Recommend Abolishing the National Lottery

I have to admit, the oft used slogans in Lotto NZ’s marketing… “Got to be in to win” and “Imagine…” troubles me quite intensely, in so much that I feel it traps the more vulnerable people into a dopamine driven false sense of hope and psychological impression that the odds of winning the big one is magnitudes larger than either logic or statistics could ever justify.

It is also I feel serves as another function to distract quite a few people away from their meagre lives and contributing to drawing public attention away from the issues that really need attention and debate. (e.g The Value of Working, Provision of pathways and opportunities to progress and contribute meaningfully to the community, Ending the over-commoditization and downright pitiful rampant speculation on housing, etc)

People argue that Lottery organizations are charities and they give back to the community by way of grants as merely an excuse to keep these schemes around, however I firmly feel the impact (Addictions, distractions) outweighs any community good. Like the Pokie machines (“One arm bandits” I call them), the poor and the ones who can least afford to engage in such pursuits, seem to be the biggest patrons of them.

There I’ve said it… I strongly felt that I needed to at least get this off of my chest.

Recommend Abolishing the National Lottery

Thrifty Car Rental Franchise Caught Posting Fake Reviews

Update: June 2019 – Thrifty Australian Head Office have also since been notified and have advised they have since started working with their Licensee, Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, to gradually remove the offending reviews posted by franchise staff.

Have also been fielding the occasional E-mail from those purporting to be past employees of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, describing Working Conditions, etc, however have chosen not to elaborate on those here in this particular blog post.

Topping off personally my most disappointing consumer experience to date either side of the Tasman that I can recall… upon looking to place a review regarding my last hire experience with Thrifty Car Rental out of Mickelham Road, (Melbourne), discovered that the franchise owner along with certain senior staff of franchise operation Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, had posted several of their own reviews whilst failing to disclose their commercial and/or employment connection to the business…

Lawrence (Vic.) Pty Ltd. T/A Thrifty Vic Car and Truck rental – Glenn Lawrence…
Personally I think that these guys are the best rental company in Victoria. They always have great service a delivery on time with a smile. I would recommend them to anybody.
– S
ource: Google Maps

 

Thrifty Franchise owner Lawrence (Vic.) Pty Ltd for Dandenong, posting a 5 star review of his own business. This has since been removed.

…Being the owner, of course he would say that about his own business.

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer, was also discovered to have placed multiple 5 star ratings of a number of Thrifty Car and Truck rental locations…

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer placing 5 star ratings for various Thrifty locations. (Weipa Thrifty is owned by a different Franchise)

Some more ratings placed by the same person. He has placed 5 star ratings on at least 8 (possibly more) locations owned by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd along with 5 star ratings for a handful of other Thrifty Locations owned by other business units.

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer placing several 5 star ratings for Thrifty Car Rental locations owned and operated by Lawrence Vic Pty. ltd.

 

Also briefly came across this… Known employees (confirmed upon glancing at their profiles) including the owner of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd are seen posting fake ratings and reviews for Thrifty Vehicle Sales location that they operate in Dandenong.

Fake Reviews posted to the Thrifty Vehicle Sales page in Dandenong by those in the employ of the reviewed business (Lawrence Vic Pty ltd). These have now been removed after advising I had referred the matter to the ACCC and CAV

Furthermore, if you glance at the rest of the profiles from where the ratings and reviews have come from, quite a few of them I feel appeared (at least to me) to be from direct friends to one of the Staff in question (Profiles liking and commenting on posts from the staffer’s profile and vice versa or more apparent, the staffer appearing on the friends widget of those profiles).

While friends of staff are well within their right to place a review if they are genuine customers, a potential conflict of interest is present and this should really be disclosed within any review they post as per the ACCC Guidelines in respect to asking friends to leave a review.

More Lawrence Thrifty staff posting positive reviews, this time for Thrifty Weipa. (While this may be a different business unit to Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, they are still part of the Australian Thrifty Car Rental network and any such review should disclose this)

Thrifty Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd employees posting reviews for Thrifty Weipa. While a difference Franchise, they are still part of the same network and should be disclosed.

