Unpopular Opinion: Stop Patronizing Users

I think this is fine by Facebook. It can be considered a dark pattern, but it serves its goal which is getting as many users as possible past this screen.

Facebook is a company that prioritizes growth (signups, engagement, time spent…etc) above all else. They measure everything and they know what they are doing.

I expect they tested multiple versions of that page and found this version to lead to the highest acceptance rate, without hurting engagement or leading users to leave the service.

I deleted my Facebook account two years ago. My feed became too toxic because of what’s happening in Egypt. I felt way better after doing this and I encourage everyone I know who is going through some depressive episodes to do the same.

However, this is only my perspective, and it doesn’t make the wellness argument right (the argument that spending time on Facebook makes people feel worse).

One point that didn’t get enough attention in Mark’s EU hearing is when he mentioned that Facebook researched the wellness topic. He said one of their findings is that people feel worse if they mindlessly scroll through their feed watching news and videos. They feel better and less lonely if they see content from their connections. That’s why Facebook altered the news feed algorithm to show more of this content.

I don’t like the current tone in the industry that patronizes users by considering them unable to decide for themselves. There is some truth to this argument but it is a slippery slope if we start thinking we know what’s right for people.

The internet is an open space and people are able to decide what’s good for them. If you think you can do better, do it, otherwise stop patronizing others considering them stripped of their free will.

Anchor App

I am trying to settle in Berlin. So my blogging frequency has gone down. I have lots to talk about and share. Hopefully I find an apartment soon, settle, and get back to life.

I recently heard about Anchor App from GaryVee. He described it as “the twitter of voice”.

The app idea is simple. You create an account, follow people, get followed, and create waves.

A wave is a shorter than 1:59 minutes audio.

You say what you want in less than this duration and your followers can listen to, reply with other waves, and echo (retweet/repost) your waves.

I like the idea and the execution. It is simple and using voice only lowers the pressure that video puts on one to be in good look and share thoughts with other format than text.

Here are my first two anchors:

The app is available for iOS and Android. Download it and follow me at Mostafa Nageeb (There are no usernames yet!)

Uber vs Careem Deep Pocket War

Bloomberg reported that Uber’s middle east rival Careem is raising $500m round at $1 billion post money.

Few weeks ago I listened to this recode podcast with Bill Gurley of benchmark capital. Bill is on the Uber’s board of directors and they invested in Uber’s A round.

Reading the Bloomberg report reminded me of this part from Bill’s interview. The bold lines are the host’s words.

When is it going public?

You know, I don’t think that we’re going to be going public anytime in the near future because of all the issues that we just talked about. We have a large number of competitors, even with the deal done.

Well done, by the way.

Thank you. [Competitors] who are very deep pocketed, who have decided that their primary form of competition is not going to be like building a different app or a differentiated service or a different level, it’s just price. And so there are intense subsidy battles going on.

All over the world.

All over the world. And those companies, when they approach investors, tell them, “Uber is going to go public, and then they’re going to have to be profitable, and then we’re really going to sneak up on them with these discounts.” While that’s the game on the field, and it’s one that I find to be remarkably messy and ugly, I don’t think it would be in our best interest.

So raising more money is the way to go.

I don’t know if we need to. We have $9 billion in the bank and $2 billion of debt, which is the most any private company has ever raised.

It is clearly a massive subsidy war. Uber strategy is to end this war by introducing autonomous vehicles and replace all drivers. While this is happening in US, it won’t work in many other regions including the middle east, where Careem is operating.

I used to believe that Careem couldn’t do anything against Uber. Now I have some doubts.

Uber has great advantage when it comes to the tech. It is way better than Careem’s and Careem needs quite some time to reach a stable state.

Uber also has great advantage when it comes to the model’s efficiency. There is no call center, there is no direct interaction from Uber with the drivers beyond background checks and training. The Cairo office is being run by less than 10 people, putting most of the work on the car rental companies who give the drivers the license to operate legally for a fee.

Doing a back of the envelope calculation on Uber, I currently think they are profitable or reaching profitability very soon in Egypt. Due to

  • There is a massive growth in number of drivers and rides.
  • They are also cutting driver subsidies significantly (their biggest cost) & the current model only rewards very hard workers. Drivers who are doing 60-90 rides per week. I expect that most of the drivers are doing less than that making them pay the rewards for the 10-20% (personally estimated) who reach the bonus threshold (60-90 rides per week).

On the other side, Careem’s competitive edge used to be in accepting cash payments, which now Uber has.

If Careem succeeded in raising the above mentioned round, they might have a chance to play the long game against Uber, however I believe for Careem to win they should differentiate themselves on the following:

  • Tech: The tech has to “just works” all the time. The app should be localized and catered for the region instead of just following whatever Uber is doing.
  • CS: They should have an A class customer service. Uber is doing big changes to their customer service flow making it harder for users to reach them. Careem can differentiate on this if they managed to provide an Amazon level customer service while reducing the chances of issues happening.
  • Driver incentives: Uber is cutting driver incentives significantly making many drivers unhappy. Can Careem provide a better model? A model where drivers switch from Uber to Careem? While Careem pricing is more expensive, I think Uber drivers make more money because they get more rides due to the bigger user base.
  • Loyalty: Uber’s customer loyalty is coming from the quality of the service. Careem is doing some trials to make their customers more loyal by offering free credit/rides for the frequent ones. So far the rules for this isn’t clear. I think it could be another differentiation if done right.

Can Careem do all of this and be profitable?

Will one of them win? Who is it gonna be? Is it gonna be a massive “subsidy battle” as Bill Gurley said?

Will they coexist?

Will see.

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Mobile publishing

Seven out of my last 9 posts published on this blog are written on mobile. I use the WordPress app and hit the publish button from there.

With mobile traffic growing to be as big as – and sometimes bigger than – desktop. I wonder if the same trend prevails for publishing. Are people writing more on mobile with the same rate?

I am not talking about social media posts. I am talking about the main publishing platforms such as Medium and WordPress.

I wonder how the mobile publishing statistics look like.