What Amazon’s 1984 Incident has wrought

Dear Amazon:

Here’s what you 1984 incident has wrought.

Exhibit A:

I wanted an ebook reader, I wanted a Kindle even. I’m an iPhone user of all things, I’ll compromise my DRM and sharecropping principles over a good technology package experience every time. Yet, the idea that you coded the feature that would delete books I’ve already bought? Even Apple hasn’t done that yet. I won’t be buying a Kindle, or any of your Kindle books.

Exhibit B:

My darling wife, who understands my feelings on most DRM and closed platform issues, but gets a bit bemused when I get all passionate about them, just looked a bit crestfallen when I told her that Zappos just got bought out by Amazon – she said “Really?!? but I liked Zappos

Software has values. Misusing them has consequences you would never predict.

Software has values

In light of things I’ve said before and hope to be presenting more on later this year – I want to highlight a tweet from Mark Pilgrim yesterday

“Oh, the publisher made them do it.” Bzzt. Code doesn’t just appear. Amazon DESIGNED the Kindle’s remote wipe. Someone coded it & tested it.

This is in reference to Amazon removing paid-for copies of 1984 from Kindles

Whatever the eventual debate about that will turn out to be. This is where software embodies a set of values, and the software developers code those values.

Was it a cool problem to solve to figure out how to issue a command to delete content off customer kindles? I bet. Heck, I’d be totally interested in the protocol and software design of that.

But the truth of the matter for my colleagues – and the companies in which you work – just because you can, does not mean you do.

On Communication

My workplace isn’t the only place I harp on communication. I’ve also done it in my HOA. We have a good board of directors for our HOA, but due to some advice from the HOA’s management company to be careful from a liability standpoint about conducting business on the various mailing lists in use in the community, there are times when communication about HOA related matters depends on that management company to do a distribution in email, and the management company hasn’t shown they do a very good job of this. Anyway, I harped on that, a little harder than I probably should have, and I got rightfully called out for it publicly. And I deserved it.

One of the points in that was this:

If Jason Young wants to volunteer he can certainly come on board. The last time we asked for volunteers for the Communication committee he did not volunteer.

I actually laughed a bit when I read that, not at the poster, at myself. Because that’s for dang sure, I can’t complain about something and not step up to it, but I did have some rationale for it, and I thought my response was pretty relevant to things outside my community – and to colleagues and to the eventual “Googlization” of this

This is a completely fair criticism. I have made a big deal about communication, and continue to do so, and in fact, did not volunteer for the “Communication committee” I was even asked twice about it and I didn’t respond.

It’s really hard to complain about something and not step up to it. That can be hypocritical as all get out 😀 Hey I certainly am that more times than I will ever want to be.

But not about this, and here’s the rationale. I work in Higher Education on Government grants. The first thing we do about anything is to “form a committee” And the second thing we do is fail at what we are doing because we formed a committee. The thing is, you don’t need a committee to communicate. In fact, committees make it worse. We don’t need meetings, we don’t need planning, we don’t need a roadmap, we don’t need nametags, we don’t need those things to “communicate” You might need one for a newsletter. You definitely ought to have one for landscaping. You need a group of people that care about those subjects to sit around and bounce ideas off each other to do those things.

But communication, you just do.

I know it’s not quite that simple. I know from every day in all the positions I’ve been in, you have to continue to ask yourself “who should know this” and to make sure that the folks that need to know, that want to know, that should know, well, know. It’s not easy, in any area of this thing we call life.

But I think the core point for the workplace, our social groups, our professional organizations, our families: communication doesn’t need committees, it’s just what you do.

Public Funding

Public Works

“So, to get this straight. The taxpayers paid our partner to author and post the content. And then later paid us to copy and repost the content. Now the taxpayers should pay us so they can credit us so that the taxpayers will know that we are are the source of the content they paid for already?”