A simple fix to an Uber-related security issue

Uber has had its share of security issues. To be fair, these have been blown out of proportion by an innumerate media that doesn’t understand that when you have numbers the scale of Uber, some bad things will happen.

One of the challenges that Uber and its riders face is that it is difficult to verify that someone is a legitimate driver before getting into the vehicle. (You can do this by matching the license plate with the app, but that requires more diligence than a lot of people will do, especially when intoxicated.) It would be easy for someone to troll nightlife areas pretending to be an Uber driver.

Although this isn’t Uber’s fault, Uber would likely get the blame. There’s an easy fix: tell the passenger to look for a color and a code. e.g. a blue background with a triangle on it. Such an arrangement would make it easier to validate an Uber driver and would make it less likely the a passenger would get into a car with an imposter.

There’s also a convenience factor: at major events with lots of Uber requests, it would be much easier to find your driver.

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Thoughts on service startups

As someone who lives in SF, I spend a lot of time trying various startups. Here’s a quick summary.

Highly recommended



Others I’ve looked at






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My genius product/service list

Following up on my genius people list, here’s a quick list of products I love.

  • Evernote – The popular note taking tool serves as not only my repository of personal notes, but an intranet of sorts for redesign mobile.
  • Evernote ScanSnap document scanner – A modified version of the amazing ScanSnap ix500, it is optimized for Evernote junkies.
  • Trello – A great task management tool. It makes it easy for our geographically distributed team to stay connected.
  • Google Hangouts – Video conferencing.
  • Expensify – Yeah, we’re little. But we still have expenses. And the $5/month/user I pay for Expensify is well worth it.
  • Google Apps – If anyone is running a company email system w/o using Google Apps: Why? What’s wrong with you?
  • First Republic Bank – The bank of choice for redesign | mobile. I gave up on opening a Chase Private Client business account because they wanted too much paperwork. Ashley at First Republic took care of it with no hassle.
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My genius list

One of my favorite things about what I do is the opportunity to meet some brilliant people. It seems that every week I meet someone who I’d consider a genius. If you ever have the opportunity for a meeting with them, I highly recommend making the time.

These are all people I’ve met in person. In all but a couple of cases, I’ve met the many times.

I meet so many people that I’ve undoubtedly left some people off the list. My apologies if I left you off.

I recognize that women are underrepresented in this list. This is a function of:

  • Overall shortage of women in tech.
  • The fields I focus on — finance, VC, payments and media. These fields have even smaller percentages of women than tech overall.
  • Who will take meetings with me.

Emily White, COO of Snapchat, is incredible. One of the smartest people I’ve met. (And a dear friend to boot.)

Note that the only order here is alphabetical. These people are so talented that it would be hard to rank them.

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A few New Year’s changes to the @rakeshlobster twitter feed

As I’m ramping up redesign | mobile, I’ve been looking at how I use Twitter. I’m trying to find the optimal mix of providing interesting, engaging content while also devoting the attention that my company needs.

A few thoughts on my new approach:

  • Six or fewer original tweets a day.
  • More curation and retweeting from my favorite people on Twitter.
  • Fewer stream of consciousness tweets. I know some of my tweets really require expansion to be meaningful. As it is, people ask for more explanation. That takes too much time. Either I’ll write an expansive post or I’ll skip it.

I still struggle with the many diverse reasons people follow me on Twitter – UX, payments, finance, travel, SF, local, search, journalism, statistics, etc. I will continue to tweet about a diversity of topics. It’s too bad Twitter can’t just show the relevant tweets to the people who care about those topics.

I’m still going to engage with followers. But some of the best of my Twitter is actually found in exchanges with @rabois, @mdudas, @daveambrose and @rdoddala. If you aren’t following those four people, you are missing out on the best of rakeshlobster.

Thanks, as always, for following. Would love your feedback.

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Bought a smart watch in the past 90 days on an AmEx or Discover? Don’t want it? Get your money back

If for some reason you’re no longer happy with that smart watch you bought within the last 90 days and you want to get your money back, there’s a way. If you bought it on select credit cards.

