Consumer Über Alles – My No Holds Barred Over the Top Defense of Uber




I’ve had it. Last month’s idiotic, asinine and utterly transparent-in-motive decision by the California Labor Board ruling against Uber has done it. I’ve got to speak up, and I should have last month.  I’ll get to the particulars in a moment but first…

The reason  there are companies like Uber, Lyft and the others is because of how bad “protected” industries are, and how badly they’ve historically treated their customers, in this case the taxi industry.

Bay citizen article

Reliable service. Great and friendly customer-first approach. Happy workers who you never feel like are taking advantage of you.  Has anyone in the history of the world ever said that about taxi industry?  Spoiler alert, no. Which is why ridership and people wanting to drive for Uber continues to soar… Yet, inexplicably there seems to be a fascination with and an undue credit given to those few who are doing every distorted thing they can against Uber (and by extension other ride sharing services). All too often (once might be too often) a compliant media and, worse, public officialdom goes along. Actually it’s not at all inexplicable, the establishment wants to protect a favored industry that’s being disrupted by a brash outsider. And since almost without exception the private sector is more nimble and smarter than the public sector, the government has to resort to the only advantage it has, brute force in implementing an unfair playing field.

If you’re like me and have used Uber, you probably love it.  You can be anywhere, needing to go to anywhere, and in a manner of minutes a nice car with a polite driver comes to get you. You’re able to track the progress of the car as it approaches you and then as you progress on your trip. You know what to expect to pay before you take your trip and what you are charged is fair. What an amazing concept, right? Apparently not to everyone.

Before Uber (and Lyft and others) if you lived in San Francisco, for example, in an area anywhere where taxis did not congregate, which is to say about 95% of The City, and you needed a taxi, you would have to call one of the taxi dispatchers and then… hope.  Hope they would come in a reasonable amount of time. Hell, hope they would come at all. Hope they wouldn’t rip you off.  It was an awful model, creating an awful industry that should have gone out of business long ago.  But they had a special weapon, a monopoly and government protection.

Cab complaints Climb in San Francisco

More than 1,700 passenger complaints include refused rides, declined credit cards and other rule violations

by Zusha Elinson

San Francisco taxi drivers routinely flout the law by refusing rides, declining to take credit cards, charging unauthorized fees, speeding, smoking, and talking and texting on cellphones while driving, according to a year’s worth of passenger complaints reviewed by The Bay Citizen.

Taxis infested with bed bugs, drivers falling asleep at the wheel, rude behavior and difficulty getting a cab also were among the complaints. One patron reported that a cab driver allegedly stole his credit card number and used it to make purchases in Brazil. And two friends were upset when a driver offered them a 10 percent discount if they made out in front of him.

The gripes represent longstanding dissatisfaction with the San Francisco taxi industry. Disgruntled passengers registered 1,733 complaints with the city’s 311 complaint linefrom July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, a 13 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. The number was almost double the 900-complaint goal of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates taxis.

You see in order to drive a taxi in San Francisco (as in most major cities) you had to own a special license, a medallion. There is a great write-up on Priceonomics by Rohin Dahar, who does a far better job than I ever could at explaining how ridiculous this system is. TL/DR, it’s a monopoly that only benefits a few including entrenched public officials, that creates an artificial scarcity of supply to drive up the cost to meet demand. The amazing thing is how bad it is for the actual drivers, as seen in this report by UCLA professors Gary Blassi and Jacqueline Leavitt, yet because they’ve made a very expensive bet on it, even though it’s a bad bet, the drivers double down.


forbes article


Given that monopoly, taxi drivers could – and often – cheat customers on fares… In other words stole from their customers. This is not some relic from the past; it happens today and is widespread as witnessed recently by appalling examples in in New York City and Las Vegas (and we could probably list every other American city). We need to call a spade a spade; any taxi driver who would take you on anything but the shortest, quickest route to get a higher fair is a thief. There never was anything charming about it. They’re petty criminals.

