All payment and communication between tutors and pupils must be handled through their online system, which takes a 40% cut for the first 25 hours of tutoring, and eventually reduces to a 25% cut- after 400 hours of logged lessons.
They're similarly inscrutable when tutors are arbitrarily banned.
Last year's 1175 point post "Why you should never use Upwork" is still as relevant as ever and I don't expect it to change.
You should avoid Upwork like the plague.
E.g. you have a difficulty that means you can't leave the house. Okay, so participate in open source or specialist online communities. Write blog posts. Post yourself on the seeking freelancer thread.
Not having your own network opens you up to exploitation and poor treatment, because you need the network owner more than she needs you.
So, if you want that, you're left looking for an usually ethical company, which will be hard with a high chance of failure.
I think people need to be founding more online cooperatives and mutuals.
I'm naturally an introvert, and also shy, both of these add difficulty to me getting out face-to-face with people, shaking hands, doing small talk, and handing out business cards. It's an EXCELLENT way to meet people, but doesn't come naturally for me. Here are some ways you can still introduce yourself to others without the same challenges:
1) Go to meetup.com events in your city
These are filled with people in the exact same situation as you, so they will be awkward, forgiving, and grateful if you can speak to them, accept their card, and share a bit about what you do.
Not much has come out of these events as far as work, but it's the easiest, lowest-risk, fastest way to practice meeting people. Ack!
2) Give a talk or lead a workshop
It doesn't have to be the size of a conference, but even if you're bad at public speaking and getting in front of a crowd, think of it like this: you can 'meet' or at leas introduce yourself to 10, 30, 100, even more people at the same time! That makes talking to them MUCH easier afterward, and it really gets your name out there.
When I look around at successful consultants, I see a pattern of them regularly getting in front of hundreds or thousands of people and introducing themselves to all of them at once. When you're at that scale, you wouldn't even have time to meet & greet them all individually.
3) Write blogs or make youtube videos
This takes the pressure off you even more, since it's not realtime you can finesse and polish it to your hearts content, and revisit and touch it up later. By putting content online you can become known as an expert in a certain problem area - somebody people with certain problems can talk to to find solutions or results! This is a natural way to establish yourself as an expert in something
4) Job boards
While I would avoid any kind of online 'labour prison' where you sign in, clients and workers meet through the platform, ALL communication, work, and pay must go through the platform, and some even price your work for you, or require you to install spyware on your own computer while you're doing work. Just COMPLETELY AVOID these.
Instead, look for industry-related job listings that cost $$$ money (preferably over $100) to post a listing. The more it costs to post a job listing, the more serious you know they are about spending money on YOU. If they're the kind of employer who only wants free listings…I bet they also hope for free labour too and will only pay what they absolutely must, at the latest date they can.
Reach out to the listings that fit you, especially if it sounds like you might have an opportunity to speak directly to the business owner. I've found that when you make an acquaintance with somebody who controls a business, you don't have to sell yourself to them, they often can see where they can use you, and have the influence within the company to put you anywhere they want. Don't think about it as applying for the jobs in the listings as much as 'meeting employers of people like you' and every acquaintance you make is a win.
I don't know of any large ones, but I have seen quite a few around.
they do usually charge a much smaller cut, though, which is pretty good, so if you get along with the people, and they do have work, they can be pretty great.
I don't think I'd advise anyone to rely on a collective as their primary income any more than I'd advise anyone to rely on a body shop as their primary income. Treat the job as a job, be open to jobs that don't go through your collective or body shop.
I searched around for what to do in this situation and came across many reports of this type of scam, where an unknown sender "accidentally" sends payment, request a payment from me for the money back, and simultaneously cancels the transaction. I did nothing and hoped the issue would resolve itself.
Two days later, I get an email saying my Venmo account has been frozen "due to recent activity that appears to be a violation of our User Agreement." After reaching out to Venmo via chat, I had a similar interaction as the article. They told me my account was frozen, that my case was being handled by an Account Specialist, and that would be in touch via email.
The next day I got an email from the Account Specialist saying my actions and activity were in violation of the ToS and that my account was permanently deactivated.
I reached out to support again and played dumb, saying I received payment from a stranger but can't send the money back because my balance didn't go up. Support again said they couldn't do anything, that my account was frozen by an Account Specialist, and that they would be in touch via email.
The Account Specialist sent me an email saying the payment was refunded and that I should reach out to the sender directly, to which I responded that I didn't know who the sender was and I assumed the payments were made in error and asking them to confirm that I had to take no further action. They responded with a form email saying my account had been unfrozen. "However, please keep in mind that the state of your account can be revised if your transaction history raises flags on our system in the future."
If the government fucks up, I have an easy way of appealing, everything is clearly defined.
If venmo or PayPal fucks up, I have to sue over country lines, argue an international case, and still have no recourse.
We have exactly one hospital in town. We have exactly one ambulance company in town. We have two medi-vac helicopter providers but you don't get to pick. We have one garbage company (Waste Management) that you're legally required to use in a residential property. One power/gas utility. One water utility.
All of those are private companies, but I have zero ability to switch. There's no competition. They're completely monopolistic either through regulation or naturally. If this is healthy capitalism I'd hate to see unhealthy.
