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The Gnawing Anxiety of Having an Algorithm as a Boss

Some people try to game tech companies’ systems. But resistance may be futile. 

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Photographer: maciek905/iStockphoto

I recently got the internet in my apartment fixed, and my technician had an unusual request. I’d get an automated call after he left asking me how satisfied I was with the service, he explained, and he wanted me to rate him 9 out of 10. I asked why, and he said there was a glitch with the system that recorded any 10 rating as a 1, and it was important for him to keep his rating up. 

Since then, a couple of people have told me that technicians working for the company have been making this exact request for at least two years. A representative for Spectrum, my internet provider, said they were worrying over nothing. The company had moved away from the 10-point rating system, he said, adding that customer feedback isn't “tied to individual technicians’ compensation.”