The Brave New World of the Sharing Economy

Benjamen Walker's podcast "The Theory of Everything" investigates the new world being shaped by the big tech companies. A recent series of three podcasts (instaserfs) looked at what Walker calls the "On-Demand Economy", a development more advanced in the US than elsewhere. An associate of Walker attempts to live by working for Uber, Lyft, Manservant and other online services. He finds working without rights, for very little money and constantly hurried along by staff-facing apps to be a stressful affair. The lack of empathy shown by most of the companies in this space for those who actually provide the service is quite striking. A sobering corrective to the usual line that the customer experience is all important.

Word in a Browser

'Free' and 'Microsoft' were once words rarely uttered in the same sentence. Today, no longer ascendant and under pressure from Google's free browser-based text and spreadsheet editors, Microsoft offers its signature word processing and spreadsheet products in browser form, at a price of $0.00 (for personal use). The browser-based offerings are not as fully featured as the non-free desktop versions, but they are at least as good as Google's alternative. And surprisingly for anyone used to the ugliness of pre-cloud Microsoft interfaces, the portal is very clean, minimal and attractive.

Mighty Text and Pushbullet are Here to Help

They might sound like geek superheroes, but these two services offer some interesting communication capabilities. Mighty Text allows users to send and receive texts from their PC (as long as their mobile phone is nearby). The comfort of using a normal sized keyboard to send a text is liberating. Texts suddenly become far more expansive than the usual telegraphic efforts forced on users by tiny screens. A plugin also allows users to send texts from within gmail — only for Chrome browser users.

Pushbullet pushes links, attachments, messages and notifications instantly between any computer and phone that you add and verify, essentially bridging otherwise balkanised platforms. Works with all of the major browsers (see the image below).