* Posts by morenewsfromnowhere

4 publicly visible posts • joined 5 Apr 2017

Not auf wiedersehen – yet! The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech


Berlin is not a viable city for startups.

The problem is accomodation. You can't get a place to live. This means you can't get staff.

The reason you can't get a place to live is rent controls.

Berlin has rent controls. Landlords can choose the rent when they let, but once let, they can only increase it at a very low rate - much lower than inflation.

As a result, illegal sub-letting is the norm. The tenant wants to keep their contract, so the rent price cannot be reset, so they sublet (often without telling the owner), sometimes with a markup (which is theft).

As a consequence of all this, the supply of property is strongly discouraged and there is vast unmet demand for accomodation. When-ever a place comes on the market, at least a dozen people turn up on the day after.

If you are not there in person, *you will not get that place*.

As a result, the labour market available to companies in Berlin is restricted to people in Berlin.

This is made worse by the "SHUFA", which is like a credit history. If you're outside of Germany, you won't have one, which makes you even less appealing to landlords.

Also landlords, where the law is so against them, want LOTS of security. Three months deposit is not uncommon.

Another consequence of that is that three months notice is usual in employment contracts - which makes it harder for you when you come to get out. You can't find somewhere and then resign, because most places won't take you if they have to wait three months.

Finally, note that the actual consequence of rent controls is to depress wages. Wages in Berlin are low, because rents are low. This reduces costs to companies in the rent control area, and so makes the more competitive; but at the same time, reduces the average quality of staff they can obtain, which reduces their competitiveness. In other words, it makes no sense. I think it's done because people imagine it gives them more money and politicians play along with it.

If you look at AirBnB, rent prices are two to three times higher - these are the real rents. This also means you cannot use AirBnB, if you're trying to take a job in Berlin, because you cannot afford it on your salary.

The local Government practically banned AirBnB anyway, last year. This always happens in places with rent controls, because more and more people let to AirBnB because it's worth so much more than the prices forced by the Government. Results is that it has to be banned, and then we all go back to the accomodation market being totally borked.

So, in short, don't come here. You can't get a place to live. Berlin cannot take off as a center of anything unless it fixes its accomodation market.

Regulate This! Time to subject algorithms to our laws


I may be wrong, but I think the article is confused, in the way that all or almost all people are when it comes to law and ethics.

Law is neither here nor there, and quite often it is a problem in and of itself.

The key principle is that everything two entities - companies, people, Governemnts, whathaveyou - do together must be voluntary (they must both agree to it) and well-informed (they must know what they're agreeing to). So you can't coerce, and you can't deceive. The sole exception of self-defence and then all bets are off.

Where law is compatible with this principle, it's good and right; where it's not, then law is being used by one group to enforce its will on another group, without their consent and not in sefl-defence.

When we talk about algorithms and all this - it's kinda neither here nor there. What matters is *disclosure*. If you sign up for something, and you've been well-informed about whatever it is, and you agree to it, *then by definition it is ethical*.

One case where there are problems is when there is no choice - so let's say there's only one electricity provider in an area, and they want to use smart meters which are known to be incorrect in their readings. You then have Hobson's choice - electricty and bad meters, or no electricty. What I usually find in these situations is that *prior* to this point, someone or something else was imposing non-voluntary contracts - such as regulating an industry and reducing competition - which in turn *led* to this problem, further downstream.

In such situations then you are in fact being coerced, at one remove; all bets are off. You are free to act in whatever ways are necessary to ensure you are not coerced or deceived. Hack the meter.

NY court slaps down Facebook's attempt to keep accounts secret from search warrants


“Among the targets were retired police officers and firefighters suspected of feigning illness after the Sept 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.”

Well, that's good and well - and I hear reasons like that a lot.

"“Among the targets were forcibly retired police officers who resigned to protest corruption, violence and racism."

That I never read - but it also happens, and it puts an entirely different complexion on the whole matter.