The sharing economy: Everyone’s a maven at something

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 3:11 pm by George Smith

Everybody knows something. That’s the hook an on-line bidding bazaar for consulting services, called Maven, part of the alleged great knowledge-sharing economy, uses to sell what it does.

Maven connects people interested in speaking to thousands of experts knowledgeable in a specialized areas of science and business. As a user of Maven in the role of consultant, you set your rate hourly. The lowest you can go is $25/hour, which immediately sets it apart from crowd-sourced micro-task work at places like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. (More, on which, later.)

A couple years ago I joined up for Maven and listed my areas of expertise — which are pretty obvious if you read this blog. National security issues, specializing in weapons of mass destruction, cybersecurity, and — as a side — protein chemistry/biochemistry.

Maven lists your profile and bio, anonymized or not, depending on your desire. Presumably it is searched when someone is looking for experts which hit your keywords.

Maven will also boost your profile — for a fee.

In the time I’ve been on Maven, my profile has been viewed — at best — three or four times. Put bluntly, it never comes up in search.

This didn’t bother me. I’m used to being overlooked in the winner-take-all scheme of things. I decided to ignore the account.

However, when someone from corporate America does actually view your profile and decides to ask for advice, Maven sends you a notification.

But what if the invitation to consult is from a total idiot?

Corporate America is rife with them, businessmen — maybe successful — who can still be pretty dumb at lots of things, individuals who wish to ask nonsensical questions.

My first request was from some American business that wanted to know about the potential for bleaching melanin.

There is none.

Melanin is a natural pigment of complex biochemistry. It’s present in almost all animals. One of evolution’s great achievements, there’s no way to make it go away.

Or, in another way of speaking, you can’t turn black and brown people into white people with rubbing creams or other chemicals. In fact, when melanin is inhibited by genetic disease, the result is very disfiguring.

I have no desire to take money from stupid people, or even to talk to them about things which they could easily determine, by themselves, to be impossible.

So I deleted the invitation to consult.

This is not how things are done. You have to formally decline and give a reason on Maven.

After another e-mail admonishment, I did so. I discovered Maven also rates your “expertness.” I was 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 5, without ever having consulted. This seems to mean someone can give you a bad review even if you decline to speak with them.

The next consulting request — one of the features of the service is that the businesses asking for the consult are rendered anonymous until a deal is clinched — was made by someone looking to discuss the issue of cyber-attacks and cyberterrorism on the US electrical power-generating infrastructure.

Seemed straightforward, something I could talk about and return good value.

I accepted the invitation.

The next thing the corporate customer wanted, still anonymous, was for me to take an on-line test.

Corporate America is also filled with people who have little respect for anything, or others with whom they wish to deal. Total contempt for people everywhere is now embedded in the American way of doing things.

I declined to take the test and indicated, through the Maven interface, that I would be turning down the offer to consult. No money would change hands.

Again, Maven requires you fill out a reason for turning down a consult. This was easy. The requesting party was not an honest broker. It wanted me to do something for it, take a test to prove myself in a manner which did not specifically have anything to do with the questions it wished to discuss.

My Maven rating, of course, was not improved by honesty.

A few weeks later Maven sent me an e-mail informing it needed “protein chemists” and that there would be a referral fee available if I could find one, or more, to consult on Maven. I informed the service that I was highly trained in protein chemistry. There was no answer.

A couple months went by, my weekly Maven bulletin informing me that my profile had been viewed “zero” times and not come up in search.

The next invitation to consult came from the same business originally interested in discussing American electrical power generation, cybersecurity, risk and evolution of effort on the matter. In fact, it was precisely the exact invitation I had rejected a couple months earlier, just cut and pasted into a new request.

I rejected it for the second time. Again, Maven required a reason. Reason given: Entity — after initial rejection — waited a couple months and refiled with an identical query, one that involved taking an on-line test. I won’t take such tests. Contempt, as I’ve said, is now found at all levels of American business life and it is something that anonymous crowd-sourcing software developed in the Silicon Valley conveys well.

Maven then inquired, could I refer someone to help the client. Absolutely not.

Why would I? Why would anyone? Some corporate entity, anonymous, dealing in bad faith. Just the kind of people you’ll go out of your way to help.

There are no news items on Maven Research, the on-line consulting marketplace, in the current Google News tab. Wonder why?


Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?” — at PBS.

The short answer: Why yes, yes it is. You can read why. The critique, from a headhunter, is long and detailed. LinkedIn is, unsurprisingly, just another corporate tech start-up for the business world, one that has degenerated into a scam which pits everyone stupid enough to be in its resume marketplace against everyone.