Garbage pickup is particularly galling. It used to be public, government employees, with no profit motive. You had a complaint process. For ideological or "campaign contribution" reasons politicians gave it away to Waste Management, complaints are now handled by nobody, and fees climb year upon year.
God, I hate that phrase. There's a grain of truth to it, in certain contexts, but at this point its just an unthinking regurgitation used to protect the utterer from uncomfortable realities.
There is no conflict of interest there.
The proceedings are secret, the rules of arbitration are arbitrary and capricious, and you have no legal recourse if you run into bias, favoritism, conflict of interest, grotesque and willful misinterpretation of the law, or just plain old injustice.
If you actually want a low-cost, low-friction way to fairly resolve simple disputes, we already have such a system. It's called small claims court. Arbitration takes the scales of justice, and puts a pound of flesh on one side of the scale.
So very optimistic. My wife is a foreigner, so she must deal with visas and visa extensions and paperwork and still being brought by immigration officials into tiny rooms and grilled about her paperwork despite everything being correct whenever she comes back from abroad. Our children are citizens of one or possibly two different countries, depending on whose government you ask. I could give plenty more examples but don't want to give up too much personal info. "Clearly defined?" What a laugh.
At least with the government you can get someone to talk to.
Google doesn't even have a phone number you can call, or someone you can go to.
They decide, and you just have to accept it.
And you don't even know what you allegedly did wrong, and can't prevent it in the future due to that.
But I agree with your broader point, both in general and about Venmo and PayPal. They are shady enough companies that I don't have a Venmo account, leave my PayPal account dormant with no bank accounts linked, and opted out of arbitration when PayPal added that.
Most people are also unaware: PayPal owns Venmo.
One might turn this on its head, and suspect that this loss of agency might be the entire point of society changing in this way. TPTB have heard quite enough from the little people, thank you very much.
Host your own blog, run your own systems, use distributed software. I even keep two payment systems available, just in case. I get gigs often enough (as often as I want) mostly just through people reading my blog (where I can advertise when available)
OP said he did a project for $10, which for most freelancers is maybe 5 minutes of work at their standard rate. If you're going to work for free, might as well do it in your own circle and build out from there.
It was a bad contract, but it was completed despite the various issues involved. I submitted the code and he made a claim that my code did something that is absolutely impossible to do: SQL is not going to affect the browser UI, especially not default settings within the browser. I asked for a screenshot of the "issue" and that never came in. The client also made changes to my code and kept demanding I fix it.
I closed down the contract and opened a case, thinking it would be obvious that I did the work as asked and they were very difficult to work with.
It was interesting to read the responses. They kept saying they needed more and more features before they agreed the work was done. I said that the contract, as specified in both the post and ensuing messages was done. I never heard these new requests.
Throughout the correspondence with upwork, the client kept changing their story, outright contradicting themselves over and over.
Upwork, of course, sided with the client over the new feature request they demanded. Apparently, upwork thinks that a contract is infinite work. I pointed out each lie, asked for a screenshot of the impossible bug, and explained the new features (which changed multiple times during the case) would take too long to complete.
I lost the case and ended up doing the job for half price. Upwork is optimized to client first, which is just wrong to the workers. I had to pay 20% of my earnings at $50/hr and up, so it's not like I had zero value to the company.
I closed down my account over that.
Unfortunately, how contractors get really screwed is when they run into a real asshole client. Once this happens they are reported to upwork (for not doing free work usually). Good contractors that worked for us were routinely banned.
[I only have been on the client side.]
"As a general rule, wages earned by nonresident aliens for services performed outside of the United States for any employer are foreign source income and therefore are not subject to reporting and withholding of U.S. federal income tax."
The contractor in Russia that is registered on payoneer can issue an invoice to you, with an US bank account number.
I totally understand why things developed the way they did. The internet is huge and full of bad actors, and a nascent service is in real existential danger of being overwhelmed and swamped by fraud. If you tell bad actors why you're banning them and spend valuable time communicating with them it can put you out of business early on.
But like in so many other arenas, the Valley mentality hasn't adopted to the fact that they are no longer underdog rebels besieged by barbarians on one side and big scary rich corporations on the other site.
The reality is now that these companies are the ruling class, and the users are the general population. And people rely on these services and base their lives on them. Arbitrary and capriciously depriving people of access to these platforms without any kind of due process rights isn't OK any more.
There's a reason we have consumer protection laws, why someone decided we needed things like the Montreal Convention and the FDCPA and CPSC and so on. It's axiomatic that we can't trust monopolistic corporations to do right by the little guy.
This Silicon Valley mentality is increasingly going to lead to pitchforks, torches, and regulation in the near future, it's an inevitability. Rightly so.
I absolutely despise this very common pattern. In the end, the company gets free publicity for screwing you over, and the 100s or 1000s of people in the same situation won't be helped - just because they don't have a massive userbase on social media.
What happens if Amazon, right now, decided that you are not a good customer and deleted every one of your accounts and deleted all your AWS data? As of right now, you can't buy anything from them goods wise. And if you were using AWS as a webservice platform, now, you can't. No recourse. At all.