new york post article


So let’s talk about last month’s CLC decision.  The suit brought before them was by a truly repugnant person, the kind of person you would not want in your neighborhood, Barbara Ann Berwick.  From the New York Times:

(JIM WILSON – NYT - NYT, Pictured; Barbara Ann Berwick, former sex phone operator and unregistered financial adviser. She and her company have filed over 20 lawsuits)

(JIM WILSON – NYT – NYT, Pictured; Barbara Ann Berwick, former sex phone operator and unregistered financial adviser. She and her company have filed over 20 lawsuits)

Ms. Berwick has a history of being litigious. Since 1991, she and her company have filed at least 20 lawsuits in California. In one case, she sued an employee of a pizza parlor for $500 in damages for leaving restaurant menus on her gate. She was not awarded any damages.

She also ran a phone sex business and now claims to have transitioned that business to an online financial adviser – IRONY ALERT – who at the time of her Uber lawsuit was not registered as such by the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

She claims that driving for Uber 60-80 hours a week, over the course two months she only made $11,000 while incurring $4,152.20 in expenses, including a traffic ticket, which she expects Uber to pay. First off, I don’t think $5500 / month is all that bad (even in San Francisco). But if it actually, which I most certainly do not believe, took her 60-80 hours a week for about two months to make that, she’s either an idiot or she’s acting duplicitously to advance a cause. It beggars all common sense to believe an intelligent and honest person would do that. And the nice thing about life is it has a way of weeding out idiots and catching liars.  The other point is she – and worse, the California Labor Commission – thinks she is owed for traffic violations she incurred while driving. To me she’s a civic degenerate.

I’m using harsh words for a reason.  Because people like Ms. Berwick are trying to assert influence affecting millions of good, hard working people, and are being accorded that opportunity by misguided and nefarious government agencies.  And in so doing they hurt people. This phenomenon is explained very well by Margaret Wente in a column in The Globe and Mail of Toronto.

The taxi industry is powerful. As Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said recently, “Cab drivers can take you out.” And the regulators are on their industry’s side. This is because of a phenomenon known as “regulatory capture,” which means that the regulated parties often make the rules by which they’re regulated. Regulators are also loath to give up their powers, which they usually think should be expanded. That explains the attitude of Tracey Cook, Toronto’s head of municipal licensing and standards. She argues that since Uber is really in the taxi business, and the city regulates the taxi business, the city should either regulate Uber or shut it down.

I’ve taken Uber more times than I can count. Every single time I talk with the driver and without exception they tell me how much they like the set up and how much they like making the extra money.  It works great for them.  Here’s an example.  Matt Palach, who is pictured above.  A recent Army vet, he served his country for 7 years.  He grew up in Minnesota and has moved to Phoenix to start a new life. Matt, who is 25, is going to college, is starting his own promotion business – Matt Palach Productions – and to help with that drives for Uber. He has a new car, is hard working… you could not ask for a better example of the American ideal than Matt.  But if government agencies like the California Labor Commission have their way, Matt can’t have that job. You know what, we should all be betting on Matt!!!

See that’s the fallacy of opportunistic politicians who claim that somehow Uber is hurting workers by creating low paying jobs, or as Mr. Reich says, “scraps.”  If not for Uber these jobs – which are not low paying – wouldn’t exist at all. These people would be locked out of the opportunity to make extra money because the power wants to protect their industry and support base. Uber is creating more and better jobs. And for some reason that scares the hell out of some politicians. and the special interests who fund them.

The good news for Uber is the market and more importantly the people are speaking. And they’re doing it with their actions.  Like in Phoenix, which has tried to lock out Uber from picking up passengers at Sky Harbor airport. As I said above, people are smarter, more agile and more nimble than government overlords. So what do they do?  They simple walk to where they’re outside the “lockout” parameters or take a shuttle to an airport hotel where they can be picked up by Uber.  It may seem silly as it takes a little longer and is more effort, but this is regular people telling the entrenched industry and the government to basically bud out.  And should I be force to take a taxi from an airport, there will be exactly zero tip.  I’m probably the biggest over-tipper around, but I am not going to reward anti-competitive behavior.  And that driver better take me on the absolute more direct route, or I’ll be filing a complaint.

