the points…it’s the content. If the points is the only thing that keeps you there, I wish you well.

  13. Barry Cunningham

    May 10, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Hey Jay…great post..spot on! LMAO!!

  14. Karen Rice

    May 10, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    I honestly don’t know that being at the top of the State Line Up Page has any benefit – I really doubt it. I have been driven – sort of – by the points only because I wanted to be near the top of the state page – but I also didn’t post CRAP on my blog just to get points, because the TRUE POINT of my blog is to GAIN CUSTOMERS.

    I will not gain customers with endless joke posts, cutting and pasting articles from realty times or inman news…posting dumb comments, etc.

    I actually was annoyed when they stopped awarding points for localism pictures – because so many idiots were posting CRAP photos just to get the points. Yes, I posted photos to get the points, but ALL OF THOSE PHOTOS HAD MY NAME ON THEM and I knew a potential customer MAY see them.

    People who are driven by the “points” to the “point” that they forget what they “real point” should be are wasting their time.

    I’ve also seen comments like “I already posted my ten comments today” – meaning, they won’t comment anymore because they dont’ get points for them. That’s just ridiculous.

    Wow this is a rambly comment. sorry….I like active rain, I learned a lot there – I have actually gotten lots of customer contact from AR (2 listings – now both sold – and several buyers -at least one sale)

    I really just had to ramble I guess, twitter has stifled me a lot. LOL

  15. Bill Lublin

    May 10, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Before I comment, how many points will I get?

  16. Natalie Langford

    May 10, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Hey, Jay. I am a lover of AR, and wouldn’t be where I am in Web 2.0 today without it, and a number of wonderful real estate professionals I’ve met there. Unfortunately, you have pointed out one annoying thing I run into on AR. True colors come out when a little glitch happens and points aren’t being awarded. You see why certain people are there. Luckily, there are more people who didn’t give a d*** abt points who didn’t comment on that particular post, than those who did.

    The points are great in that it makes it easier for me to see an active blogger when I’m looking for a referral. Rather than look for a needle in a Haystack, I can narrow it down and then read the blogs to see if I can find some one I’d like to give a referral to. The reverse works for me being found as well.

    Trulia. Don’t get me started…Love the platform, but you’ll note that I’ve answered Q’s after an agent has blabbed on about Winchester, VA when the Q was about Winchester, (other state) and suggested they get advice from a local expert BECAUSE MARKETS ARE LOCAL!

    It’s really too late to be up reading posts, so hopefully you can see that I value the points you brought up, but still have love for Active Rain.

  17. Natalie Langford

    May 10, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I just reread my post – no pun intended. “I value the points you brought up”

    It really is too late to be commenting…back to reading.

  18. Greg Cremia

    May 11, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Until the search engines learn how to read content, the web is going to continue to be bogged down with empty words.

  19. Jim Lee

    May 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Like RealTalk, Active Rain has became a victim of it’s success. I was one of the original RealTalkers back when there were only 50 or so members and we had some lively, productive discussions.

    Active Rain was fun in the beginning but like RT, it now takes way too much time to separate the chaff from the wheat.

  20. Sparky

    May 11, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Points on AR have been an on-going debate since day one. Nothing new there. Some like it, some don’t. Are there problems inherent in awarding points for various activities and level of involvement? Absolutely. Have people gamed the system to their own advantage? Unfortunately yes. And has the Point System encouraged the contribution of content that is less than desirable? Again, yes. I suppose at some juncture in the process, the point system will be renovated, replaced, or removed. I had actually suggested something similar along the lines of what eBay does, and to create an algorithm that would rank members based on a number of criteria, other than just simply quantity. Regardless, points were a big part of what made AR so much fun in the early days. For those of us who have remained active, the points don’t mean as much any more. Many veteran members, myself included, ventured onto creating our own local blogs. It’s a very natural and logical progression for those with the wherewithal to do so. There is always an evolution and usual attrition associated with social networks. We’re a restless bunch, always looking to be on the cutting edge of something new and different. ActiveRain isn’t what it was, and it won’t be what it is now (How’s that for a brilliant observation?) With nearly 90,000 members now, ActiveRain continues to provide tremendous value and benefits to its members. New developments are underway that will only serve to further enhance those benefits for the future. If anyone is disappointed or dissatisfied with their experience on ActiveRain, just drop me a note and I’ll make sure that you receive a full refund. 🙂

  21. Bucking the Real Estate Trend

    May 12, 2008 at 5:40 am

    Yes, AR has lots of fluff. Don’t read it if you don’t like it. I ignore the personal, religious, mommy posts as I am not on AR for that ‘stuff.’