 

An older review from 3 years ago posted by another employee of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd…

Another Google self review from a Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd staffer for Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Campbellfield.

 

Here’s a more recent glowing review for Thrifty Car and Truck Rental for Footscray…
(the statement “…team that works together to achieve their goals” caught my eye as it’s not normally something posted by a genuine customer)

Glowing review of Footscray Thrifty Car and Truck Rental posted by a staff member of Thrifty Footscray

From then I looked at the reviewer’s other review for Coles Express, a service station very close by Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Footscray where he mentions “…as part of my job for a rental car company…”

Same employee mentioning he worked for a car rental firm. No surprises which one.

And all the above fake reviews are the ones that were known about and could be directly linked to Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personnel.

The last fake testimonial above was only caught by virtue that the staff member in question had posted in another review mentioning he worked for a rental car company.

In my mind, it certainly raises the question…
How many of the other customer testimonials could also be fake or otherwise have been posted by Thrifty Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personnel?

Wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd management possibly encouraged their employees to engage in the practice particularly since the owner himself was seen placing at least a couple of his own fake reviews.

Reviews posted to Lawrence Vic Pty ltd. New location: Thrifty Coburg in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. While an individual review from a profile where this is their only review is not sufficient by itself to raise a red flag, the ratio of such reviews do raise a red flag with me.

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s newer location, Thrifty Coburg, Melbourne, Victoria. 4 out of 6 reviews revealed anomalies. 3 out of 6 reviews were posted by people with only 1 review with a 4th review from below…

The reason why this looks fishy…

  • Out of 6 total reviews, 3 were made by reviewers with only 1 review,
  • One of them being especially and suspiciously hyperbolic. “Wow, what an experience” is a sizeable red flag to me as such reviews have in the past often been found to be fake upon my own investigation. How often would one be so over the moon renting from a car hire place?
  • A 4th review was made by a reviewer who has a total of 4 Google reviews to her name. However, out of those 4 reviews, 3 of them are for Thrifty locations all operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, another red flag…

 

This reviewer has a total of 4 Google reviews to her name. 3 of them for Thrifty locations, all operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

 

While I acknowledge that Lawrence Vic Pty ltd isn’t alone in such antics (Far from it), Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd is the first business (that isn’t an outright cold calling boiler room “wire” scam operation) who I have both personally had any sort of interaction with and seen engaging in the posting of falsified testimonials.

Regardless, I don’t anticipate dealing with this particular Thrifty Car Rental licensee again given there are so many other hire options – including within Thrifty’s own network itself (see bottom of this post for alternate Thrifty locations in Melbourne)

Overall my hire experience with Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd was far removed from my usually smooth hire experience under the Thrifty brand in Australia. Issues with the Lawrence Franchise included…

  • Failure to disclose full fee structure in their written legal documentaion
  • Upon contacting the Licensee’s HQ at Dandenong thinking that these matters would be easy to clarifty, was instead met with a defensive attitude with the chain of communication abruptly closing at “Thanks for your feedback on our disclosure”
  • Failure to provide a copy of the agreement at initiation of the hire requiring several follow ups. (This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident with Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.)
  • Upon eventual receipt above, discovered a break down add on I never requested and which I strongly believe was snuck on by the RSO under IMO obvious pressure by his bosses to meet his monthly sales target.

Their employment ads suggest a rather Sales driven culture I feel (“…totally focused on achieving targets and budgets”) and this has been emphasized in Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s ads far more than for Front line roles advertised by other Vehicle Rental agencies (operating under the Thrifty banner or otherwise) I feel.

I have also since dropped a note to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) to let them know of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s conduct.

If would be fair to say that I hold the management of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personally responsible for the matters arising out of my hire with them. Nor have I ruled out possibly taking out a case against Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) when I’m next back over the ditch on business.