My advice to Uber… You know you are being held to a different standard than the people who are trying to bring you down, so anything you do wrong will be amplified. This happens all the time so don’t let it stop you. Don’t be afraid to smartly make your case. Don’t be afraid to go after and call out the nonsense of people who are trying to destroy you. Be aggressive without being a jerk. We live in a different world where you can talk right to the public and in fact have the public be your ambassadors.  That terrifies the entrenched oligarchy.

As I see it, we have a choice. We make laws and policy based on what’s best for society and for the people government is supposed to serve. We help the Matt Palachs of the world.  Or we make laws and public policy that protect the entrenched special interests who have never cared about the needs of the public and we in essence let the Ms. Berwicks of the world decide our fate.

I know what choice I’m making… and I’ll make it with my voice, my wallet and my ballot. What about you?

The RIGHT company for YOU is the one that INVESTS in you

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As they scout opportunities in the job market, people have many questions in their minds. Should I look for salary? Brand? Perks? Work location? Designation? Grade?….and many more. There is no easy answer since all of these are important. After spending a couple of interesting decades in the industry, my view is that the right company for you is a company that INVESTS in you and helps you develop. Salary, grade, perks, brand are all things which may give you a temporary fillip but an investment in you is something that stays for a lifetime.

Here are a few questions that you should seek answers to as you scout for your next prospective employer (and it doesn’t matter at what stage of your career you are):-

  1. Is the company strategy differentiated? Are they focused on “next” and using that to give employees a chance to work on interesting futuristic projects?
  2. What is the company’s Learning and Development infrastructure? Does it have a myriad of learning programs and a variety of learning interventions that if offers which can be leveraged by the employee to develop? Has its L&D sufficiently invested in technology to give a great and convenient learning experience for its employees? Is the company recognized for its L&D innovations?
  3. Does the company have a thriving Leadership Development program? Does the company put a lot of focus on developing leaders at all levels?
  4. Does the company have an effective job rotation policy which encourages people to rotate across different functions and gives credit to these experiences when it comes to promotions?
  5. Does the company invest in the physical and mental health of its employees and their near and dear ones through things like innovative insurance plans, annual medical checkups, facilities like gym, yoga classes, counselors which eventually help you to have a fruitful life and career?

As someone said, “Give them Fish and they will stay fed for a few days, teach them how to fish and they will stay well fed for a lifetime”.

While making your next career move, look for an employer that will invest in teaching you how to fish!!



share insights

The May 2015 Gartner survey on Hadoop, lists the key challenges in native Hadoop adoption by enterprises. Skills gap was quoted by 57% of the respondents in that survey as a major hurdle to scaling adoption. We at Persistent Systems, believe, we have found an innovative way for product managers and data scientists to get over that hurdle by adopting our SaaS platform called ShareInsights. By abstracting the problem resolution to a higher level (YAML) representation we are able to enable the data scientist to do a lot of their modeling and predictive analytics experimentation in a sandbox without having to engage a team of experts that earlier would typically include a hadoop expert, a relational database expert, and either a legacy BI tool scripting expert or a restful web-services and html5/javascript expert. Once done experimenting, the sandbox output can be easily exported to the production side of the the same platform.

At the Kaltura Connect virtual summit we recently launched the availability of the ShareInsights platform, pre-integrated with their enterprise content management system. It is also pre-connected to a host of structured and unstructured data sources and social networks making it plug and play in several situations.

The platform is also ideally suited for iOT product companies as well as traditional CPE companies (WiFi AP, STB, DSL/Cable modem), looking to bolt on an analytics value proposition to refresh, renew and extend their product roadmap to capture value they earlier left at the table.