    I post on there regularly (Susie Blackmon), mostly market reports and some localism, and visit there daily, because of the quality and amount of great information there, and the networking. I’ve learned more on AR than I learned in my licensing classes (especially encompassing all aspects of the business of real estate). Why more agents in my area don’t make the most of AR is beyond me. I would bet in another 6 months or so the number of AR members in WNC may pick up. Better late than never I guess.

  22. ines

    May 12, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I think AG has way too many quality posts – I say start the point system here to solve that issue! 😉

  23. Sparky

    May 12, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Ines – you know, I don’t think it’s necessarily the points that lead to the dilution of quality. Although it doesn’t necessarily help matters at times. It’s a Catch 22. You have literally hundreds of new members joining everyday, most of them who have little or no experience blogging. And they just write what they feel or mimic what they see. Many of the veteran members, who developed their blogging feet in the Rain, have left for other pastures, so their examples of high-quality RE blogging are no longer influencing the newer members. I think that was one of the biggest strengths of the Network early on, the willingness of people to invest in educating others.

  24. ines

    May 12, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Rich – I do think everyone has to start somewhere and I still recommend AR to people that want to learn about blogging. Remember looking back at our first posts and the stuff we used to write? I have left them up as a reminder that there is a learning curb. Now the whole point system and the manipulation of that system is what I find atrocious, but I don’t have a better suggestion nor have the time to find a better way. You and I have spoken at length about this and IMHO if enough time is taken to research the options, a better way is bound to occur.

  25. Jeremy Hart

    May 12, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I never used AR until, oh, last week. Well, I had an account but I hadn’t looked at it in a year, and then last week signed back in based upon the recommendation of Brian Block (https://activerain.com/bablock). With 184000 points I suspect Brian finds the points a bit amusing at this point, but maybe I’m wrong. He told me that he finds it to be a really great place to network not only with clients but with colleagues, as well, which is what drove me back.

    Active Rain seems to be a fairly generic, common meeting ground for people in the real estate industry, and so I’ve set up a group for agents in my area to subscribe to. I envision a place where local agents can meet online and discuss what’s happening in our market – things we’re seeing, problems we’re running into, situations (good and bad) we’ve come across. I know not everyone’s going to participate, but even if we could get 100 members that’s good for all of us. There’s a real value to collaboration among agents, despite the fact that we’re competing. My perception is that it’s a lot easier to convince agents to sign up for something that’s real estate focused, then it would be to try and explain a Ning.com site, for example.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong but it seems like there’s a place for Active Rain. If people want to worry about points instead of focusing on growing their business, that’s fine by me. I don’t know how many points you get for doing anything there – wait, that’s not true, I got 250 points today for referring someone. Crap! I’ve been sucked in now, as well! But honestly, I still think sites that can promote a discussion have value in this business, which is often a “one man or woman show”. The points system, the fluff? I could take it or leave it. Although, if Brian wants to pass some of those points over this way … 😉

  26. Sparky

    May 12, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Jeremy: You can have some of mine. They took them all away when I was hired!

  27. Melina Tomson

    May 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Joining AR is totally worth it to read Linda Davis (as Carnac), Andrew Lenza (check him out if you haven’t read him), John McArthur, and if you need a good dose of smart a$$, Jason Sardi or Paul Slaybaugh. I am sure there are many others that I haven’t found, but it does take a while to sort through it all.

    I’m part of AR and get many feeds as well. There is good and bad quality all over the internet.