Inspite of that, have since continued to rent through other ‘Thrifty’ branded business units in Australia without experiencing anywhere near the same sorts of issues. However, my continued custom with Thrifty as a brand is now under review (particulary so now that NZ AA and Thrifty Australia between them seems to have ended the hire car deals for us NZ AA Members).

In a nutshell…
I consider trust extremely important in any transaction I undertake and Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd through their conduct I feel have completely failed to demonstrate this.

If you have to rent through the Thrifty brand (for what ever reason) in Victoria, Australia. Suggest using Spencer St or Melbourne Airport as those two locations are operated by Thrifty AU Corporate head office instead of an independent franchisee who may have their own, possibly very different way of doing things. Other Thrifty branches not operated by Lawrence Franchise appear to include Brighton, South Yarra and South Melbourne

Status

Internet use reduction

More of a “Cool Story Bro” type of post… As per an earlier decree, I have begun reducing my time spent on the internet in general during the evenings and weekends  (during my own time) and confining any use to Administrative functions (such as banking, paying bills, some internet shopping) and the keeping in contact with family and friends (where possible, using inter-operable, federated and self hosted solutions). Continue reading “Internet use reduction”

Internet use reduction

Ground Hog Day on Auckland Transport Crisis

Short of a population contraction. Auckland transport crisis I feel is NOT going to be measurably alleviated in the next two decades for the average resident.

Auckland as a city is already on the back foot due to decades of laissez faire planning and the damage has unfortunately been done decades ago… it’s going to be difficult to reverse the effects of this through conventional means.

We have key zones scattered all over the place with reckless abandon, with absolutely no forethought for the longer term. We are continuing to build swathes of urban sprawl without any adequate transport infrastructure to go with it, continuing to repeat the same mistakes in the short term with long term consequences.

Bring up a map of Auckland and compare it with say Perth, Melbourne or Adelaide  and in contrast to the semi grid type layout of the aforementioned, Auckland’s roading layout frankly more closely resembles a city in a developing nation (Bali, Indonesia; Port Vila, Vanuatu). Roads placed seemingly at random with no planning what so ever.  Any buses that we introduce are made to zig zag all over the place in a vain attempt to capture the key zones. No regard for putting in proper rail corridors to new greenfield development sites.

This 28 Billion that the Labour government is planning to pour in, should they suggest conventional public transport measures again, I fear will tragically could end up being a gratuitous waste.  I strongly feel Auckland requires a more tailored approach in order to have any hope of mitigating the transportation frustrations facing residents in this city.

Ground Hog Day on Auckland Transport Crisis

Facebook’s Tentacles – Custom Audience Privacy Issue

Update 17/07/2018: I’d expect I will get a few people rolling their eyes in silence at me, particularly from the AdTech crowd, but I feel strongly enough about the issue that I have decided to start contacting each company appearing in the screenshot to ask them to remove my personal details from any “Custom Audience” Ad campaigns.

I am happy for companies I deal with to add me to their direct mailing list to advise me of any running specials periodically through E-mail, but I am not comfortable with that information subsequently being given to 3rd parties such as Facebook (being a particularly “privacy hostile” entity at that), The less personal information that goes to Facebook the better, I feel they have already become too powerful to our longer term collective detriment, by way of them feasting on our information, particularly given their ongoing business conduct.

Original post: After having logged into my Facebook account for the first time in a fortnight,  Today I learn that businesses have been uploading their customer contact database to Facebook.  A trawl over the internet reveals that this has apparently been in place since 2013.

A question is whether or not organizations giving their contact list to Facebook constitutes, “Sharing your personal details with a 3rd party”?

Advertisers you’ve interacted with – Who have added their contact list to Facebook. (often unbeknown to the people on their contact list)

Facebook states, These advertisers are running ads using a contact list they or their partner uploaded that includes info about you. This info was collected by the advertiser or their partner, typically after you shared your email address with them.”

Reading further, it appears more than just your email they can choose to upload. The information that could be included for matching includes things like your Phone number, Birthday, Gender, etc.

