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The Ethical Dimension

From Social Patterns

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When you are designing experiences for people, or designing frameworks within which people will create their own experiences, there is always an ethical dimension. What commitments are you making explicitly or implying when you open your doors for business. Are you promising to keep people safe, to keep their information secure, to respect their privacy? Are you willing to bend ethical rules to cheat your way through the cold start problem and rapidly build your social graph?

Balzac once wrote ""The secret of great wealth with no obvious source is some forgotten crime, forgotten because it was done neatly" and many successful social sites today founded themselves on an original sin, perhaps a spammy viral invitation model or unapproved abuse of new users' address books. Some companies never lived down the taint and other seem to have passed some unspoken statute of limitations.

You'll find that some of the forces that must be balanced to apply many of these patterns involve ethical dilemmas. Is opt-out good enough? Is this disclosure adequate? Is it your responsibility to stop the bullying?

Throughout this collection we'll call out ethical factors when we see them, and we hope others will point them out when we miss them.