Reply All: #4 Follow The Money
December 10, 2014 6:21 PM - Subscribe

Writer Chiara Atik has a hobby -- spying on the financial transactions of friends and strangers.. She thinks that Venmo, more than any other social media site, is the place you can actual, accidental truth online. This week we investigate that claim.
posted by mathowie (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Somehow I have never heard of Venmo until this episode describing it. The social network aspect of it sounds really weird.
posted by mathowie at 6:22 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok, now I'm addicted to the bizarre feeds on Venmo. I created an account, connected to my friends, and now I see a friend just paid his babysitter using it. The public feeds are mostly mundane, I'm surprised people aren't using it for art projects.
posted by mathowie at 6:42 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is kind of an odd episode that unfolded in an unexpected way: I did NOT see the girlfriend story coming, nor the guy that gave advice (nice work if you can get it). I'm not sure it was wholly successful in exploring Venmo, but it gave a peek inside with some of its users.

It does sort of do a cursory nod to the taboo nature of money-talk, esp. amongst social peers, and also the lookee-loo impulse that's common enough. But I'd like a bit more depth.

The host sounded like he was doing his best Ira Glass impersonation at first.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:54 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

There were a ton of people who wouldn't talk to us for this, ones that
had great memos: one said "for investigative services" one said
something about helping to clean up a diarrhea accident. There were a
bunch of amazing memos that remained a mystery because they wouldn't talk. Oh well.
posted by Alex Goldman at 10:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Alex, did you get a sense from the ones that wouldn't talk that they were in any way freaked out about their transactions being available in a somewhat public manner? Or were the memos just vague enough that any sordid details remain between the parties and not a big deal to publicize?
posted by jazon at 6:14 AM on December 11, 2014

It was kind of shocking to me that anyone would use a service like this that made their transactions public.

Also: was the producer who got advice in this episode the same Lina from StartUp Episode 9? She's putting a lot of herself out there on the Gimlet Media airwaves this week.

I guess I'm just a more private person than I thought.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:28 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Venmo doesn't require you to post your transactions to the feed, does it? I've used it, but I recall ticking a box to keep mine private (regardless of the fact that I think all or nearly all my venmo transactions have been for sharing Thai food).
posted by ocherdraco at 12:55 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, advice dude: "would you pay $5 for advice?" I did, and I am very happy with AskMe.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:57 PM on December 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes. I absolutely got the sense that people had no idea their transactions went into a public feed. And honestly, that feed is thousands of transactions a minute. The likelihood of some reporter finding your transaction is almost nil, but I had a couple of people set their accounts to private after I reached out to them.

Also, yes, that is the same Lina from startup #9.
posted by Alex Goldman at 4:56 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

OK, this is SOOOO none of my business, but I hope she knows that a PCOS diagnosis is not a one-way road to never having biological children. It does mean she might need help but lots of people with PCOS do conceive without medical assistance, and if you add in IVF and all the other stuff, there are lots and lots of options.

I just felt compelled to say that.
posted by bq at 12:40 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Venmo framing seemed a little wasted on a 20 minute podcast. It seems like it could have been the basis of an entire This American Life episode.
posted by smackfu at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2014

I have used Venmo exactly once. The whole public nature of the feeds is really bizarre to me. I loved how the episode explored this. *Opens up app to make sure feed is private*

Also interesting tie-in with Lina due to the Startup episode. Actually I'm really glad she got to shine here, I hope that boosted her confidence after the sponsorship debacle, because I imagine that was really embarrassing.

Also...the advice guy...people really pay him for that? Weird.
posted by radioamy at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2014

Yes. I absolutely got the sense that people had no idea their transactions went into a public feed.

This is so bizarre to me. I used Venmo once about a month ago, to split the cost of a dinner out with friends, and the "public or private" option was front and center in the transaction.

I think I was more shocked that it automatically scraped all of my Gmail contacts for the "friend feed" and served up activities of people I haven't been in touch with in years.
posted by psoas at 10:53 AM on January 5, 2015

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