If companies are uploading their customer contact lists to Facebook as per Facebook’s Custom Audiences program, in my view, that pretty much lays at least the base, if they have actually chosen to do so, for Facebook to develop the alleged shadow profiles of Non-Facebook users and personally with me at least, this is NOT okay.

They say they drop all the info if there is no match, but after their ongoing antics, who can trust what Facebook Inc. actually says?

Facebook’s Tentacles – Custom Audience Privacy Issue

Internet 2.0, Proprietary, centralized, and locked-in

Update 27/06/18 – Facebook reaches 200 USD per share, Too bad we collectively keep rewarding bad behaviour, Thanks for the cap gains though.

Ironically, have discovered a lot of my time spent surfing the internet in the evenings is for researching about the Internet itself.

For all intents and purposes, It looks like older days of a largely decentralized Internet with inter-operable communication protocols (E-mail, XMPP, RSS) are pretty much going away, replaced by proprietary walled gardens operated by sole businesses for the primary purpose to maximize profits and designed to be sticky (addictive) and lock as many people in as possible so that it’s hard to escape.

Willful ignorance or otherwise, we collectively voted for this. People a decade ago remarked that I was “Oh So pessimistic” to suggest that Facebook would become as ubiquitous and as powerful as they are today. (By the way, Keep the glass, I don’t need it). Just a second while I write another put option on NASDAQ:FB (with the intention to add to my current holdings)

People keep getting outraged at Facebook’s behaviour, yet continues to reward and encourage it by continuing to use their services. While many have pledged to reduce their usage of Facebook (and other services), such actions seem to be nothing more than short lived and amounts to little more than “virtue signalling”, Furthermore, many of those people who say they are leaving Facebook are going on to suggest WhatsApp and Instagram (both owned by Facebook) as to where they will be moving to.  Hold on, let me increase my short put position.

Frankly, a decade ago, I did state that I would prefer to lose my access to the Internet completely rather than submit to Facebook should Facebook happen to take over the Internet to become the Internet. While in truth, it’s still a long way from that, the situation is that the Internet has now become so commercialized with much of it’s power now consolidated into the hands of a few corporate entities.

Anyway, I’ve decided to gradually reduce my use of the Internet in general and should the consolidation of power continue, will probably end up using the Internet rather comparatively sparingly — Keeping any use personally during my own time to Administrative stuff and the keeping in touch with closer Family and friends (using self hosted services where possible) while completely cutting to the bone any superfluous usage such as casual surfing of forums and especially surfing the Internet to research… well, about the Internet.

 

Internet 2.0, Proprietary, centralized, and locked-in

Motivations for setting up my own personal homepage

As mentioned in my Facebook Notice, I had elected to build my own personal homepage for staying in touch with Friends and Family as opposed to relying on Facebook. In short, I prefer staying with decentralized inter-operable web protocols and standards (particularly those that allow me to self-host) where practical as it offers me more freedom and control over my own personal web presence.

While It is acknowledged utilizing proprietary platforms that are singularly owned and operated by sole for profit business entities have their near term benefits (many such platforms are Free of charge), they aren’t “neutral” mediums and are typically run with the natural focus of maximizing profits, ahead of the best of interest of their users or the wider world at large. (Engineering their products to be as sticky as possible, to keep people on their platforms for longer in order to serve advertising, locking them in so that it’s difficult to leave and consequentially, with an increased tendency to cause addiction in quite a few people).

Proprietary platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat are structured in contrast to say inter-operable protocols like regular E-mail where you have a choice of providers. A user on their choice of provider can E-mail another user on a different provider. No one provider controls the protocol.