Your Google account was hacked, but google saw you as a spammer and hacker trying to penetrate Google's security systems. They blast all accounts away that have logged in with your IP address of the duration of the hack. You're now without a whole slew of services. Dead in the water, again. Who do you call? Nobody. But you can leave a badly worded post in Google forums - oh wait, you can't even do that.
Capitalists being the ruling class in capitalism is not new (it's rather the effect that the system is named for), neither is capital being drawn to new technologies that improve the return on capital and reduce the relative power of labor.
People actually have sued against that in Germany, and a German court determined that Amazon has to allow you to recover all your data, and all digital products (e.g. Amazon Kindle books) you paid for.
In the USA, non-negotiable click-through agreements are legal. And we, the citizenry, can give up a good class more of rights then the EU allows. These rights would have protected their citizens, and in your instance have. They do not protect US citizens.
We have small claims, and the hope an instance of the company resides in the state. If not, they can effectively ignore small claims. Nothing to collect from.
There is no scenario where you are not beholden to some corporate entity, and most likely you're beholden to dozens of them to keep you alive and keep your life functioning at all times. The food supply can be cut off by less than a dozen major corporations, and you will die. Less than a dozen major corporations can choke off the supply of fuel or electricity, and you will die. This is true, in one form or another, in every developed or semi-developed nation on earth. Maybe the government acts fast enough to counter that action by said corporate giants, maybe not. It's a system built on the profit motive being the predictable pursuit by said corporations, meaning they overwhelmingly will not behave that way; combined with the threat of military or domestic armed reaction by their respective government (namely that any tech giant can trivially be destroyed any day of the week by the US Government; Zuckerberg could be in chains in three hours if the US Military decides to do it, there are consequences that prevent that as it is).
What happens in ~1955-1975 if AT&T, at their peak of monopoly, decided to blacklist you from their telephone service?
What happens in 1910 if Standard Oil decides to cut off your shop's access to its oil-related products?
What happens if you're in a small town, with Walmart as the primary goods seller, and Walmart blacklists you? Maybe you can drive somewhere far out of your way, if you can afford to, and replace them as an option. At a minimum it severely screws with your life. There's nothing unique about Amazon there, you can order from other online stores, and it might be a huge inconvenience.
What people think is new with Google et al., is not new.
It rather depends on the reason for the decision to put you on the blacklist.
In general, AT&T was allowed its monopoly power under government regulation. A goal of the Communications Act of 1934 was to provide universal telephone service. Section 254(b) lists the Universal Principles, including (4), "All providers of telecommunications services should make an equitable and nondiscriminatory contribution to the preservation and advancement of universal service."
If your service was cut off because you liked to pump line voltage through the phone system, then they could do that because it's a nondiscriminatory meant to protect the phone service.
If they cut you off because you wrote a letter to the editor complaining about their services, then that's discriminatory, and you could take your complaint to the local public utilities commission or FCC ... or perhaps sue as well; I don't know the regulatory history.
In any case, there was certainly government oversight of what AT&T could do, in terms of putting someone on a blacklist.
Don't rely on free services for mission-critical aspects of your life. And don't expect free services to provide support.
And no, "it isn't free, you pay with your data" doesn't make it a paid service, it is still free.
Starting on amazon is great, as it really is cheap at small scale, and you can test your shit at large scale for short periods... but it gets expensive fast as you grow, so the more you can do to prepare to move, (or credibly threaten to do same) the better off you are.
And don't put any valuable eggs in a free basket.
Most companies don't even show up to court, because the cost of paying a lawyer is more than you are suing them for in small claims court.
If they did show up to court, they would then have to argue that (a) their terms of service take precedence over the law -- in many juristictions, it is illegal to write a contract preventing someone from suing you for particular conditions.
And they would have to argue that (b) their terms of service are still valid, considering that they aren't honoring their contract in even paying the OP in the first place.
If OP took Upwork to small claims court, it is almost guaranteed that he would get the money owed to him by the clients who paid him that Upwork is currently holding onto illegally.
People mistake them for absolute laws but they can be challenged and many of them are not even enforceable.
Are such agreements enforceable?
As you suggest bringing this to your local trade body and making a formal complaint is probably the way to go. It will take a long time and a lot of complaints to get there though. In the mean time avoid them, both the buy and sell side.
You can derive that is very likely the case based on the intelligence and composure of the rest of their post. You can also derive it directly from the full paragraph text, which is not referring specifically to Upwork, rather it is referring to Silicon Valley broadly, and why "things" developed the way they did with how SV firms have tended to treat customers/users.
The core issue is that Silicon Valley sold a dream: "We can build business without people in its ranks. Instead, we can staff programmers and build glue-logic around our business cases, and automate everything. This saves all the money from hiring people."
The investors bought into that idea. Because if it did work, you can have companies that are 1/10'th the size of previous high industry companies, because all the work is automated. Look no further than all the current crop of companies using software in this fashion. Some AI system "learned" that your combined inputs related a fraction higher as fraud - banned. Or someone checked a box in the wrong location and you're locked out. Or your system is deleting user content at random, and there is no-one to call.
Who ends up being tech support for these new companies? The executives. But that's only for people smart enough to realize to send them messages, or otherwise garner their attention via Twitter, Reddit, or HN and happen to be in the right place at the right time. Even the aforementioned gamification needs to be done for even HN, to get the right post at the right time.