N.B.   Want to test drive…..Contact us

Why Can’t Healthcare Planning Be As Easy As Vacation Planning?

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Travel agents.  Ticket counters.  Maps.  Travel books.  In the past, we would have to spend time in person with all of them in order to plan a vacation.  And it was all pretty static – make your decision, then live with it.  Today, we don’t have to leave the couch to plan travel: we have the world in our hands (or, more literally, in our smartphones).  And should something change last-minute, we can change course in real time (for a fee, of course). We can reserve a hotel room from our phone after seeing photos and reading reviews from other people who have stayed there.  We can book or rebook a flight, see a seat map of the plane, and choose a seat based on reviews of that very same seat. Technology has fundamentally transformed how we approach travel, enabling more real-time decision-making ability as well as long-term planning. Why should our approach to healthcare planning not be just as easy and intuitive?

The key to the ease and flexibility of travel planning today is the pervasive adoption of digital technologies (“SMAC” – Social, Mobility, Analytics, and Cloud).  Of course, health information technology has been around for a long time and has modernized many areas (e.g., doctor’s appointment, access to medical information, digital medical records, and video consultations) of healthcare management. However, except in isolated pockets (such as radiology), core healthcare has been a laggard in systematically leveraging information technology.  The lag has many reasons: the healthcare industry is mature and highly regulated; it requires high-trust human interactions between patients and physicians in matters of life and death; and reimbursement models are labyrinthine.  However, despite this delay in the healthcare industry to embrace digital transformation, there are many areas where technology is leaving an impact. Here are three examples.

Next-Generation EHRs: Electronic Health Records (EHR) are a classic example of the application of information technology in healthcare. Even as their benefits are being debated, change is already afoot. Recently, Partners Healthcare launched an EHR system at a cost of $1.2 billion in order to create a consolidated system to service its network of 10 hospitals and 6,000 doctors. The goal of this consolidation is to ensure that all the patient data captured at various hospitals in its network is available to the treating physicians in a single place. Moreover, patients who are actively seeking greater participation in managing their health will also have greater access to their medical records. While the aim of enforcing adoption of EHR systems in healthcare was to have a consolidated data access system, most existing systems fail at delivering interoperability (often between different healthcare providers even if they use the same EHR vendor, and almost always if they use different vendors).  Lack of interoperability makes for clunky and inefficient systems that people just don’t want to use.  API standards such asFHIR (pronounced “fire”, short for “Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources”) help federate first-generation EHRs and cater to patients’ demand for just-in-time and at-their-fingertips access to medical information.  While there are numerous problems still to be solved (technical, legal, privacy-related, …) and the holy grail of the untethered and patient-owned EHR is still years away, interoperable cloud-based EHRs are the way to go.

Wearables: Wearable devices are being increasingly adopted by individuals for tracking personal health information. What makes them really exciting in the present context is a slew of highly innovative products already available (e.g., ThyncFreeStyle Libre) or being developed (e.g., SmartStop,QardioCore), and the level of exemption from regulations and approvals that the FDA is considering for low-risk general wellness products.  The data that such devices generate can potentially be combined with patient medical history to derive meaningful insights that could be used to better manage situations such as chronic disease and geriatric care.  Additionally, consumers’ willingness to adopt wearable technology to monitor vital health indicators presents a unique opportunity for delivering follow-up care.  Patient monitoring data streamed to a provider would enable healthcare professionals to reach out to patients for remedial actions if their health indicators are abnormal, possibly even pro-actively.  This can actually create a next-generation model of patient care where potentially critical situations are caught upfront, thereby reducing hospitalization and associated costs.

