Author Topic: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall  (Read 509 times)

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Paupers Run

A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« on: November 25, 2019, 09:15:22 AM »
So, as the title suggests, this is to ask a few questions about the mess Cairo and Sable are leaving behind known as the Hole-In-The-Wall app. I'm sure they'll be explained in future stories, but never hurts to have an FAQ. So;


* Could people use the app to hire people to do jobs for them, or is it only Agents looking for other Agents?

* If people can hire a crew to steal something on their behalf, can the client provide the plan, or is it purely on the Agents to plan it out?


* How much screening is there to becoming a part of Hole-In-The-Wall, and is the current state of things from a gradual decline in quality?


* How did The Syndicate come up with this idea?


* What's stopping someone from uncovering the hidden feature that isn't supposed to?


*How well does the actual "dive bar review" service work?
 
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Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2019, 09:27:59 PM »
Ooh, yes! I hope you like tl;dr though 'cause that's the only kindsa answers I got.

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How well does the actual "dive bar review" service work?

The Hole-in-the-Wall app is a fully functional dive-bar directory app. It has a very solid userbase of normal people who use it for its intended purpose, finding hole-in-the-wall bars to drink at while abroad. Like its back end, the legit app relies on user reviews to rank bars appropriately. Basically, they're trying to maintain a listing of bars that are not pretentious or hipster-ized in any way. It's for people looking for a genuine experience where everyone's drinking domestic beer and there's nothing being appreciated ironically. If a bar's atmosphere changes, like blue-collar culture is being overrun by something else, users will report as much and it will be hidden from search results until it regains recommendations. This is a completely supported venture, they keep it updated and innovated. They put ads in it so it brings in a modest revenue too. It's a sizable branch of The Syndicate's operations.

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How did The Syndicate come up with this idea?

In fact, "The Syndicate" isn't even what they really consider themselves. That's just the name they have agents use to keep people from getting suspicious of the app (that's why the name isn't that clever). Technically - and this is understood by everyone in The Syndicate - they think of themselves as the second iteration of the Hole in the Wall Gang. You know, loose unofficial coalition of robbers and thieves, but for a modern age.

I haven't written a whole history with names and shit, but basically, someone had the idea that it'd be cool if robbers and thieves could use a mobile app to arrange jobs and kinda keep track of reputations so that you could work with someone you hadn't met before but have somewhat of a guarantee that they weren't gonna do anything crazy. This idea then evolved into a "what if we could make them work for us in a gig economy-type deal 'cause that allows us to take a larger cut of the profit" situation. The idea for hiding it behind a legitimate app came later, possibly as a result of an Incident, possibly not, haven't decided. It is a natural extension of the kind of stuff you do as a heister anyway. Misdirection, hiding in plain sight, etc. And the The Syndicate name was instituted in order to keep people from drawing connections between the app and the criminals using it.

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How much screening is there to becoming a part of Hole-In-The-Wall, and is the current state of things from a gradual decline in quality?

For the first few years (would be like, '06 to '10ish), it was a closed beta sort of thing. Controllers would keep an eye out for people who would be decent prospects and approach them personally. They weren't exactly looking for the cream of the crop or anything, just people who were already in the business and might find the idea of a more organized system of work appealing.

After a while, with enough agents onboarded, those agents would recommend people they knew. It was a good deal because it allowed you to work more often, broadened your talent pool for prospective jobs, and The Syndicate had a benefits package that basically amounted to health insurance and working with the police to get you out of jail if you did somehow get pinched, which was unheard of in the bank robbery industry before then. So becoming an Agent was a goal for a lot of Indies. Depending on the kind of work you were pulling, though, whether The Syndicate worked out to be a better deal overall could vary. Bijou, for instance, declined to join when offered an invitation because she did the math and she made more money independently (that, and she didn't want to wear the uniform). The Syndicate takes a 60% cut of the profit, but covers most overhead. Independent thieves get all of their money, but have to pay out to launderers, fences, medics, etc. It depended on the kind of work you did and how often and the risk level.

And there also developed an idea among certain Indie holdouts and rejects, our Guy Fawkes kids for example, that Syndicate Agents were not as good at the job as Indies were and could be overwhelmed or strong-armed. That really depended on the crew and the background of each of its members though. Dixie was harder to make because she had experience working independently, keeps her plans loose and changeable, and knows how to improvise. Cleo would have been much more what they were expecting, as someone who's never really worked outside of The Syndicate and who is a little too devoted to standard operating procedure.

There's another facet to this that I'm holding back on, but for the most part, the quality of agents never changed, just the quantity. They were always separated by their rating and beyond a certain point, you wouldn't even be shown higher level jobs if you weren't rated high enough. Dixie and Cleo had middling scores for most of their careers and so did not pull grand heists with elaborate plans. They did smash-and-grabs and the occasional burglary. Nothing fancy. The problem is more that with so many Agents and increased bureaucracy, The Syndicate itself is less agile and less able to hold up its end of the bargain. Allocated resources are not delivered (like drivers) and there's no longer a swift way to rectify that. Lack of resources leaves Agents in a bind where they must either improvise or forfeit jobs, both of which reflect poorly on your rank. So it becomes a vicious cycle where your rating suffers each go-around.

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Could people use the app to hire people to do jobs for them, or is it only Agents looking for other Agents?

