Design It Like Our Livelihoods Depend on It | Gorbis, Fidler

Marina Gorbis, Devin Fidler; Design It Like Our Livelihoods Depend on It; In Some Blog entitled WTF? hosted on Medium; 2016-04-04.
Teaser: 8 Principles for creating on-demand platforms for better work futures

Marina Gorbis
  • Executive Director, Institute for the Future (IFTF)
WTF = What’s The Future? (get it?)
  • A blog
    CuratedEdited by Tim O’Reilly.
  • A conference
    Next: Economy Summit, San Francisco, CA, 2016-10-10 & 11.
  • Theme: All face massive, technology-driven change
    • work,
    • business,
    • society.
  1. Earnings maximization
  2. Stability and predictability
  3. Transparency
  4. Portability of products and reputations
  5. Upskilling
  6. Social Connectedness
  7. Bias Elimination
  8. Feedback mechanisms

Brand: Positive Platforms
<quote>platforms that not only maximize profits for their owners but also provide dignified and sustainable livelihoods for those who work on them, plus enrich society as a whole — is one of the most urgent tasks we are facing today</quote>


The “results” of the Study. That. Shows.

  • Should there be minimum wages
    What should the minimum be? Even for the Mechanical Turk clicky HITS?
  • People working on platforms should be able to own the products of their work and their reputation histories, and carry them from platform to platform.
    <pull-quote>All of my portfolio links are broken now, and I don’t think people can find me anymore.<pull-quote>How has this been solved via intellectual property law the entertainment industry? For music, For film, etc.?
  • The Platforms organizations are newbies; they don’t know The Detente.
    The formal organizations have the detente after the (centuries of) labor violence and legal decisioning;
    The Platforms using the contractor-cum-employee scheme does not follow The Detente.
  • Platforms create networks
    Networks create culsters
    Clusters create bias
    Bias creates polarization
    Polarization is bad.
  • Cannot negotiate with an algorithm.
    Sure you can, to stretch the anthropomorphic negotiation metaphor, the same way a sailor negotiates with the wind to sail towards it. Study it, learn its means, learn its effects, learn its limitations: bend its power to your will.


  • on-demand platform design as a discipline
  • social choices
  • cede choices to platform creators
  • <quote>We embed values into our technologies, and today such values are reflections of Silicon Valley’s techno-centric ethos and funding models.</quote>
  • user-interaction designers, a role/
  • Arun Sundararajan
  • AirBnB, stating services
  • eBay, not cited; in another era it was the <Gee-Whiz!/>
  • income stability
    income predictability
    <quote>shifting pay structures with only a few days’ or no prior notice</quote>
  • Earnings maximization, for whom?
    Payment minimization, for whom?
    <quote>Connections between design choices and earnings are not understood.</quote>


How is any of this different than studying the scheme design underlying any Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) scheme: Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware; or generalized life coaching or real estate flippage?The Multiple Listings Service (MLS) contra The Real Estate platforms e.g. Zillow, Redfin, etc.

Sounds very MLM…

  • transparency concepts
  • the algorithm
  • retention
    • data retention
    • people retention
  • career ladders
    i.e. ladder ranking, a promotion system

On Activism Against The Man

Activism against The Platform occurs outside The Platform,
It occurs on other platforms:

  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Google Groups (but not <snide>Google Plus?</snide>)
  • “and other social media sites”

Clicky Class Consciousness

Mechanical Turk workers have a separable class consciousness
… just stop, pause and consider that for a minute: Mechanical Turk workers; the class consciousness of Mechanical Turk workers. Yet recall that Mechanical Turk exists because that clicky work can be done at trivial-unto-ephemeral pay rates because it can be; it’s still too expensive get machines to do it..

The Data-veillance

Something about using “vast amounts of data” as is done by these exemplary products:

  • Degreed
    skills-model job matching, contracted work
  • Unitive
    employment law compliance
  • Upwork
    skills-model job matching, contracted work

Supply & Demand

Something about the effect of surge pricing on congestion

  • in a neighborhood (where a neighborhood is a delicate thing)
  • within a city (where a city is a robust thing)
Managed Economy, Planning Economics

Something about managed trading in the controlled economy

  • Minimum wages allowed,
    contra salary caps
  • Maximum payments allowed,
    contra revenue guarantees

Exemplars of The Design Thinking

Patterns of design, the unctuousness of the UX, the ease of the affordation.
<quote>[those whose] apps are exquisitely designed</quote>


  • As [commissioned?] research
  • Wherein it is 2015
  • Institute for the Future (IFTF)


A Study. That. Shows.


  • convenience sample, with snowballing
  • people who are working on “platforms”
  • admission
    • the degree of engagement or time spent on platforms
      range: passively renting to working full-time
    • degree of skill required
      range: Uber drivers → HourlyNerd
  • locations
    (United States only)

    • San Francisco
    • New York
    • Miami
    • Chicago
    • “and elsewhere”


  • Document perspectives
  • Immerse ourselves in their vocabulary
  • Something about using ethnographic methods to tune the platform to “the people.”


Ethnographic recordation
  • document the use cases
  • document the perspectives

See the concept of the “fiduciary” in the Bitcoin discussions. c.f. Angela Walch
These are but the <ahem>Multi-sided markets</ahem>, yes?


Only two individuals are cited.

Alan Cooper
  • is was a UXer
  • opined in The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
  • Biography
    • <quote>He is best known as the “Father of Visual Basic”</quote>
    • Founder, Cooper, a [design shop]
  • design languages
  • optimize for usability.
  • on-demand work platforms
    the segue
Arun Sundararajan
  • Stern School of Business, New York University
    • the NEC Faculty Fellow
    • Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences
    • Doctoral Coordinator
  • The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism; The MIT Press; 2016-05-13; 256 pages; Amazon:0262034573: kindle: $10, paper: $10+SHT.
  • Expertise
    • Network effect
    • Digital rights management
    • Price discrimination

Via: Jimi Wales’ Wiki & Google Search


  • Alan Cooper; The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity; Sams of Pearson Education; 1st edition; 2004-03-05: 288 pages; Amazon:0672326140: Kindle: maybe, paper: $30+SHT.

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