“NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER rent to her”: The found art of negative Airbnb reviews

We needed to flee when Hurricane Florence landed on our home town of Wilmington, NC, last month, and came upon this unhappy but perfect exchange in our searches—a dismissive Airbnb review of a cottage on farmland near Odessa, FL, a sharp reply from the host, and then an assertive personal review about the renter herself on her profile page, the only one about her.

One-star reviews 1 with real content in them—such as we pored over as we travelled in our Travato last year, looking for RV parks up ahead that weren’t too dicey—are a form of pop art without equal. You can laugh until you cry, discuss the merits of the claims, think of counter-arguments, try to piece together the story. Almost always we felt the harsh reviews made the reviewers seem much worse than the offending teen-aged receptionist or breakfast bar or RV park that didn’t let your Chihuahua shit its little turds on the Astro-turf after 10PM.

In these and in so much online writing, what you’re really often seeing is an epidemic sense of entitlement and aggrievement. You’re seeing people disqualify themselves as judges of what’s good or decent or helpful for others with their smug tones and haughty wounded-ness. The whole world is not a stupid movie megaplex for your thoughtless angry “reviews”!

This is an example of the form, sort of. Seems like this girl, Jenny, rents out the Odessa cottage—which looks lovely and seems to have attracted nothing but really neat renters up until now because of the care the host puts into it, its charm, its chickens. Then the girl throws the kind of giant rager party where you pile furniture, install black lights, stamp hands at the door and admit packs of under-aged drinkers. This is in the back yard the cottage shares with the host’s own home. Then, when it comes apart Jenny leaves this flippant, tiny comment—which is the kind of thing that can tarnish an Airbnb host’s reputation and rental income:

Be sure to triple confirm if you’re throwing a party and advise if people will be outside.

The nerve of that host, Laurel, not letting her cottage be trashed at a party Jenny was printing flyers for and didn’t show up at!

Response from Laurel:
I want to respond this review because her comments are bold-faced lies. They were not having a graduation party. First, she NEVER told me that she was having a party. Two teenagers showed up and I asked them who they were. They said they were here for the party. I called Jennifer and she told me that they were having a family get together. Well that family “get together” turned into a RAVE. They were charging money and stamping hands at the door . They had removed all my furniture and piled it on top of each other in the bedroom and bathroom. They removed all my lightbulbs and replaced them with black lights. And the most disturbing thing was that they were serving alcohol to minors (beer from a keg in my refrigerator and shots – all the liquor bottles were strewn around the house). The new wood floor was soaking wet. I asked two of the teenagers who were standing outside how they knew the people who rented and they said that they didn’t know them. The party was posted on Instagram and kids from all over the county were there. II made them leave because IT WAS ILLEGAL ACTIVITY, How dare Jennifer say that it was a family get together and children were outside!!!!! SHE NEVER EVER SHOWED UP AT THE PROPERTY.

And over on Jenny’s profile, Laurel posts this TKO as well. Read on. I think I’m fully on the side of Laurel and the chickens.

This was the most upsetting experience I have ever had with my vacation rentals. I have been renting for over 4 years and nothing like this has ever happened. Jennifer instant booked and I had not communication with her about her stay. (Be careful about instant booking). The day of “her” arrival, two teenagers were sitting in my driveway in a truck. I asked them who they were and they told me that they were renting my house. I asked where Jennifer was and they said that Jennifer’s husband was coming to stay. Then they said they were having a small graduation party with family and a few friends. I called Jennifer and told her that she should have told me about the party. She said it would be very small. I saw kids and older people early in the evening and it seemed harmless. At around 9:30pm I went to let my dogs out. There was a full-blown rave going on in my house. An “adult” who said he was a friend of Jennifer’s husband was stamping KIDS hands and using a black light to see if they had paid. YES PAID!!!! I went in the house and all the furniture was gone from the livingroom/kitchen. Black lights had replaced all my lights bulbs. There was a keg in the refrigerator. Liquor bottles and shot glasses were strewn around. The wood floors were wet. All the furniture was tossed on the bed in the bedroom. The bedroom furniture was in the bathroom. I almost had a stroke. I called Jennifer who was at home sleeping. I told her what I thought of her and her disrespect. I talked to one of the kids and asked how they knew the graduate kid. They said that didn’t know him. They said that someone had posted on Instagram that there was a club party at my address. Strangers from all over the county were there. I shut down the party and made the “guests” leave. Fortunately the graduate and the adult friend stayed to clean up. Soon after Jennifer’s husband arrived and helped clean also. I didn’t call the police, but in hindsight I should have. UNBELIEVABLE. This woman is he most disrespectful liar I have ever met. NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER rent to her.

From Odessa, FL · July 2018

Notes:

  1. One of the common tropes in this medium is that the reviewer ‘would have left zero stars’ but needed to leave at least a star to tell others how terrible their experiences were

Watson Dialectics

An idea for a new Watson service/application

What if you could convene a conversation with people you have strongly disagreed with, or find it difficult to exchange facts with, people with whom you have been driven you to stridency and name-calling, and have Watson help keep that conversation on the right foot? What if Watson could ensure that the tone of this conversation remains dispassionate, its participants receptive, and its assertions verifiable in real-time?

Two services, Watson Tone Analyzer and Watson Discovery, are the tone- and fact-checking engines, respectively, in a new application, Watson Dialectics, which monitors conversation in real-time through a mobile application and a microphone.