Where do we go from here? In truth, not many places. Non-software companies with real human service will get eaten out of house and home by companies willing to make deals with machines. The VC funding is in AI businesses, not traditional. But one can still choose to be customers at respectful businesses. But the internet makes that much harder, as going online also includes 'selling out' customer service. Some AI will then tell agents "you can't do that" even , if it is what's needed.
You're talking like the only solutions to this can come from the market, and if the market forces won't work that way then we're screwed and must give up.
The real solution to this is customer/employee friendly regulation. I'm thinking something like a rule requiring an easy, timely way to appeal to a human that's empowered to override the automation after any adverse ruling by it; backed up by the threat of fines and legal sanctions. In the current American federal political climate, that's a stretch, but there are other jurisdictions, at the state level and internationally, where something regulation like this might be feasible.
That said, I've worked for a b2c website. The internet is jam packed with scammers. I'd bet it's an order of magnitude worse on sites like upwork where real money changes hands. At least in our case, if we'd had these types of regulations, we would have terminated service to a list of countries that produced little revenue and high hassle.
Obviously we just need to make this kind of behavior expensive enough that execs don't take 20 years to develop a reasonable support model. Hold them personally responsible for their companies, and don't let them hide behind their shitty algorithms.
New users often charge bellow their market rate in order to build reputation on the platform. Then once you get your 5 stars and start making good money you get banned kafka style, lame explanation, no resource.
Looks like they want to keep it a race to the bottom more than anything.
Perhaps Upwork makes more in volume if workers race bottom. Or they are really dumb. Lets hope some insider post anonymously and explain the contradiction.
It only makes sense to do that if they suspect that is the last job their user will take. Otherwise it's better to keep the user happy and keep taking a percentage for all their future work.
It's not Silicon Valley you're railing against: it's blind unthinking bureaucracy. It's a problem that goes back much further than the days when "silicon valley" was all orchards.
Comparing this to private Silicon Valley companies that are't accountable to anyone for their behavior towards individual users actually illustrates the problem neatly.
Silicon valley looks at this problem, and says that it needs to be disrupted. It then disrupts it, by taking away power from organizations that have it, and giving it to itself. We then all pat ourselves on the back and order a rum and coke.
What does that have to do with this? Well...
The reality is now that these companies are the ruling class, and the users are the general population. And people rely on these services and base their lives on them.
That's exactly how this feels. It's everywhere in Silicon Valley. And when you try to talk to them and point out that maybe this is unfair, it's like they don't even grok it. "Fairness? Morals?"
It's about power. The power to control you and have you obey. You either have power or you don't. And unless you build something, you have no power at all.
Those are uncomfortable conclusions. It pretty much defines what you have to do in life, for years, if you want to be in a position where anyone will listen. But that was always true – the world just makes it more obvious now.
But... It's also exciting. We have the ability to acquire power. It's true that most of us won't acquire funding, which is what we really need to influence the world. But at no point in history has it been so easy (relatively speaking) for a side project to suddenly influence the world. If you were a farmer in the middle ages, you were boned. Ditto for most of the present world today.
Isn't it weird? SV suddenly became the ruling class; you're exactly right. And no one has really been talking about the implications yet.
Most of his comments that I've seen are rarely on topic, and are followed up with an artifact of his mental illness, which is tragic, but typically has no bearing on the subject. So yeah, people downvote those comments that have no bearing on the discussion.
I was so terrified to post any of this or to speak publicly about anything that it was very hard to read the replies. I was sort of skimming them holding my breath for the inevitable backlash. I happened to read your reply, and it happened to be nearly a verbatim description of me, completely by chance. And me replying about Terry was also by chance, since Terry was the first example that popped into my head of someone who has it way worse.
The truth is, I've been struggling with a few mental problems, and it's been very difficult. Partly because of how carefully you have to conceal them so as not to be labeled and shunned, or at least treated differently.
Somehow in the heat of the moment, it all made complete sense that my mental instability was so obvious that people were talking about it. And I was so stressed about the entire situation that I immediately started replying without thinking. That's more than a little stupid, on a few axes.
But um.. hi. I have a few problems. They're not so bad. And I try to remember to be thankful that at least it's not anywhere close to what Terry's going through. But they do get in the way of social interactions. This whole thread is arguably some evidence of it. Suffice to say, I empathize strongly with Terry and I wish that there were a way to include him in some activities.
When you're completely isolated by almost everyone you care about, it starts to get to you after awhile. I don't know what's up with me but I'm just going to take a break and focus on making the alt-HN good.
Sorry again. I tried to find your email but it's hard to locate. In hindsight my replies to you are incredibly embarrassing (more like mortifying, but whatever).
> I was so stressed about the entire situation that I immediately started replying without thinking.
You're not alone, there are plenty of times when I read comments I made the night before and wince at what I've said. :P
If you want to talk, my email address is my HN username with a period instead of an underscore at gmail; it's probably a better way to have this sort of discussion.
It's not really an exaggeration to say I felt insane. And like a worthless excuse of a washed-up community member. I know this isn't the goal of the penalties, but the psychological effects after 90 days are quite real.
