Internet Happy Places

At the end of a year in which we could not explore much IRL, team OneZero is sharing our favorite places we found online.

The first thing I love about TikTok is that nobody I know is on TikTok. Because while it is fine and even addicting to watch old acquaintances curate their personas on other apps, it’s not very interesting. Yes, these posts probably also live on TikTok, but I don’t see them.

Which brings me to the second thing I love about Tiktok: Your content finds you. Tiktok has, for instance, figured out that I am most tolerant of political commentary when it is served via a joke, and that my sense of humor is much stupider than I would advertise; that while, yes, I did once reread Anna Karenina for fun, I will also spend hours upon hours laughing at looped videos of talking dogs. …


By now it’s a familiar story: Uber enters a new market, enticing drivers with big promises and relatively high pay. Drivers base their decisions — like whether to buy a car that meets Uber’s standards — on these initial terms. Then, as more drivers flood the platform, Uber drops rates, in many cases leaving the drivers saddled with debt and no way to pay it off.

In a new report based on interviews with more than 80 current and former Uber drivers, NBC News zooms in on how this pattern played out in Kenya, where Uber cut prices by about 35% after other app-based taxi services launched. In one example cited by the report’s author, Amanda Sperber, the owner of a dealership in the port city of Mombasa said that “while his sales doubled thanks to Uber, repossessions also spiked,” and that sometimes drivers come to him crying. …


America consumes the equivalent of 96 pounds of chicken per person every year. In order to make plant-based alternatives competitive, writes Andrew Zaleski on Future Human, they need to be…


What if the internet of things were inside you?

Jameson Rich has lived with a cardiac device connected to the internet for the past three years, well aware that the same types of security risks inherent to any connected gadget also apply to his heart. For OneZero, he writes about the proliferation of internet-connected medical devices and the anxiety of living with one.

At first, he was consumed by a fear that the device could harm or kill him. But “what bothers me more now,” he writes, “is the cavalier way the medical community has decided unilaterally that the threat of hacking does not matter for the average person, and that the side effects are outweighed by the lifesaving nature of the device.” …


In his latest Where Are They Now column for Marker, Whet Moser investigates what happened to the company behind the button-heavy, Obama-favorite BlackBerry. Though BlackBerry has thoroughly squandered the 55% share of the U.S. mobile phone market that it once owned, you’ve probably used its software recently without even realizing it.

“It underpins many electrical systems in millions of cars, like entertainment systems and driver assistance, as well as air traffic control and medical devices,” Moser writes.

In a further unexpected move, last year BlackBerry acquired a cybersecurity company, with hopes that an increase in remote work will drive a greater need for employers to protect their employees’ devices. …


A cheat sheet for your doomscrolling

A cab driver helping a passenger load his luggage at LAX.
A cab driver helping a passenger load his luggage at LAX.
A taxi driver helps a departing passenger with his luggage in line of taxis at LAX on October 18, 2020. Photo: Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Proposition 22 passed in California on Tuesday. Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy companies spent more than $200 million on the ballot measure, which will allow them to classify drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Here’s what has changed:

  • Gig economy workers in California will be classified as independent contractors. In October, a California court ordered Uber and Lyft to hire their workers as employees under a new state labor law. The ballot measure that passed Tuesday allows Uber and Lyft to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors regardless.
  • Gig economy workers will get some benefits. Though meager compared to protections granted to employees, Prop 22 grants gig workers some protections, such as a pay floor. …


Proposition 22 would officially make gig economy workers freelancers

Today California votes on Proposition 22, the controversial ballot initiative that seeks to grant companies like Uber and Lyft an exception to a California law that makes their workers employees. Roughly $202 million has been poured into the initiative, with companies resorting to strategies from sending deceptive mailers to printing “Yes 22” on delivery bags.

And there’s a reason that everyone is so amped up about it: Gig economy business models depend on classifying workers as independent contractors, who have no labor protections such as a minimum wage, paid breaks, or the right to unionize — though the initiative would grant them some relatively meager benefits. …


For decades, ABC aired A Charlie Brown Christmas each holiday season. But starting this year, the Peanuts special will instead stream exclusively on Apple TV+. Joshua N. Miller explores the significance of this move in an essay on Debugger.

“If Apple is bold enough to think it can make a profit by privatizing such a publicly recognized character like Charlie Brown,” he writes, “rival companies may proceed to make their own plans to ensure that consumers are spending the holidays on their respective platforms as well.”

All that is holding these companies back from strong-arming customers with exclusive access to their favorite iconic content, he writes, are syndication contracts that will eventually expire. And while no classic is safe from these land grabs, Apple’s exclusive on Charlie Brown is perhaps particularly stinging — the moral of the Christmas story, after all, is to find joy in community instead of capitalist norms. …


In April, OneZero’s Brian Merchant made the case that the pandemic put an end to the Amazon debate: Considering a long list of abuses at the company, he argues, shopping on its platform is unethical.

It’s a case worth keeping in mind during Amazon Prime Day, the company’s annual shopping holiday — actually two days long — that runs on October 13 and 14 after being pushed back from July this year.

Merchant writes that as Amazon stock hit record highs during the pandemic, the company slashed its affiliate sales fees, failed to inform workers of the risks of the virus, made decisions that hurt vendors, and fought its workers’ efforts to improve their working conditions — all on top of its already long record as a bad civic actor. …


The past is our best guide for understanding the future of ride-hailing apps

Image for post
Image for post

Uber and Lyft are at war with the state of California after a judge ruled last month that ride-hailing companies, like other businesses, should be subject to a new law that classifies their workers as employees rather than independent contractors.

Instead of complying with the ruling, which would fundamentally change how the companies operate and make its workers eligible for protections and benefits, Uber and Lyft have floated the idea of becoming franchises and have also threatened to shut down completely. …

About

Sarah Kessler

Author and journalist, writing and editing at Medium’s OneZero.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store