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Tag Archives: bullies

I use Facebook. I avoided it for quite a few years because I felt I was doing fine on MySpace, but eventually I caved and made the move when the gravity of that situation became obvious. I came to prefer Facebook pretty quickly because it didn’t allow users to create their own hideous customized profiles with glitter and autoplaying music and all that other trash. Over the past couple of years, though, Facebook has made some really tragic design changes and business decisions that would spell trouble if anyone else could get their act together enough to threaten Facebook’s position as the most popular social network. And then there’s the stuff they’re doing that just plain scares me, and should scare you, too.

ImpossibleSocial Fixer is a browser extension which I’ve come to love because it lets you tweak Facebook to your liking. You can choose a theme (I like a dark gray one, easier one the eyes), filter out posts you don’t want to see (I hate sports but some of my friends post about it CONSTANTLY), and get a notice when someone unfriends you (kind of a no-brainer, why wouldn’t Facebook do this anyway?). Well, Facebook has decided to kill Social Fixer’s best features by threatening the author with legal action if he doesn’t gut the extension and make it pretty close to useless. He explains the situation here much better than I can.

Why’s that scare me? Because the guy obviously can’t fight a corporation and has no choice but to back down. That merely strengthens the beast and supports the notion that a company can control your internet experience by crying like a big baby and invoking America’s screwed up legal system. They can effectively hijack your browser to suit their needs, though maybe not in the way we all normally fear a browser hijacking. I choose to run Social Fixer and to adjust what I see in my browser when I visit Facebook. I also choose to run AdBlock to adjust what I don’t see in my browser, but that’s another story. What gives Facebook the right to control what I see by the time it’s left their servers and arrived on my property? Didn’t we settle this question already with VCRs? I’m pretty sure these days, people are recording broadcast television on DVRs and skipping all the commercials. That’s right, we control it once it’s on our devices. If your business model sucks so much that you can’t handle that, you need to rethink your business model.

TrollSomething that’s similarly scary is the general reaction to all this. When it first became evident that Facebook was screwing around with Social Fixer, I submitted the developer’s blog post to Slashdot and was surprised to find that it was accepted. Cool, right? Well, maybe not so much. Take a look at the comments and you’ll see a lot of support for… Facebook. That’s right, poor little Facebook is having its EULA/Terms stomped all over, Social Fixer should know better, and ads are awesome. I still can’t believe the reaction. There was a very poor showing for people who like to control what they see.

Facebook is far bigger than MySpace ever was and is now a contender in the global domination arena. As noted earlier, without some serious competition, they’ll be able to coast for quite a while, and there will be no threat of a MySpace-style failure. The Social Fixer debacle will have no effect on the greater Facebook narrative. The precedent I’m whining about has effectively been set and there will be tangible, long-lasting consequences. My point is that this is the bad ending. That happens sometimes. As far as Social Fixer goes, my opinion is that the author should post the source code on GitHub and/or CodePlex and call it quits. He’s not equipped to fight this crap and it’s not his fight, anyway. It’s everyone’s fight and we’ll have to deal with it at some point.

Dr EvilI’ve pretty much always worked for small companies. I enjoy seeing my contributions make highly visible impacts and knowing that, hey, I did that. It also tends to keep me from being pigeonholed into one boring repetitive role. There are substantial risks involved with working for small companies, though, and unfortunately I’ve experienced pretty much all of them by now.

One place a few years ago took me for one hell of a ride. Things started out great — you know how that goes: everyone is all smiley and jolly for the interview(s) and before you know it, you’re making a tremendous life decision based on what you’ve seen of these people for like an hour. Well, the owners of this company turned out to be complete snakes. But like all snakes, they put on a fantastic show in the beginning and it was impossible to see what was really going on until I was several months in. The details aren’t terribly important, but taken altogether, we’re talking about guys who lied to, cheated, and stole from employees, customers, vendors, and the government. Real Boy Scouts.

After I parted ways with them, I expected their rotten company would collapse or get caught or something. But of course, they’re still around, still doing all the same things, and I’ve since grown out of my naïve belief in what amounts to the just-world fallacy. The truth is that bad people get away with a lot of stuff. They tend to be the winners. And they probably feel great about it.

I was perusing Glassdoor the other day and decided to look up that company. What I found gave me a strange sense of satisfaction — even justice. Over the years, a fair number of their employees (considering this was a pretty small company) have taken to the internet to express their displeasure with the owners. The reviews all sound eerily similar to my own assessments and determinations, thus affirming to me that my sense of ethics is, in fact, quite solid. It doesn’t change anything, but it still makes me happy. It validates my reality, and who doesn’t love that feeling?