Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy, published every other day.

Tag: Work


So if the title made you immediately think of those scruffy, hard-working characters who set up and take down touring concerts, welcome to the club.  But that’s not what this post is about, as you may

notice by the business and security tags I have given it.

Roadie is a start-up whose tagline is, “Discover the invisible shipping network.”  The idea is, there are 250 million private vehicle trips per day, with a billion square feet of otherwise-unused cargo space.  Some of them could be matched up peer-peer and make everyone happier.  I read this Buzzfeed article and started to think like a hacker… how would I break this, if I were evil?

Disclaimer: Some of these things are illegal.  Some of them are immoral.  Roadie may well have already thought to include countermeasures against some that they would not, for good reason, publicize.

An obvious first one is, I tell Roadie I want to send, let’s say, a stand mixer to my buddy in Harrisburg who’s taking up baking.  The driver and I meet, I give her a neatly taped-up Kitchen-Aid box that weighs about 35 pounds.  She drives it from Rochester to Harrisburg and delivers it uneventfully to Bob.  It’s a good thing she’s a mild-mannered driver in an inconspicuous Chevy because she just delivered 15 Kg of high-quality weed across state lines.  Since Bob and I both used burner phones to set up the endpoints of the transaction, Roadie will not be of much help identifying anyone but the innocent driver.

Never mind legal trouble, some cargoes can be just plain trouble.  Roadie has a list of restricted items and materials similar to the one you see at the post office, but it’s not clear how this can be enforced.  Sealed boxes may be opened by postal inspectors at random but Roadie drivers should not be similarly empowered.  Otherwise, the prospect of a Roadie driver pawing through the stuff being delivered might be seriously off-putting to prospective shippers.

For an even more obvious ploy, shipping an item with a substantial declared value opens up Roadie to all kinds of insurance issues, especially given the informality of the hand-offs at either end of the trip.

Receivers and senders are going to be strangers to the drivers, and strangers are terrifying, in our cable-news-fear-mongered society.  To this end, Roadie has wisely teamed up with Waffle House to create a ready-made network of public meetup spots for exchanges.  More safety measures to protect Roadie and its drivers are needed, and as I mentioned above, some may already exist.

I expect Roadie to attract the same kind of opposition to its business model as the hotel and taxi industries are already lavishing on Airbnb, Uber and Lyft.  To some extent, I like seeing old crufty business models being disrupted.  However, a certain amount of what looks like fluff in those models really does protect the participants and the public.  We have a baby and a tub of bathwater here; some care is advisable.


Verbing and Nouning

I work in a corporate environment that abuses English with the best of them.  I strive to keep my own language as straightforward and simple as possible, while still making myself understood among my colleagues.  It’s a sad truth that some people simply cannot digest an idea until it has been slathered with a certain amount of obfuscation.  Apparently, this works like ribs and barbecue sauce.

So it should come as no surprise that I am not a fan of the biz-speak habit of nouning verbs and verbing nouns.  Awkward nouns have been made out of perfectly serviceable verbs like, “ask”, “edit” and “spend”.  Meanwhile, “friend”, “checkpoint”, “status” and the execrable “action” are all now verbs.  The last would be delightful as a verb if its fourth letter were replaced with a space.  But that makes for a pronouncement far too direct for it to sound like one’s $68,000 MBA was money well-spent.

“What is the ask?”  grates on my ear.  It means, “what are you asking for” but it also starts the process of allowing the requester not to have to take responsibility for the request.  What “I ask for” is firmly linked back to me.  “The ask” just sits there, a product of spontaneous generation.  Perhaps someone will pick it up and do something about it.  Perhaps not.

Want to get something done?

Something important?  Something that makes change?  Improves a process?

Stop caring about getting the credit.

Put your ideas out there.  Show people tricks you’ve thought of.  Advocate for policies or guidelines to improve.

If the need is there, and someone else takes up the project, it’s still a win for you.  Yes it’ll be someone else’s project, but everyone will know, in a little corner of their minds, that it was you who spoke up first for the idea.  Don’t waste your energy trying to stay on the cover page of all the documents.  You’ll shine all the better for not being that kind of PITA.

This does not remotely get you off the hook for doing the work when it’s yours to do.  But not all the ideas we have affect the parts of the world where we have the sway to make them real.  They are still good ideas, but they are in someone else’s portfolio to implement.  That’s OK.

You had the idea.  And you sold the idea.

When it comes time to decide who’s important to the future of the enterprise, those are two tendrils of root you’ve put down, with just one idea.

Bonus link: Whadda ya think they’re gonna do, take it home?  I find it hard to get worked up about people with 10- and 11-digit wealth making life tougher for those poor 9-digit folks.

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