  28. Bo Buchanan

    May 13, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Jay – as a relative newbie on AR I can say that I didn’t really get the whole blogging thing until I got involved at Active Rain. Maybe that’s one of the draws AR has. Participating is fairly simple and it’s easy to get started. The whole “points” thing may give people some feeling of accomplishment as they start out. As with anything on the internet – someone is always going to find a way to game the system. Whether it be points or SEO. Everyone is trying to carve out a niche. Maybe Agent Genius does this by appealing to the agents ego – implying that the smart agents are here at AG not AR. I don’t know if that’s true – but it’s an inference one could make. I just discovered Agent Genius about a week ago – and it was through multiple references at AR. Truth be told – I think there is room and reason for the different real estate blogging systems to exist. Maybe I will change my mind in 6 months or a year – but for now, I am enjoying the Rain. Thanks for the quality thread. I’m also curious – is it appropriate to be posting content from AR here on AG without the permission of those who wrote it?

  29. Rich Jacobson

    May 13, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Bo – when quoted in a ‘snippet’ format and adding your own comment, as Jay does here, it’s totally appropriate, and a very common practice. Copying and pasting someone’s entire article? Get out your checkbook….

  30. Jim Duncan

    May 14, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Bo –

    Thanks for the inference; I hadn’t made it but I appreciate the sentiment. 🙂 I agree there is room for all sorts of blogging models, just as there are all sorts of commission structures. Some agents prefer autonomy and others would rather have structure.

    As far as quoting – as long as the quoted material fits the Fair Use doctrine, you should be fine.

    I think Rudy may have said it best about commenting on the recent Trulia thread –

    “Overall, many of you have been in the online real estate space much longer than others. You know how to participate and how not to. I remember when I first started commenting and contributing many, many years ago – I too had to learn the ropes…..But I did. Some people are at that earlier learning stage now. Rather than shooting them down, I think it’s much better to lead by example – as many of you do. Remember AR when it first started? Many didn’t know what they were doing, but everyone learned from each other. And today, they are doing great and teaching others. ”
    Maybe I’m old (school) – but we didn’t need points as motivation.

  31. Jay Thompson

    May 14, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Just to reiterate, I am not “anti-AR”. There ARE many good things about it — it’s a good place to “network”, and it’s a good place to learn. For those that have gotten real business from it, more power to them!

    No, I am not anti-AR. I am anti “points”, and have been since Day 1 of my joining AR. It’s been a constant issue, and — in my opinion only — leads to much dilution of quality.

    That’s all I’m trying to say…

  32. TeriE

    May 14, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Jay: Interesting, very interesting. As some have already mentioned, AR has been a tremendous “jump off” place to learn about blogging and to get to communicate – sometimes effectively – with others in the same profession. I joined at the beginning, but did not really begin to post until about a year ago. Lately I’ve pretty much run out of profound things to say on AR, but do read and reap what benefits I can. I like to “stay in touch” with my AR friends, and will occasionally post if I so feel the need. Meanwhile, I have two other blogs I post on – my own – and will be stopping by here as well. As Jim said, it is really time consuming……I stopped RT for the same reason…..too many adversarial arguments and not enough substance. AR still has tons of substance, and great people.

    As for Truilia, didn’t realize there were points to be gained, but do – on occasion – jump in with my two cents’ worth………

  33. Kathy McGraw

    May 14, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    This is the first time I have seen this platform, although I recognize many of the people; and that is thanks to AR. I personally like AR, and since I had no pre-conceived notions of what Blogging was to do for me….well I met my goal 🙂 I have made friends, gotten referrals, given referrals, found Hoime Inspectors, Marketing people, etc. I have used it to research, and just to be entertained. Yes, I have heard many times about getting an outside Blog, and will have one by next week….but will still participate in AR because it fits my needs.

  34. Sue

    May 31, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Collecting points as a motivation for posting is indeed a bad incentive and definitely encourages useless comments. I have to admit I didn’t even realize that Trulia awarded points, never noticed…only noticed their thumbs up and down options.

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Business Finance

Will cash still be king after COVID-19?

(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?

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No more Cash

Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.

Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay making cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.

In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants, traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.

There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.

There was a time when cash was King. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.

Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.

It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.

The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.

The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:

“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”

All kinds of related banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.

We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. I only wish it weren’t such a racket.

If this trend towards a cashless future continues, there may be a possibility that travelers in the future may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and they may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).

We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.

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Tech News

Google Maps will soon display traffic lights

(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.

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google maps traffic lights

At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.

A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.

It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.

In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.

That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.

At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.

It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.

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Business News

Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.

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Plastic bags

Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.

It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)

So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!

I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.

I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?

Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.

I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)

The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.

I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.

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