If as you try to make your point your tone starts to overcook, Watson will stop the conversation and gently suggest a reframing, or a retreat back to the ground that had been coolly agreed upon. If your conversational partner says something like “50% of American males own fire-arms,” Watson will go verify this fact in the background and politely countermand if necessary. Human debate monitored and enhanced by artificial intelligence.

Watson Dialectics also uses IBM’s Mobile First platform, speech-to-text, and a couple of other services to create a system for real conversation (as opposed to the Conversation service that developers use to build chatbots, that is to enable “conversation” between humans and software).

It’d be great! You could bring it along to your kids’ cafeteria Lincoln-Douglas competitors, to the water-cooler chat at work, or to that Thanksgiving dinner table.

The Three Day Project Paradigm

Or: How to learn how to learn in five minutes

The way PyCon Canada lightning talk presenter Daniel Moniz (@ParagonRG) gives his presentation, “How to Learn Python in Five Minutes“, you could miss what a great system for learning to program is being outlined.

I stumbled on this video as I was looking around at online programming courses. The title, a bit of “trickery” that Moniz apologizes for, is click-bait for the casual browser. The title should instead be something like “How to learn how to learn in five minutes,” since it’s not about Python per se, and couldn’t cover too much in five minutes anyway, but instead uses the presentation to go over a system for learning that seems really useful.

It’s something Moniz calls the “Three Day Project Paradigm”. I can’t find anything (else) on the web about this. So maybe it’s his paradigm and this is its debut? Anyway, it’s imminently practical. The main thing about it is that when you’re done, you not only have learned in what seems to be an ordered and efficient way, but you’ve got this project, this thing, to show employers, tech talk attendees, your mom. You may use that thing to get a job, as he describes having done, or simply to acquire a new programming language or skill in a way that commits you to the learning.

I know that when I’ve interviewed at tech companies, I’ve sometimes had a project to show, and I can say the amount of gravity these projects have in the process is really useful. You built this product? Show us how it works. I mean, interviewers really want something to dig into, to poke at, a differentiator. I had a little document review tool I built as a Python web app (DiRT); a Kred social application for work; various text and XML processing utilities. When your projects are real and been made public—”shipped”—when they have little logos and cool names and nice-looking UIs, they say a lot about important skills like design, testing, “productization”, follow-through. They show you to be a shipper and not just a tinkerer, and that’s key.

This project paradigm has you working on a thing you really want to exist, that you may make a part of your resume but also use, that will be a part of your technical experience, your toolkit. Collaborative development tools like GitHub make this so easy technically. And of course working on such a project provides the focus and real problems and solutions that help you actually learn—in contrast to so many more passive or casual or disconnected learning environments.

Three Day Project Paradigm Outline

I copied the outline for the 3DPP from the video:

Preparation

  • Need a project idea, e.g., web crawler

Day 1

  • Mess around, learn language

Day 2

  • Complete functionality
  • Refactor
  • Eliminate bugs (bug-free by EOD)

Day 3

  • Complete docs
  • Refactor
  • Push to Github or online repo
  • Etc!

Day 4

  • Hands off!
  • Ship

Three day boot camps in Wilmington

I was looking at training in Python, my go-to programming language, because of recent conversations we’ve been having about technology in the Cape Fear area, in which this observation has been made repeatedly: We have a paradoxical disconnect between 1) local employers who want to hire practical, modern technical skills (JavaScript, mobile, web, analytics) and 2) local skilled tech workers who cannot find these employers!

I could imagine a set of Raleigh Iron Yard-style boot camps based around the 3DPP filling this disconnect in these ways:

  • Students and would-be employees could help define the languages and technologies, such as JavaScript and mobile, they most want to acquire skills in
  • Employers could help define real projects based on their real needs–and see those projects worked at in a win-win learning/training/solving situation
  • 3DPPs could supplement tech learning and training at local colleges, taking up emerging skills needs in a more agile way than traditional curriculae tend to
  • 3DPPs could train existing employees in work environment to upgrade them in their current roles

Example 3 Day Project

As an example 1 of the qualities above, 3DPP facilitators might help the NHC medical center frame a set of needs around mobile apps: A mobile solution for NHRMC employees to schedule rooms for meetings and patient consultations. Students of the boot camp, having already expressed a keen desire to learn Angular JS and Swift, virtualization, would adopt three projects in paired programming teams, apps and components that could be white-labelled for NHRMC but could also be adapted for other more general uses, such as real estate offices, universities.

  • One team would build the server component in Swift, on Linux, in the cloud

  • Another team would build the mobile application itself using Swift + Angular
  • A third team would build an analytics package that would integrate and provide dashboards about capacity, utility of rooms, energy costs, etc.

The students would pay for this learning experience, the medical center might also pay, or subsidize; maybe it has its employees in this training/solving. The medical center would indicate its willingness to purchase or hire for solutions to its real problems. The students would be building a real thing—again for their resume at least, if not for profit and employment. The framework of the real-world problem and compelling technological solutions would make the learning efficient, modern, “sticky”.

Notes:

  1. In this contrived example, the interfaces, communications and requirements of these applications would need to be worked out a bit more in advance, of course; hope this is still a useful illustration though of how stakeholders around this kind of learning could come to the table, particularly in regions like ours where there’s thought to be a lack of connection between skills and needs, firms and developers.