It is worth highlighting that the more we use, rely, and pressure others to use these proprietary platforms (by way of the network effect), the more powerful these entities will naturally become. In the case of Facebook, it’s already large and still ever increasing influence and power in our lives (be it through through Facebook Original, Instagram, WhatsApp), I see as potentially detrimental thing to us in the longer term in the sense of…

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Personally, I desperately struggle to see how so much power concentrated in the hands of any given single entity, especially a “for-profit” one, could ever be considered as a good thing for us in the longer run. While Facebook certainly isn’t alone in trying to get their mittens on everything we do online, there is a concern within me that should we allow the general trend to continue, (along side the gradual erosion of Civic Responsibility) we could see an erosion in our own individual self determination as we collectively cede ever increasingly control and power over our lives to such (non-democratic) business entities whom are ultimately answerable only to their owners and stockholders.

If you wish to visit the possibility of using alternatives mediums to stay in contact with friends and family, please see “Keeping in contact with loved ones” where I’ve listed out what I’ve done and the recommended stepping stones to reduce reliance on centralized, proprietary and commercially run services.

Disclosure

As of February 2017 (About a year ago as of writing this), I am now a direct shareholder in NASDAQ:FB. The reality is I don’t think we Netizens are going to realize the longer term implications of where we are headed anytime soon. I do recall people seven years ago rebuked me as being “so pessimistic” for even suggesting that Facebook would become as powerful and ubiquitous as they are now. People are saying Facebook is dying and while that may now be true in North America for their original main name sake platform, many of those same people go on to suggest Instagram and WhatsApp (both Owned by Facebook), along with Snapchat (whom personally I consider as equally as obnoxious) as examples as to where everyone is now flocking to.


Fergus Young
www.nui.nz

 

Motivations for setting up my own personal homepage

TradeMe – Not necessarily the cheapest place

First, here is something that I mildly found amusing…

Go on TradeMe, tell everyone how you really feel about Facebook…

As an aside, I don’t know about their business model anymore. I can’t say that buying from (or should it be through) them is necessarily the cheapest. While there are still bargains to be had, I have noticed that private individual sellers simply wishing to moved pre-loved goods on are getting fewer and fewer as years go by as they continue to get displaced on the listings pages by International Sellers or otherwise local drop-shippers, who often flood TradeMe with listings at asking prices higher than NZ RRP (Recommended Retail Pricing)… Continue reading “TradeMe – Not necessarily the cheapest place”

TradeMe – Not necessarily the cheapest place

Branding Effects + Roadblocks to Web Decentralization

(This post is a sort of a lead in from my previous post about Meetup.com)

Anecdotally, it seems the majority of groups which have left the Meetup.com platform have moved their group to Facebook. Branding I’ve come to realize is at play here with Facebook’s seemingly relentless march to take control as much of the web as humanely possible.

While I’ve found many people announce that they “Hate” Facebook saying it’s crap, to them, it’s a familiar sort of ‘Crap’, people subconsciously lean to Familiar because Familiar is “Safe”. Another words… “Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t”.

Like ‘McDonalds’ is to fast food, People may criticize their food as ‘plastic’, but yet keep coming back to it because there is some psychological guarantee that it will be the same ‘Plastic’ food they they know of. Take this, if you landed in a new country, would you try some unfamiliar food outlet selling unfamiliar food or head straight towards the Big illuminated ‘M’?  This is something that came to my mind when I was setting up a Test Instance of Oxwall and is something us Decentralization / Open web advocates are going to need to consider.

 

Branding Effects + Roadblocks to Web Decentralization

Riot Matrix: Background + Findings

The following post deals with the background, along with my personal experiences and findings to-date with the RIOT/Matrix instant messaging and group chat system. To connect to the Matrix Synapse instance, please refer to the basic guide to get started.

In Late December 2017, some concerns were raised among friends regarding their discomfort with Relying on WeChat (along with other proprietary commercial instant messaging apps) for communicating among ourselves, and subsequently I was asked whether or not it would be possible to add some sort of chat function to my website.

I’m going to be upfront. I don’t believe at this stage that I am ever going to pull the majority of my Facebook Addicted friend base out from the clutches of the Facebook eco-system (FB Messenger and WhatsApp) and at this present time, only aiming this service at Family and a handful of closer friends who have expressed desire to use an alternative instant messaging platform. Continue reading “Riot Matrix: Background + Findings”

Riot Matrix: Background + Findings

Facebook Causes depression?