Other people, though, take the opposite approach and paint him as a saint, willing to paint over the negatives.
Good point. Which kinds of negatives?
It's an important question for alt-HN. It seems like it'd be mostly harmless to let Terry post there, but your comment hints at possibilities I hadn't considered.
I'll probably lob an email your way. There are a few crucial questions to answer before alt-HN goes live. Like "What should we focus on?" and "What color should the topbar be?"
Everyone is convinced the new topcolor should be x. Unfortunately x turns out to be thread local to whoever's speaking. (Ba-dum tss.)
Do you think it's possible to launch a site with an arsenal of bad jokes? We've got hundreds. "The Bikeshed" would be a good name for a bar in SF.
Thanks again. Really. You have no idea how nice it was to find empathy anywhere in the replies.
Being jobless and homeless, as well as estranged from his family. His apparent inability to interact with the rest of society, or even really to participate in our consensus reality. He appears to have Tourette's as well, and doesn't seem to have much ability to control his ability to spew racist pejoratives when he's upset.
I would absolutely go to a bar called The Bikeshed, especially if it had an LED sign outside, and with every drink you got to push a button to increase/decrease one RGB value.
I see it as he is trying to reach out, but he is downvoted because why? What effects does a downvoted have on someone? I know I feel bad and I'm generally a person that says "eff it" to a lot of things. I would also like to believe people, especially here on HN, who are much smarter than myself, or so I would like to believe, have all read the same articles and comments I have over the years.
One doesn't need to engage if one does not want to, but where the hell is the humanity?
Sorry, the more I think about this the more upset I get.
Besides, where does that policy end? Will we let Torvalds post free-verse poetry? Should Brendan Eich be allowed to write political screeds?
Did you know youtube removed all of his 850+ videos? That was actually tragic. Archive.org has copies of most of them but no one sees them anymore.
Also, did you notice? He singlehandedly built an OS. If I'm destined for a similar fate, I'll take a quiet life filled with skill.
Besides, it'll be entertaining. I have quite a show planned!
Let's not romanticize what he's going through.
I'm not sure what your problems are like, but I'm glad you've found a positive way of dealing with them.
Terry's videos being gone is actually pretty tragic; they were interesting, and his accomplishments can't be denied, and should be documented.
He can't control himself. He has no choice but to experience life through his eyes. He's excluded from pretty much every group he tries to join. Yet he persists.
Not only do I respect that, but I am starting to see why everyone conceals any whiff of mental illness. As soon as you reveal this fact, you become labeled and publicly known. And for people obsessed with their reputation, that'd be a risk.
In the same way you can't control whether you're gay, you can't control whether you have certain problems. Mine are nothing like schizophrenia, so it was a little amusing to be given the same treatment. But if hypothetically it were true that I suffered from some, your reaction would be to shake your head and call it tragic. That says a lot about the community.
No one can force anyone else to care. But it's a problem I've thought about a lot. Are we doomed to the Reddit and HN duopoly + faux-edgy 4chan? And Reddit is inherently balkanized due to the nature of subreddits. If you want to talk about problems with like-minded people, your options are severely limited. You pretty much have to create a throwaway or retreat to safe spaces. I've benefitted from both. Can we do better?
One experiment was to invite people to message me on keybase:
The response was awesome. A lot of them opened up about some really heavy things. We talked philosophy, morals, and mainly just gave people a shoulder to lean on when they needed it. I don't know whether it had much effect. I could tell some people didn't get much out of it, though I tried. But for others it was like uncorking a bottle, and there were often fascinating people on the other side of the screen.
This suggests a way forward, but I'm not sure what. It doesn't scale. But maybe it doesn't need to. I have time.
The thing is, when you bring people like this together, and they act as a unit, they can have an impact on the world. It's a force to harness.
Yet they never get this opportunity, because we're all so busy with our own lives. Why put up with someone's nonsense? Why not just hit that block button if they're giving you trouble? Poof.
That's little consolation to the human on the receiving end. We have no choice but to experience life as the master of our own existence, confined to the limits of our skull. Your thoughts are immediate; no words are required. Everything seems so obvious to you, because you're at the center of it. You're forced to be.
That poses a problem for people whose minds don't fit society's tight molds.
As a community, our reaction has been to dismiss these stories as tragic and to move on with our lives, or to quietly prune them so they can't bother anyone. But as one of the pruned, I can tell you that it's a lonely existence.
My hypothesis is that there is a way to build a place for everyone to come together. Terry's case is difficult, because he seems unable to prevent himself from copy-pasting gigantic walls of text (among other things). But if you were to actually explain to him that the problem is the walls of texts, he at least has a target to aim for that he can occasionally hit. Maybe not often, and maybe only once a month, but those few times would bring him happiness. That's only possible if you're willing to actually speak with them.
I'm not sure yet how to accomplish this, but I'm resolved to try. Slack might be part of it.
The overall point is that it's not helpful to shake one's head and label them. From a game theory point of view, it's better to harness everyone's talents rather than isolate and deny them just because of some mistakes.
The situation is hopeless. I've tried. But sometimes I'm asshole, and they expect people to bow to them and speak in just the right way for anything to happen. I started off by trying to be nice, but I rambled a lot. They said they simply don't read emails that long. So I tried short + nice.
