It’s been a big week in Silicon Valley. At some point last summer, every 20-year-old with a laptop decided they were going to revolutionize transportation. Some dream big, like Google who is building 100 golf carts with windows that may or may not be legal, and how dare you for even asking! Others dream small yet are somehow considered big, like Uber building what’s basically a ride sharing app valued at $18.2 billion. Their business model is simple: you order a ride from a smart phone instead of a regular phone, a cab or random dude with a car shows up, you pay Uber’s dynamic rate (triple during the Hurricane Sandy operation!), and if you get screwed then give the guy a bad review I guess. Many cities have sent them cease-and-desist letters for operating unlicensed cab and limousine operations, most recently the Commonwealth of Virginia. The pattern here seems to be cease-and-desist letter, social media campaign to reverse it, and regulators roll over within six months. The Uber rant will come in a later post, but ratpag is getting annoyed with Silicon Valley’s hand waiving of any and all regulation. Airbnb is getting in trouble for operating an unlicensed hotel not because regulators are fat on kickbacks from Motel 6, but because ratpag doesn’t want the apartment across from us to be a damn hotel.
The last big announcement this week is that yet another transportation app RideScout doesn’t understand innuendo.
Come on, admit it. You giggled.
In ratpag news, Gary-the-intern (soft-“g”) stole this ratpagger’s post idea. Even worse, he’s deviating from ratpag’s strict style guidelines. There’s really only three rules to post on ratpag.com:
- References to self should either be in the third person singular “we” or as “ratpag” (always lowercase). “We here at ratpag tweet at Erykah Badu every hour on the hour” is acceptable, but “ratpag listens to @FatBellyBella on repeat all damn day” is preferred.
- Capitalize every word in the title, including prepositions.
- Use of the word “p*r*d*gm” or any of its variations is strictly prohibited.
The word in rule number 3 is like the name of God in the Torah. Say it and you die.
ratpag wants to get back to that satellite imagery. This comes from a company called Skybox Imaging, and what you’re looking at is video from its SkySat-1-micro-satellite thingy. We’ve seen this GIF:
At least they’re spying on China.
Eh, Las Vegas is more like Canada’s Disneyland, so ratpag will let this go. Still, one can realize the potential: high resolution satellite video captured several times a day across the northern hemisphere, for sale to the highest bidder. What could go wrong?
Of course, that assumes it goes up for sale again, since Google bought them just last week for $500 million. This is the same Google that had its Streetview cars capture data snippets from people’s unencrypted WiFi routers. Because if your 90-year-old grandmother doesn’t know how to do a basic WiFi encryption, it’s basically like she wanted to be spied on, right? Google argued this shit at the Supreme Court.
Now ratpag forgets how that played out, but ratpag knows that Google-the-data-mining-colossus wants to appear safe and unassuming, kind of like an extreme version of Matlock.
That’s why their mission statement is “don’t be a dick” or something, and also why their cars look like roaming smiley faces. No, ratpag will not post a photo. Their influence has already affected Skybox, who has taken to producing cute, hand-drawn images of how exactly their freakishly-invasive corporate spying works.
Adorable! As you can clearly see from what seems to be commissioned from the creator of xkcd, SkySats can record about four times daily at one-meter resolution. That’s like, not even that good, really?! This puts it safely in the “green zone” of business applications for the private sector, who might be trying to turn a profit. Even the squiggles on the axes, it’s like, hey, my kid drew this, we barely know what we’re doing with all this fun data, we’re too busy solving world hunger and watching The New Girl.
ratpag thinks this is a brilliant strategy, and will be hand-drawing a few posts in the next weeks. Hopefully ratpag’s general ratpaggedness will seem more cute, less ratpaggy.