Prescriptions: Traditional pharmacies place the onus of prescription filling, refilling, and compliance (i.e., accurately taking the medications) on patients. Having to deal with sorting medications based on the time they need to be taken and keeping track of multiple medications that need to be taken together can be a significant burden for, for example, older patients on multiple medications. PillPack (featured this past weekend on NBC Nightly News) tackles this problem by delivering pre-packaged, pre-sorted medications customized for an individual patient.  In addition, it handles pharmacy support functions such as processing insurance copayments, handling prescription refills, and providing round-the-clock support from pharmacy staff.

The examples above show the impact of digital and consumer technologies on very fundamental aspects of healthcare. Further afield, there is a whole world of personalized healthcare derived mostly from the ever increasing push for using genomics in medicine.  Of course, the transformation of an industry as complex as healthcare depends on much more than technology; but as the examples show, there is no dearth of IT innovation to propel the journey when the non-technological pieces fall in place.

And while you are on that digitally-facilitated vacation, check out the book The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age by Robert Wachter.  It is a highly readable account of the forces and players shaping the future of healthcare.  Don’t miss Chapter 27.

Dr. Siddhartha Chatterjee is Chief Technology Officer at Persistent Systems.  Dr. Aarti Desai, Senior Domain Specialist at Persistent Systems and leader of the Genomics and Systems Biology teams at Persistent LABS, co-authored this post.

A “Form follows function” approach to Identity Management

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The timeless principle of “Form follows function”

Every time I visit Chicago downtown, the colossal size and architectural grandeur of the fine buildings and historic landmarks leaves me with a feeling of awe and fascination. When a friend or relative is in town, I usually accompany them on architectural tours, because the curious mix of architectural styles and Chicago’s journey from Art Deco to Mid-Century Modern to Post Modern is best-explained by the architectural tour guides who blend the narration with history, humor and education.

During one such tour, the tour guide repeatedly made use of the phrase “Form follows function” attributing its origin to the famous American architect Louis Sullivan who called it “the law.”

 Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun,  form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change, form does not change. – Sullivan, Louis H. (1896)

“Form follows function” is one of prevailing tenets of modern architects and states that “the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.”

Applying the principle of “form follows function” to Identity & Access Management projects

Identity & Access Management (IAM) projects deliver a broad set of “functions” to enterprises ranging from single sign-on, password management, role management, user account lifecycle management to risk-driven access management, privileged account management and access certification. The rate at which new applications can be on-boarded onto the IAM platform is one of the key success criteria which is used to measure the success of IAM projects. As more applications integrate with the IAM platform, the information security office gets better visibility over application accounts, a deeper understanding of how these link to real-world identities and enhanced ability to track usage and enforce security policies.

As such, Enterprise Identity Architects are constantly looking for new ways to simplify application on-boarding and increase platform adoption. Traditional techniques such as evangelizing the benefits of the IAM platform or enforcing a top-down mandate usually does not elicit the desired response from application teams, as every application team is already struggling with their own priorities and the new IAM integration is often perceived as a “disturbance” to their existing business processes and support model.

It is in such scenarios, that IAM architects will benefit by applying the time-tested principle of “form follows function”. Let me explain using the “Chicago architecture” metaphor.

Just like a well-planned city allows architects to experiment and innovate with building styles, a well-designed IAM platform should provide application teams multiple integration options and the ability to use IAM as an enabler for digital transformation initiatives. These integration options and innovation models thus become “functions” which will eventually shape the “form” of integration.

The infographic below depicts one way of socializing your IAM platform “functions” to application teams and empowering them to decide the “form” they want to build on top of your IAM platform.


By providing different entry points to application teams, IAM architects can help teams strike the right balance between application’s security and compliance needs and the team’s ability to support the business process level changes that accompany the integration. In the long run, publishing an integration roadmap will also help applications teams build their own integration journey and align application capabilities with IAM platform capabilities.

And when that happens, it is a true measure of the success of your IAM platform and its ability to attract new “application tenants”!

Chetan Desai heads the Identity Transformation and Governance Practice at Persistent Systems. He is passionate about delivering identity-driven services and building robust identity ecosystems that can drive digital transformation.