I started with a simple request. "Why am I not allowed to upvote anything?" The answer is because I was upvoting too much fluff. Oh.
Ok. I promised to be more careful and judicious. Then I asked "May I have my upvoting privileges back?"
They said "After we see a pattern, and only if you don't bug us anymore."
There are two ways to react to that. One is to be happy that they're willing to work with me. The other is to be disgusted and reject their notion of moderation. I choose the latter.
(Unfortunately, that necessitates building an entire clone of HN. So that's what I've been doing.)
Why such a strong reaction? Because this has been going on since late November. This has been a long and epic back and forth between them and me.
Worse, when you open up an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, it's because you need something from them. You're only doing it because you're forced to. And whenever I get forced to bow to someone, it upsets me. I can't help it. I want to understand, and I genuinely want to change. But that requires talking to people like an actual human, not as an annoyance you wish would vanish. That appears to be too much to ask.
The result is that most of my emails to hn@yc wavered between angry and upset. Sometimes I wrote things that were deeply unfair to them. Some were simply crazy. I was angry about having to spend so much of my life wondering whether I'm penalized or why I can't upvote or whether I'm saying the right things.
Since they whine whenever I post their emails, I'm limited to only posting mine. Here was my response to "[We'll give you your upvoting privileges back] after we see a pattern, and only if you don't bug us anymore":
Never mind. I don't answer to you. It's not your community. It's everyone's.
I was looking for mutual understanding. You're expecting subservience.
Nah. I promised to be more careful with my upvotes. I meant it. It's not right to demand proof for such a small request. I already gave you reason to believe I would comply, and my word as a community member.
And since that's a preview of things to come, I will break off my attempts here.
Best of luck, gents.
(That's genuine and heartfelt, for what it's worth. I really do like both of you and wish you success.)
Then my last email to them, two weeks later (a couple weeks ago):
I think you put on the ranking penalty again.
Inline image 1
If this is true, it's unspeakably frustrating that you won't talk to users beforehand.
Take off my rate limit. Take off the ranking penalty. Give me back my voting privileges.
This isn't even about me. I don't like that you treat your users like this. It's wrong that you keep doing this with no explanation and no recourse. I've met people that have experienced the same treatment.
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You expect users' comments to get better when you treat them like dirt? Really?
Most people don't even know you behave this way. And there's no way to tell them, because you've ensured you cannot ever speak about HN on HN.
It's been since December that I've had to endure these penalties in one form or another. There's not much choice other than to start writing about this.
That about sums it up.
As you can see, I've been mostly excluded from the day to day back-and-forth. My comments immediately start at the bottom:
And they stay there:
I'm not saying this was a good comment I just wrote, but if you wanted to read it, you'd have to collapse 10 comments to get to this one.
The most annoying part of all this is that I have no one to talk to. Most people get tired of the topic quickly. Others just apologize for the way the mods are acting and say that they're right, my comments are bad and I should feel bad. Maybe that's true. And then any time I find anyone here to talk to – the only place I've had since I was 19 where I really feel like I can be myself – the thread just gets collapsed anyway and I get yelled at for speaking.
So when I see Upwork or other sites abusing their users, it immediately sends me into "Yeah, I know that feeling" mode.
We have nowhere else to go. Everyone knows HN, so everyone goes here. Think about that. You have no options to even slightly disagree with policy.
I don't think I'll be successful on a new site. There's roughly a 0% chance. But it's the only thing I can do. Between that or being servile, I'll take the nil chance.
Y'know, if someone really wanted to influence my actions, all they had to do was just say "Yo, I hear you, but there are important reasons we can't allow topics like that on HN." Or "This is too axe-grindy, and you've been posting a lot of those. Would you mind restraining yourself?" Or "That was kind of an uninformed opinion. Would you mind putting more effort into your comments?"
I guess they're worried people would flip out if they did that. But it's just the opposite for me. It's a sign that they're actually asking a community member, proactively, rather than hitting them with a stick and waiting for them to notice.
Ironically, whenever users are banned, they get a public reply.
Either way, I don't really matter, so nothing will change. The two ways to change the situation are to shut up and act differently or to become someone who matters. Maybe I'll succeed at the latter.
The thing is, I get it. I really do. I can only imagine how hard their job is. The amount of deftness and thought that goes into every interaction with the community cannot be overstated. Most other communities screw up, but HN has made almost zero tactical mistakes over the last decade. Evidently, their strategy is working.
I just don't like that it's dehumanizing. They treat you like pawns. And if they don't treat you that way, it's because they are nice and cordial at first (I remember those days...). But you better not express anger or send them rants. We live under the thumb.
Annoyingly, even now, I'm wavering back and forth about whether to even post this. I'm torn between wanting to respect HN's goals of intellectual gratification and my own personal selfishness of wanting to speak about this. And then I remember that we are only allowed to talk about exactly the topics they approve of, and nothing else. And then I remember that I had to spend weeks before I even understood the nature of the penalties I was receiving. How I'd try to upvote someone and nothing would happen, and so I convinced myself it must've been a bug or a caching problem. How I really believed that these people were smarter than me and had no interest in psychologically manipulating their users.
