Help me do no harm


I was surprised today to see an invitation from Goowy, some flashy something email rss whatever toy. While I was still wondering why poor Adriana send it to me, I find through some more posts, that the default setting makes it very easy to spam all your contacts with it.

She blogged about it and rather quickly we do find an answer of the team in her comments as well as a posting on their blog.

Now, if you go read their text, I do really believe that they might have thought this was a) a great idea to get more users and b) users really asked for it. But there is something about building applications and websites which I first encountered as a basic principle in Microsoft’s Gui guide: All harmful actions must not be executed by default. Destructive actions have to be confirmed.

Which means: If you hit Del and Enter – you will not delete your file, because the default was set to no. If you say print, default for enter is yes. If you say save as and the file already exists, default is no. This is how you build application: Help me (the user) do no harm (because I don’t pay attention all the time).

I think, this should be made a basic lesson for every programmer until he gets it. Make sure that I do not by accident do something stupid. If you want me to do something like spamming my contacts, tease me / convince me. Make me happy to say actively yes on this. But don’t sneak something in.

And yes, default settings for installing an application are “yeah yeah, I want through this” things. Importing my contacts into the system of Goowy would be clever and can be a default, yes. But not spamming the world. And it would be even better if you really convinced me why it would be clever to import them.

[And may I add, that if you are a programmer and you don’t make sure that I can get out of every dialog with ESC without doing something, you are just a script kiddie with no sense of how to program. And I hate you. ]

I first wanted to name the posting “What differentiates Kryptonite from Goowy” because I still have this quote somewhere in my to blog pile from the PR women of Kryptonite which I got quite annoyed about. It was on Dave Taylor’s blog, entry named “Debunking the myth of Kryptonite Locks and the Blogosphere“.

When I read through this interview, I still don’t see a lot of professional handling the situation regarding bloggers. At the end of the interview she states, that now she has better contacts to influentual bloggers (because you cannot answer all those little blogs).

Now, here is what annoys me: I don’t wanted to see a comment on every blog, I wanted something clever on their web page (which there was not at the time) and I wanted somebody to reach out to me – the customer.

In this particular case, the possible, international customer. Which did not happen. All I have ever heard from Donna Tocci until now are comments about how well they handled the whole situation, ‘especially the media’ . The given answers and general tone in this interview are not really surprising, when you read Dave’s intro

I’ll admit up front that my bias is that the adverse effect of the blogosphere on corporations is much overblown, and as you’ll see as you read this Q&A, Donna thinks so too.

Let me tell you this: I, as a possible customer, do not feel taken seriously by this company. Have not back then, do not now. Additionally, when reading this interview, I feel treated as being a dumb something. Do you like to be treated that way?

If they “have been aware of day one” of this whole thing – you don’t wait so long to react. If you have something like that and it hits a page like Engadget and you may know nothing about that page, there are places you can learn about what impact that site has. If you don’t have a blog, you do have a website where you can react in hours. And they may believe in the effect of the blogosphere or not, in this combination and with this attitude – Kryptonite is going to stay the perfect example on how not to react in a crisis of this scale.

How does this relate back to Goowy? Well, easy. They did – on their scale – something clever on those incoming reactions about their bad programming. Even if they did not think it through in the first place, they reacted. I have not seen if they have been posting their reactions somewhere else or just over at Adriana, but they did. And they posted an explanation on their blog.

I, as a possible customer, feel taken seriously and listened to.I feel being treated as an intelligent person. For the moment, I am satisfied. I now will go and forget about them – but at least I will not tell everybody how crappy this application is (flash based readers … can only be crappy *g*).

And again – it is the smaller things, which might not feel as if they have something to do with your whole application. But they count sometimes even more than the real feature – because they sum up.

One sting of a bee is not deadly, at least not in most of the cases. But hundreds or thousands are. The numbers with program failures are much lower.

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2 Responses to “Help me do no harm”

  1. Adriana says:

    An excellent post, thanks for writing it. I love the ‘help me do no harm’ meme!

    Btw, I received an email with a personal apology from Alex Bard, the CEO of goowy. I appreciate his communicating as there would be nothing worse for goowy to do than to ignore all this. I’ll sleep on it and see what to blog tomorrow.

  2. Nicole says:

    It is kind of refreshing that they did, isn’t it? And what kind of bad world do we live in that I find that refreshing? *sigh*

    On the other side, it is easy for them to react this way – it is not for users who have spammed their network and are not into the blogospere.

    In this case, they should additionally make something on their website if you click on one of those links like to caution the possible user. It may cost them some users but in the end, it will save them from angry users.

    And while not everybody may be in the blogospere as a user – I am sure, most VC’s are able to read the blogospere …