At the level that Dixie and Cleo worked, jobs were typically requested by a client, but the job is always posted by the Syndicate itself and Agents are always in charge of it. A lot of the work Dixie and Cleo did was part of larger insurance fraud schemes. Clients requests a robbery, someone accepts lead on the job, crewmates join up, they pull the job, client files an insurance claim. Clients never interact with the Agents directly though. It's part of the Syndicate's larger scheme of cross-protection. Keep as many moving parts separate and on a need-to-know basis, for the safety of everyone.

At a higher ranking, Agents can plan and recruit for their own jobs, but this is reserved for Agents with a demonstrable ability to pull a job without much mess. 4's and up. the idea is that you really have to work for and prove yourself to get that kind of autonomy while under the auspices of the Syndicate. Basically, you have to show that you can do this without creating problems for them.

Quote
If people can hire a crew to steal something on their behalf, can the client provide the plan, or is it purely on the Agents to plan it out?

Again, dependent on rank. Given that most lower level jobs are not that complex, in depth planning is not needed. Certain parameters may be added if they are necessary, but The Syndicate doesn't permit clients to issue challenges or anything. On a more complicated higher level job, a client could offer information or arrangements that might help, but it would still ultimately be up to the crew whether to utilize them. Most would, obviously.

Quote
What's stopping someone from uncovering the hidden feature that isn't supposed to?

The hidden log-in screen for the backend is inaccessible if your account doesn't have the clearance. Once you become an Agent, if you don't already have an account, the Controller will make one for you (it has a different username from your codename, usually something like what the spam accounts that used to sign up here would have, since most people never use theirs in the front end). From there, the account is then given then clearance for the backend. By all appearances, it looks like a regular Hole-in-the-Wall account, it just has additional (and invisible) permissions. You can even still use it for finding bars, if you're into that.

To log into the backend, you have to click a practically invisible and tiny spacer image on the homepage of the regular app. If your account has the clearance, it takes you to the login page and makes you re-enter your username and password (just in case) and, now, makes you do two-factor authentication, thanks to Clippy and Mitty. If it doesn't, it takes you to the image file for the spacer image itself, making it look like it's just a weird, misplaced hyperlink.

In Mitty's case, he didn't actually stumble into the backend or anything. Clippy (named for his skill with computers by a Controller who didn't have any) was irresponsible and wrote an auto-login script so he wouldn't have to log in every time. That's how Mitty ended up with access. Most people don't have the technical know-how to do that, or would be smart enough to know it was a shitty idea. The human element is usually the weakest part of any security plan.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 11:23:22 PM by Django Durango »
 

Paupers Run

Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2019, 10:04:22 PM »
Forgot a question:

* About how far has Hole-In-The-Wall spread? Is it just the US, or is it multinational?
 
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Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2019, 11:09:55 PM »
It's just U.S. based, but I can imagine there's similar organizations run elsewhere, to varying degrees of technical aptitude.

As far as the legit half of the app goes, it only really works in the U.S. because the atmosphere of a working class bar is completely different in other countries so it'd be impossible to rate bars fairly. Hole-in-the-Wall is about a very specific kind of bar scene.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 11:12:09 PM by Django Durango »
 

Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2019, 08:08:39 AM »
The Syndicate takes a 60% cut of the profit, but covers most overhead.

did you do any math for that figure or is it just made up?
 
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Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2019, 05:08:57 AM »
When I first moved to San Antonio to live with Simon, I was looking for a part-time job, but I was having a hard time finding anything because I was purposely applying for jobs I was over-qualified for. Like, it took a long time to find one and I only even got it because my boss at the time greatly over-estimated how much you need to know about computers to do what I do.

Anyway, it took a long time to get my day afternoon job and so I was out of money pretty quick. Simon covered my bills, but I don't like to be a burden (and you also caint buy pretty things for yourself with no money so).

I forget how we got on the subject, but Simon brought the existence of camming to my attention. I had all the equipment already so I did a bunch of research, put a nice profile on myfreecams, and tried non-nude camming for a few days. I ultimately didn't like it 'cause it was a lot of work and my personality ain't exactly built for it. Also, I was expecting the guys to be crass and lewd, but I mostly got ones coming up with elaborate gentle romance fantasies with me which is somehow more uncomfortable? I found making fetish clips to be a lot easier, more fun, and more profitable.

Anyway, the point is, most camming sites take around 60% of your tips which seems outrageous for sex work, but they do that because they have to deal with credit card processors and a bunch of other legal stuff. Which might lead you to think that the Syndicate could get away with charging an even higher percentage given that what they deal in isn't legal at all. However, cam sites generally stay around the 60% mark (at least before they get into wiggity incentive programs) because you can't get away with a higher percentage unless you're bringing something really compelling to the table. Since all these sites are competing with each other for talent, they can't get too greedy. The Syndicate doesn't have the main thing that camming sites have going for them, which is that they provide a built-in userbase/audience to their camgirls. It's a lot harder to be an independent camgirl than it is to go out and rob a liquor store on your own. Since there's (usually) no customer to sell to in thievery, the Syndicate doesn't have that angle to play on so while they are the only organized game in town, you always still have the option of working outside of their system.

So tl;dr, the 60% is based on what cam sites take from their talent.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2019, 05:22:58 AM by Django Durango »
 

 

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