Note that although this comment is long, it elides much of the interaction between the moderators and myself. If you want a clearer picture of what precisely happened, whoever happens to read this can email me. But it's really important to me to be portraying accurate portraits – nothing here is exaggerated or unfair. Part of what protects the mods is that everyone believes they are reasonable people who don't have a single bullying bone in their body, so you lose credibility any time you try to suggest otherwise.
The most interesting discovery is that throughout this process, the response has consistently been: We can't treat you any differently than everyone else. In a way, I respect that. But that also implies there are many others in exactly the same situation. Maybe I'll find those people and we can go build a treehouse. It'll be fun.
I thought their metamoderation system was great. The issue with Slashdot is that you had to be one of the chosen few with mod points that day to contribute to moderation.
Learned it from Reddit - upvotes are free, and it may make some people happy, so why not.
There is already Lobsters, afterall.
The regulation on style instead of substance on this site really make me question their commitment to intellectual / productive conversation.
Sometimes I wonder how long someone like Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, or Theo de Raadt would last on this site. I don’t think very long. A site that would ban the most influential hackers of our day simply for bad etiquette doesn’t really seem like a site for hackers.
(and i'm sure various industries before that)
I created a new twitter account and a few days lates it's banned. I haven't even had a chance to follow/tweet or do anything.
Forgiveness is an important part of humanity that, at times, must be enforced.
You can test this out- try to get customer service as a yeoman and try to get customer service as a valley baron.
So, lesson learned- never enter true occupation data in a field when registering.
They're being unreliable and stonewalling an extraordinarily tiny percentage of their massive userbases. That's precisely why it doesn't matter to them in a business sense.
Also, similar to recruiting these places need to attract top talent consistently not just warm-bodies. Highly skilled workers can afford to exercise other options much better.
So maybe it's not quite as monopolistic as the others you mentioned but it has clearly (and rationally) chosen to compromise fairness to its users to a degree that it likely could not in a more competitive market.
What the hell does that even mean? I write PHP for a living and this makes no sense to me.
Do they mean retrieve the ID via session_id() and pass it onto a page, like in a GET parameter?
But you're right. The question is confusing even for experienced PHP devs.
PHP Dev or not, that question is too vague to be answerable. You'd have to ask additional questions just to understand the question itself.
I remember someone angrily posting on HN about failing an HR phone screening because they tried arguing with the interviewer that Linux was not Unix, but was Unix-like (a sign that the interviewee clearly knew the one-word _expected_ answer that was on the interviewer's answer key). Just answer the very simple question and move on, instead of trying to show off or whatever. Part of functioning in the workplace means communicating effectively and professionally (by not being condescending, for example) with other people that may have different skill sets. The best engineers are very cognizant of this.
It's a shit sandwich, but in tough times, that's all you can find to eat.
You're not making money if they're refunding the client. This article and people in this thread suggest it's a terrible way to make money and to AVOID at all costs.
Or, you can use this company and I look forward to reading more of these articles.
I don't use them anymore, as I've gotten out of the tech industry and became a professional baker instead, but I get the feeling that we on HN tend to hear a few horror stories, and ignore the thousands of success stories.
I'm not saying that there shouldn't be changes made, but anecdotal evidence does not instantly justify a witchhunt and boycott.
Edit: For a slightly less sardonic answer, I prep an innumerable number of different items every day, and they all have to look near perfect. I decided that while programming was a passion of mine, I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted to create projects that I found interesting.
Baking though? If I want to make something at work that I find interesting, I can experiment and do that, and my boss encourages me.
So I still code, but I stopped doing it for money and started doing it to contribute to society. Baking I do for fun and money. It was a later in life career change, but I'm much happier for it.
"Let's build a platform that exploits desperate developers..."
I spent probably 2-3 hours for that $15 (and 3 hours more for additional $30) and then about 2 hours for that $100 (expected $50). These are all excluding messaging, just actual work.
It's a standard guide when joining new freelance sites.
The platform is pretty buggy, I don't enjoy using it. The only reason I stick to it is the "pool" of freelancers is pretty big so you can likely find someone qualified and decent to work with. You get _tons_ of junk though. You can limit this by setting to only in US, only those that have worked x hours and have already made x. Setting strict requirements at least can remove the bait and switch or fresh spam accounts.
Fun story time. I was looking for a developer and found a guy that seemed to have a nice profile, clear picture, etc. When I messaged him the responses felt very foreign and quick. Didn't really make sense so I reverse image searched the photo and found the photo belonged to a developer but not the guy I was talking to (different names). I emailed the real guy (he had a portfolio site and some nice programming articles) and asked if this was really him on Upwork. Nope. He said he's never had a profile on there and thanked me as he went to report it.
In my experience Upwork support has always been slow and cut-rate. I realize the irony as Upwork most likely employs contractors from its platform who aren't necessarily invested in building a product or community. It's unfortunate but this is a huge shortcoming both from a support and policy (ToS) standpoint. Support needs to be invested in the product.
FWIW no freelancer (or gig economy worker for that manner) should be dependent on a single platform for income. There are so many job platforms to invest time and energy on - Upwork, Toptal, Gun.io, RemoteOk, etc. And the plethora of developer focused Q&A sites. Leverage those to augment your personal profile (site).
