September 22nd, 2009

Banned for discussing the ethics of screensavers

So campers.... what do you think. Is it a good idea to run screensavers that scrapes random images and text from the internet?  I think its a bad idea. I think it was a bad idea when xscreensaver did it with rss feeds and web images and I think its a bad idea now.   We should not be encouraging the pulling of random content from the web to a screensaver. Content has context..and there needs to be a human being sitting in front of the display making a judgement as to whether the content is appropriate for viewing at that moment.  Having unattended screensavers grabbing random material is a garunteed way to display the wrong content in the wrong context to the wrong people.   

This maybe cute functionality to code up...and its certaintly trivial to implement. But just because its cute and doable doesn't mean we should encourage developers to do it and make it available to people to use.  Don't developers have some responsibility in choosing to refrain from implementing functionality that could have problematic social impact?   I think they do. And I think people who lift up this sort of problematic functionality also bear some responsbility...especially when they don't remark on the problematic nature of display random content in unmonitored situations. 

Appearently  a certain Canonical employee doesn't feel its appropriate for me to express these opinions as part of a discussion in his otherwise open blog comments even after the actual developer of the software chimed in and essentially agreed that my concern was valid while disagreeing with me that as a developer he has some responsbility for choosing to implement inherently bad functionality.

Hey if that's what Canonical wants to see... random profanity ripped from twitter and in Ubuntu screensavers activated in public spaces... more power to them.  Say the word, and I'll gladly help accomplish that by encouraging wide usage of this screensaver.  In fact I'll go out right now and boot live version of Ubuntu on with the lifesaver screensaver activated on all the public computers I can find since Jorge, a Canonical employee feels its a good idea.