The Bullet and The Foot: Nov 03, 2009

Quote of the Day
A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? 
   --Albert Einstein
Today's Ethical FAIL
In my travels around the net, I ran across and article on my favorite news aggregator about how Facebook games are loaded with scam offers. On one hand, yes, it's not very good business practice to keep around advertisers whose principle market is scamming your customer base. I'll grant you that.

My concern is not about the outrage. My concern is the logic behind the outrage, and the target of the outrage.

We see these sorts of scams all of the time. Every denizen of the net is bombarded with them, in email, banner ads, etc. So, do we really need our uber-intellectual "Friends" out there to point out the blazingly obvious? And why is the outrage directed at the likes of Znyga? Who, if you look in the updates section, has actually been working on the problem for a while. They had already addressed the major point in the article, prior to the publication! (How's that for doing your research, buddy?)

That doesn't warrant an "update", that is what Journalists call a "Retraction".

Outrage should begin and end with the actual scammers. The situation is akin to boycotting the transit system because one of their advertisers turned out to be a payday loan place. Despite them taking down the ads as soon as they discovered them.

And, being Facebook, everyone using the system is over 18. Or should be over 18. So there's no "Think of the children" basis for the argument. What you are left with is one party blaming another party for a third party's behavior. And justifying his line of reasoning on the premise that other Adults are not smart enough to see the situation for what it is.

Now as far as the actual scammers go, I think the parties involved should be sued for fraud, hung from the tallest tree in town, revived, hung again, revived, shot by firing squad, chopped into bits, cremated, their ashes scattered, and the Earth salted. But that's just me.

About Today's Quote
I have the pleasure of modeling imperfect systems for a living. Plumbing that leaks. Power that sags. And crew that manages to screw things up in baffling ways.

The crew is my favorite. We use a science called "Agent Based Modeling" as the basis for our work. Every crew member has an individual motivation for doing things. And the assumption is that they are always working in the best way they know to attain their goals. The "problem" being that we ask people to take on several goals at once. Those goals can, and often do, conflict with one another.

How each member of the crew sorts out which goal to work on an what time is where the "richness" (aka. the chaos) of the system stems from. Some people have no sense of self-preservation in a crisis. The Adrenalin kicks in, and they go into action, grabbing a fire extinguisher and dashing into a smoke filled compartment. Some people are loathe to make a mistake. They will sit on a report until the facts have been proven beyond the reason of a doubt. However, they fail to take into account that every minute of delay is making the situation worse. You have the chain of communication where reports morph and change shape as whisper down the lane starts with "smoke in 01-31-0L", and ends up with "there's a pillar of fire in 1-13-0L!" (one deck down, and in a different part of the ship entirely.)

Human society demands those same balances in everyday life. Here's my draft of "the 5 commandments" of polite society:

  • Look out for your own safety and well being.
  • Look out for your family's safety and well being.
  • Chip in for the services you use.
  • If you see another person in imminent danger, help or alert someone who can help.
  • Don't hurt other people.

    Those 5 basic principles that nobody can argue with. And there are exceptions to those, naturally. But let's cover the basics before we get fancy.

    When someone crosses the line from judgement call to "stepping out of polite society", it's generally in one of two ways:

  • Doing one rule to the exclusion of all others
  • Mangling the rule into a perversion of it's original meaning

    Take the Naked Coffee Man. The mother was, in her mind, looking out for the safety and well being of both herself and her child. And the police were looking out for the safety of the family of one of their own. The problem was, nobody's safety was ever in danger, and in the process, they violated rule 5.

    In the case of the scammers, they are following rule 1 (and by bringing home the bacon rule 2) with reckless abandon, but they are in flagrant violation of rule 5.

    The health care "debate" is disguised as an argument about the individual and Rule 3. (Blah blah blah, a public option is Welfare for Healthcare!) In reality, our current situation has degraded to the point that a few (the Insurance companies) are enriching themselves at the expense of other people's lives and livelihoods. And it's not even a question survival. These people are making a killing by taking in exorbitant premiums, and then finding any, any excuse not to pay out for services rendered. (See also, Rule 3). There is no "debate". Just Health Insurers and the politicians who love to accept their campaign contributions. (Rule 1)

  • Well I hope that was enlightening, and have a great day!

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