They say Facebook causes depression. For me, it’s probably not the “Comparing yourself with others” / F.O.M.O (Fear of Missing out) trigger that I keep seeing exhorted in the media (in the lightest way possible, that aspect of Facebook has probably had the opposite effect),

What has instead perhaps “dampened my mood” is seeing the world’s masses getting deeply hooked and dare I say addicted to the platform owned by a corporate juggernaut (which we are collectively responsible for becoming a juggernaut, by virtue of joining the platform and getting our friends to join courtesy of the “network effect”) intent on eating up the entire Internet and irreversibly integrating itself into many people’s lives.

I really struggle to see this as a good thing for us collectively in the longer run. I question our decision to rely on a sole proprietary platform for keeping in touch with friends and family. I continually freak out about how much power over our lives we are collectively handing over to be concentrated into the hands of a single for-profit entity such as Facebook, especially so given their past and present behavior. Have people forgotten about “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

I’ve referred to Facebook as “Face-borg” for this reason. It is really the Web’s version of Startrek’s Borg collective, relentlessly assimilating everything in it’s path.

Facebook Causes depression?

Celebrity Worship and The Widening Wealth Gap

The following appeared in NZ Herald’s letter to the editor dated 3rd November 2016

Obscene deal

Wow, this $142 million deal is great for Steven Adams and I congratulate him. I guess he will now be a contender for the Halberg Awards? No doubt there will be in a movie about him one day, too. A script writer’s dream. One of 14 children from at Rotorua to a super star in the US. Not only will this deal do wonders for basketball in this country but it will help put New Zealand on the map in USA perhaps?
Sadly, though, this deal also highlights all that is wrong in the world and especially in America. Let’s be honest and say it like it really is. Is “obscene” the right word or is “absurd” a better description? For any sports person to be paid $820,000 an hour for bouncing a basketball around a court is just ludicrous. To think the top surgeons who are saving people’s lives are getting a fraction of this is the real obscenity. Only in America.

Glen Stanton, Mairangi Bay.

To be brutally blunt, While I echo much of sentiments expressed in this letter (Except the “Only in America” bit), the scenario is perhaps only going to get more pronounced as time goes on.

It’s really our own collective / combined actions (as commoners) that ball games players are getting the figures they do. Aside from the Rags to Riches / Fooled by randomness story. The feeling I get on the street is that the majority are generally hungry for Entertainment, Distractions, Escapism and Vicarious living, while perhaps ignoring  more pressing issues affecting the world in general, and the longer term implications of our actions ultimately on ourselves as individuals in the long run.

Bread and circuses I call it.  Only this time, we’re falling head over heels to pay the entertainment elite (for lack of a better term) to perhaps distract us, and help us escape from the realities of living our otherwise meagre lives and in a perverse kind of way, further deepening the divide.  The rich get richer as a result of the majority’s demand for diversions and we get even more desperate to escape or engage in some vicarious living further entrenching and accelerating the transfer of power from the Ourselves as commoners to the few.

Have to admit, I struggle to understand the level at the public’s fascination and obsession of some Public figures, may be my Celebrity Worship brain circuitry is fried, also gone is my ability to live vicariously. The ability was there when I was young, so not sure when It went, but goes at least some way to explaining why I am having trouble understanding mass psychology and why masses do what they do at times.

I may regard highly, the abilities of a given public figure, but frankly, unable to conjure up any sort of implied relationship (faux or otherwise) with them, unless I’ve met them in person, shook hands and engaged in a conversation with the said person.  Otherwise, it’s this… I don’t know them personally and they don’t know me. Having had a cursory trawl through the Internet, it looks like there is even a test for Celebrity Worship Syndrome [PDF here] to which I confess, I’m very perplexed at the level at which this is occurring at… Have we ceased thinking?

 

Celebrity Worship and The Widening Wealth Gap