I'd also add a recommendation to spend at least a third of the time you spend doing billable work in building up your own pipeline — regardless of whether you're using a freelance service like us or not.
Threatening legal action against UpWork gets you far in these situations.
These SV companies think they can do whatever they want and sometimes need a harsh reality check that they must obey laws, especially as more and more people depend on them.
I can't wait for GDPR and alike to start regulating these atrocities against privacy, security and fraud like behaviour.
If anyone from UpWork is reading this, know that not I only I have personally closed my account, I will do everything in my power to keep hard working, honest engineers from your platform.
And help them in any shape or form should they seek litigation against you.
Remote jobs here:
Actually, the OP is not a customer. A customer is someone who delivers money. Upwork treated their actual customer quite well: they refunded him and talked to him like human beings - even told him the reason why the OP was suspended.
If you do enough mental gymnastics to argue that they are... Well, then the word has lost all meaning.
I do not think that is very sustainable long-term... I think you'll be able to find much better quality workers in system that is more equitable.
However, systems like that don't exist.
I think freelancers are a major part of the problem, especially those who are very desperate for work. For an equitable system to exist you must be someone who is ready to say no at any point of the getting to know the project phase.
As a designer i find it easier to close deals on the phone and imagine other experienced freelancers operate the same way. Unfortunately a call based system is inherently wrong for an online platform that aims to earn profit on project fees. The reason upwork has been successful is because it charges fee on a project vs charging the customer or freelancer a flat fee and sadly such setup is not ideal for a freelancer who may be looking at projects in the tens of thousands range.
The problem is not, as you seem to be hinting at, some mediation or escrow for freelancers, which is what the majority of Upwork is.
I think you could have a great system that "puts people in touch with each other" in a professional way. Maybe invite-only? Hmm.
One time, me and a client logged into Upwork to close a contract out on the same network. We both got banned :)
Six months ago from nowhere I got a sudden email about my account suspension. I appealed and try to prove my identity with Government Issued ID card, Academic details even My name in the list of the post-graduates(with no result).
They keep on denying to re-activate my account and suggest me to withdraw my money, that I have not yet.
I can still browse Upwork, It is becoming more toxic with agressive bidding and way lower quality jobs now a days.
I hope you get this resolved, but let this be a warning that these "gig" companies are nothing but a scam.
> Before starting the verification process, I completed the second gig
That seems ... optimistic!
> She talked a bit more, but I could barely understand her anything due to connection issues.
> “That went far easier and quicker than I expected. Lovely.”
Other than that his experience does seem extremely frustrating.
Some more alternatives:
is it really so surprising that they are fucking abysmal at customer service?
my experiences with them are 100% bad, but nowhere near as bad as what the OP article discusses.
A "mechanical Turk", as amazon would call it, a "Code Monkey" as Jonathan Coulton sang in his song.
A completely exchangeable person, an employee as a service. How the code is written, who does it, is entirely irrelevant. Entirely replaceable, with no recourse for the "contractor".
The main component of the gig economy is exactly this, completely disenfranchising the worker by commoditizing work. You try to negotiate higher pay, you simply get replaced.
It's even more insidious than that. Previously, it's workers came together to create unions, to prevent abuses by the company owners. Go back far enough, and companies hired hit squads in part of the US government to kill union leaders and bust strikes.
Then, unions were demonized. They "enabled lazy and bad workers, and punishing good workers" - I thing I got the root of the arguments used.
Then comes the gig economy. We have a company, who "hires" employees, but then pits each employee against each other. Doing so then puts each employee in the position of "I'm against employee #2, and #3, and #4". This poisons the pot for any chances of coming together, and fixing wrongs. And it also easily allows what we would have called "scabs" to immediately enter if there is a union forming.
It's because it's in Germany, in the USA they would be laughed at.
Someone once created an account on upwork in my name (based on my github probably), took me ages to get that one shut down..
When you're a serf on another's platform, you're subject to their rules. What rules are they? "Does their automated system and people like you?"
Is it unfair? Yes. Is it bad all around? Yes. Is there anything you can do about it? Yes - posting to social media and naming and shaming. That's it.
Honestly you're probably better off you ended your upwork journey after only a couple gigs.
I did a few projects on elance years ago but it was always a hassle and tough to find good projects/clients.
It sounds like you are providing good value/quality work to clients. Look to your network to find Go projects instead. Become more active in the community. Keep blogging.
Connect with other Go developers, ask around if anyone knows anyone needing a Go developer. Lots of times developers don't have time to handle all the projects/clients they run in to and will hand them off to someone else they respect in the community.
You're going to find better projects/clients and higher paying side work that way than using upwork. And not have to deal with their hassle, fees and issues like this.
This might be a little bit of a gray area since it violates their ToS but since your account is suspended anyway if you have the emails of the two clients you worked with you could contact them and contract with them on new projects directly. (Don't mention here that you are doing this in case your usernames are the same on HN/upwork)
Especially the last one where you completed the gig, he paid you a higher amount than agreed on and then upwork refunded your fee for work completed. He should be open to moving forward contracting directly.
Good luck finding side work.