Don’t like it? Go home and don’t come back.

society, technology

There’s the old joke of two folks eating in a restaurant who are (probably once again) kveching:

“Oy, this food is terrible!”
“It sure is! And the portions are so small!”

It’s amazing and pretty disgusting to me how many folks apply a similar attitude on the Web. I think everyone has a right to complain, but if you don’t like the food… don’t spit in the kitchen, just stop going to the restaurant (and perhaps post a negative review somewhere if you wish).

Friendster and other social networks
First, let me preface this by saying I’m not much of a fan of Friendster. It’s slow (really really REALLY slow), feature-poor, and it has basically devolved into an “I’m more trendy and freaky and have more piercings than you!” smugfest. Oh, and the guy who conceived the project is seemingly a humorless boob.

But with that said, it’s still a private company, running its own servers, set up by its own programmers without the use of public money.

So I tried it, gave up on it, and have chosen to show my dislike of the service by no longer using it. Pretty simple, eh?

But for countless others, they see Friendster’s penchant for deleting fake profiles (“fakesters”) and the like to be an outrage and a challenge. Therefore, despite the service’s terms that these folks agreed to when signing up, these counter-culture rebels have taken to using scripts to create multiple fake profiles and engaging in other behavior to basically send a big “fuck you” to the Friendster creator, the Friendster staff, and many of the members who find it both unfunny and annoying to be indirectly linked to 50,000 others via Cookie Monster.

In my mind, it’d be like getting invited to an apartment party, finding the host to be rather disagreeable… but instead of just leaving, you jump up and down on the host’s couches (in your shoes, no less). He asks you to please leave, since it’s his apartment, after all, and you’re a guest… but you tell him to stick his demands where the sun don’t shine. After you’re (understandably) forcibly ejected, you come back with thirty friends and all proceed to jump on top of the host’s furniture. Hey, it’s your right to have fun, isn’t it?

Some equally maturity-challenged guests think it’s funny, so they join in, too. Others, unsurprisingly, are annoyed and then leave the party for more sane territory.

Interestingly enough, similar rumblings are already occurring with orkut. Folks are complaining about restrictions on their profile photo, for instance, and instead of sending feedback to orkut or even making amusingly snarky posts in their blogs, they’re having oh-so-much-fun by signing up as many different IDs (with goofy photos) as they can. I’m just waiting to see how long it is before some San Francisco hippies take to the street to protest orkut’s dominant tyrany, the abridgement of their “first amendment rights!”, and orkut’s role in the fascist perpetuation of normalized and coercified group acquiescence. Their rallying chant, “We Rail | Against Jail | No more bans | We’ll all hold hands!” (yes, I know it doesn’t exactly rhyme, but that’s never stopped protesters like this before).

Do I think everything at orkut is hunky dory? Certainly not, and indeed, I actually admire folks — like Liz and Dana — who have taken the time to voice their strong opinions about orkut’s current flaws.

But on the whole, I think folks who are unhappy with orkut (or any other privately-owned-and-run service) have exactly two choices:
– stick with the service, but publicly or privately express concerns
– quit the service (and, yep, still publicly or privately express concerns if they wish)

In contrast, hanging on to the service while trying to undermine its intent or knowingly violate its terms is both rude and immature. Then again, living in San Francisco, I think those adjectives describe quite a bit of the ‘trendy’ protesters (“What’s the protest this week, oh Moonshadow Cheese? I can’t wait!”). And mind you, I may sound like a fuddy duddy, but anywhere else I’d be a flaming liberal. I even helped organize a street dance in the middle of Union Square a few months ago, and I have nothing against silliness and fun. But I also don’t willingly abuse others’ property / sites / etc.

Registration at the New York Times
I love reading the New York Times on the Web, and I’m grateful I can do so for free.

Others, however, are not quite so appreciative. Despite the fact that the New York Times collects a minimal amount of personally identifying info and the fact that one can use a disposable e-mail address to sign up, many people have started using ‘community’ IDs because they’re either too lazy or too rebellious to offer the 30 seconds it takes for the one-time registration.

Why does the NY Times even ask folks to register? Well, it keeps their advertisers happy. It helps them figure out which articles are more popular in tandem with usergroup trends, and it also enables them to (I’d assume) serve more targeted ads: if you read the technology section regularly before other sections, I’m sure the NY Times could serve you more technology-oriented ads. Sounds good to me.

But believe it or not, I just spotted a site (which I won’t even give the benefit of a link here) that urges people to share their registration username and password for the NY Times and other sites so others can use them to log on with. I hope the sites affected quickly blacklist the shared IDs.

I’m not sure whether these folks are paranoid (“Oh no, the NY Times may know that I clicked on their crossword puzzle page AND their travel page!”) or selfish or simply wanting to stick it to The Man {gag}. And I don’t know whether there are enough of these twits to actually threaten NY Times’ tracking or advertising efforts. But I sure hope not. If enough jerks continue to abuse the concept of free content in exchange for minimal advertising, then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to fortell that more and more services will simply start to make their content available only via paid subscriptions.

And you’ll have the wankers detailed above to thank.

2 comments… add one
  • Christopher Allen Feb 1, 2004

    I agree with you that if “you are unhappy” with then quit.

    However, your first choice was “publicly or privately express concerns”. I’ve been chastised for expressing concerns about Orkut.

    Part of the problem is that even though Orkut is in beta, there is no organized feedback system. For instance, a forum read by the developers, or even better a bug/issues tracking system like TypePad has.

    In addition, feedback is a two-way street—they could do a lot by offering a developers daily blog, or some type of regular announcement of what feature they wanted beta testers to test that day, or even acknowledgement “we already know that is an issue”. Also, they need to show respect for good feedback publically, as that will encourage more good feedback.

    None of this is happening at this time, which means that people get frustrated, which also makes it easy rumors and conspiracy to spread. I want to be a constructive critic, but Orkut makes it hard for me to be so.

  • Adam Lasnik Feb 1, 2004

    You make some excellent points, Christopher, and I fully agree with you.

    I’ve gotten frustrated, too.  And while the lack of organization and thoughtfulness on the part of orkut.com doesn’t justify the obnoxious ‘civil disobedience’ tactics of some folks, IMHO, it’s unfortunate nonetheless.

    For instance, I sent a huge and well-structured group of feedback to the orkut team; with most other software or services (even popular ones), I’ve received back at least brief acknowledgements and appreciation… with orkut, nothing.

    There are at least four orkut.com user-created feedback communities; had Orkut been truly on the ball about encouraging, respecting, and channeling feedback, he and his team (if he has one!) would have created ONE “Orkut Feedback” community from the get go, concentrating all the posts in one place to be mined.

    And your idea of a development blog?  On the money.  This is something that Google’s never been very good about, though given MS and Yahoo! breathing down their neck, at least understandable.  And similarly, Google *HAS* thoughtfully allowed and encouraged its employees to post regularly on tech forums (such as WebmasterWorld), responding to feedback and questions in a friendly and helpful manner.

    Frankly, it seems like Orkut (the guy) has programming talents and passions that are not matched by customer-service and social analysis chops.  I’m optimistically hoping, though, that he is eventually able to build a team that will complement and augment his talents, allowing orkut.com to truly mature.

What do you think?