Again, this is a piece, at the heart of which is a contempt for dealing with people honestly and humanely.

Of interest, a more general observation on corporate human resources operations:

As I’ve written often in the past, I believe the automation of recruiting, job seeking and hiring has exacerbated America’s employment crisis. Online forms and tools like the “apply with LinkedIn button” make it too easy for the wrong applicants to apply for jobs, and harder for employers to find the right ones. But when a job applicant’s position on the stack of resumes can be bought, the search for the best-qualified candidates is even further compromised, and so is our economy.

America’s jobs crisis needs to be looked at as a failure of employers and job boards to ensure an accurate and fair employment process. Blaming unskilled and improperly educated job seekers is a fool’s errand, as Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli demonstrates in his book, “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It.” The talent is out there; it’s just getting lost in a system that employers have permitted to supplant more sound, accurate recruiting methods and their own good judgment.

Everyone from employers to job seekers to the U.S. Department of Labor should be scrutinizing the mechanics that control recruiting, job seeking and hiring — and how these systems contribute to the employment crisis.


  1. Christoph Hechl said,

    August 16, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    I wonder whether all this is part of our genetic code or natural order.
    Beeing fed up with humanity in general, lowered respect for human life, less tolerance, higher levels of aggression, while more and more humans are born.
    All species seem to have mechanisms, that regulate their population, maybe cannibalising ourselves is our specific way of doing so.

  2. George Smith said,

    August 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Did you see the headline a week or so ago, from a science paper, that higher environmental temperatures lead to more violence?

    The elevation of contempt for the human condition is cyclical, worldwide, I think. Good countries with good government use civilization to contain it. The US had slavery, as my colleague Frank at Pine View Farm says, America’s original sin. Deep down in the national DNA is always the lust to get something on the backs of others, aided by the mythology that if you have little or nothing in America it is because of a personal choice you made. If you believe the right, which is half the country, poverty would not exist if it were not for the Democratic party and non-white people making bad personal choices.

    The Silicon Valley is long past new and I regard it as a place of riches, not necessarily innovation at all. What’s the last memory of Steve Jobs? Dieing of cancer, a shriveled up supercilious man found guilty of collusion on price-fixing of digital books.

    What’s Apple do now that’s so great” Make the same thing over and over in a variety of shapes and sizes. Smartphone and digital music player technology is not transformative.

    Two years ago the US tech press, and the mainstream, insisted to everyone that Facebook, and one very smart Google employee, had freed Egypt. Democracy, via social networking, was going to come to the Middle East.

    So who remembers the Google guy’s name? He was the toast of the town, winning prizes and awards.


    Egypt, Libya and Syria have really succeeded with that social networking stuff. Turns out, all the people needed was Facebook pages.
    Who knew?

    What happened to Wael Ghonim? Here’s his shitty book.


    Surely now something of an embarrassment, particularly this week. $2.10 new, 99 cents used.

    OTOH, one could make a pretty amusing read listing all the great claims of innovation and technical revolution delivered in the last decade and how they really just didn’t work out for everyone’s benefit, mostly because they were never that great in the first place. Owning an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy doesn’t get you off food stamps.

    If you look at Google’s products it becomes obvious the dudes in Mountain View think they’re great at everything they choose to try their hand at. The self-driving car is going to get rid of 4 hours of rush hour traffic jam and gridlock in LA County any day now, I can’t wait!

    Just put some Google brains on things, problems solved!

    Sergei has spent $350,000 on synthetic meat although he, or the scientists, have not explained how they will engineer a circulatory system, lungs and heart for something the size of an 1800 lb steer.
    Cody Wilson made a 3D plastic guns, ending tyranny worldwide. Julian Assange destroyed government secrecy and is now on permanent vacation in Ecuador’s embassy in London. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife ended the problem of organ donation over a glass of wine and a couple lines of Facebook scripting code although someone I knew just died for want of a liver transplant.

    But on the boulevards of broken dreams, where we are constrained by alleged lack of skills and the right kind of brain power, caught in the mud and clay of little people mediocrity, scientists are still very worried about the loss of working antibiotics against bacterial infection and the fact that it isn’t easy at all to come up with a new penicillin.

    What we do have, in this cycle, is the development of technology that makes efficient the taking stuff from people and the generation of publicity on its innate greatness.

    Insanely great, insanely great, insanely great! If you want to work at Google answer the question: You’ve been reduced to the size of a pencil and put in a blender. How do you get out before it’s turned on?

    If you’re not smart enough to know that, you can’t work here.