Many cards come with a product called “Return Protection,” which lets you return items that you can’t return to the retailer. (Generally because they have a 14- or 30-day return policy.) You submit a claim, send the product to the credit card company’s return handler and get either a check or statement credit. 

AmEx, Citi, Chase and Discover offer some form of this. They aren’t universal across each issuer; some products have them, some don’t.

With AmEx, products that include return protection are Platinum, Mercedes Benz Platinum, Business Platinum, Costco Business Card, Starwood Business Card, Blue, Starwood and Blue Cash Preferred. AmEx has a limit of a $300 refund. You can start the claim process online. (That link also allows you to check if your card is eligible; my list may not be comprehensive.) 

Discover offers a $500 cap and the same 90 day period.

Citi’s Prestige card also offers a $500 cap.


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The death of nuance: Komen, ALS and Uber

It seems to me there’s been a death of nuanced thought. Or at least a death of nuance in public discourse. You’re either with us or against us. Some things are purely good and some things are purely evil. But nothing is really that way. Most things have complexity and nuance to them.


I had a great conversation with a friend last week about charity. One of the things we talked about was the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, one of the most prominent charities fighting against breast cancer. He had some big problems with the organization — the biggest being that it encourages over treatment. Treatment itself has risks; anything that involves anesthesia has risks. By encouraging aggressive treatment, he argued, Komen was putting women at risk. But there’s no way he’d ever discuss that in public.

I posted this on Facebook. I got this response from another friend:

Komen funds some good research, but I’m not a fan of “how” they do it (though they re-wrote fundraising through their pink parade of rah-rah community — they understand there are people who want to do something — take some action — and they’ve turned that into a marketing juggernaut more powerful than almost any commercial brand other than Apple). And just in case you thought only men can’t say that, I can’t say it either, even though I’m female, and my partner has had breast cancer twice.


Don’t question the unquestionable.


I have some problems with the current hoopla around the Ice Bucket Challenge. Yes, it’s fun and viral. But according to the ALS Association, they have raised more than 30x what they normally do in the same period. It’s a massive windfall. Historically, people and organizations that receive a massive windfall have a hard time dealing with it. They generally can’t grow fast enough to take advantage of it. This time could be different, but that’s unlikely. (I’ll be doing my own variant of the challenge, with the money going toward a charity that funds research on NMO, a rare disease that affects a friend.)

It’s also a broader problem around how (at least) Americans give to charity. Many contributions happen in response to specific events. It’s usually a major disaster like Hurricane Katrina. We contribute en masse when there is something visible versus supporting charities on a steady, ongoing basis. Massive contributions also create the opportunity for scandal.


I’ve been pretty vocal about how Uber and Lyft have been trying to free ride on the auto insurance system; they’ve tried to push the costs and risks of their business on to the rest of the car-driving public. As many companies do, they’re trying to internalize profits while externalizing risk.

That’s been interpreted by some as me hating innovation and these companies. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I use Uber and Lyft all the time; I’m annoyed when I have to use a taxi instead. (Especially in Las Vegas, where the corrupt taxi industry has managed to keep Uber out.)

The insurance aspect is a nuance to what I consider companies that on the whole could be really good for society. They help to break up a system that was designed decades ago when gas prices were cheap, people traveled less, there was no concept of climate change and technology like GPS and smartphones didn’t exist. That created local fiefdoms; people in charge of those fiefdoms rarely want to let them go. (See my LinkedIn post on the taxi industry for more on that topic.)

The “with us or against us” attitude that a lot of people have hampers quality discussion and the type of discourse that can really help us move society forward. Instead we get shouting matches on TV where each side speaks their talking points. No one listens to what people on the other side are saying. Everyone talks their book.

Short attention spans and brevity in communications is part of the problem. (If you’ve gotten this far in the post, thank you!) You’re generally not going to have a lot of great discussion in 140 character doses or 2-minute TV segments. As someone who has done a lot of both, I know that those media are as much (or more) about entertainment as they are about elucidation.

The permanence of those communications is also a problem. It’s easy for someone to take a comment out of context and brand you as someone who hates women.

It would be great if we had a forum for nuanced dialogue. Know of any?

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