Monday, April 27, 2009

Open Source Annoyances

Every now and then I'll make a little computer program, usually to experiment with a technology or to make my life a little easier, then release it on the Internet for other people to use.

It obviously comes with no guarantees, promises, or anything else, but apparently some people don't realize that. That, or they're just rude, or at the least, lacking politeness.

Example 1:

Email Subject: Bloomberg Gadget
Email: Why has this gadget died? It is a great gadget. Please fix it.

Commentary: The "Bloomberg Gadget" was a widget I built to go on a Google Homepage ( It was one of the first widgets I built, and I actually did it to help me learn how to build Google widgets.

At least the emailer (a reverend, actually) had the courtesy to mention briefly that it was a "great gadget," and he even threw in a "please," but it still came out as an order. Not only that, but he's not giving me any sort of clue as to actually went wrong except for the completely vague "it died." How am I supposed to figure out his problem based on that?

Example 2:

Email Subject: Keylogger not working after a few weeks how to fix?
Email: Hey there, How are you doing? I've had your keylogger addon for a few weeks now, and all of a sudden it stopped working. Do you know why? And how can I fix it?

Commentary: This was a Firefox add-on that logged keystrokes so if your browser crashed, you wouldn't lose whatever you were typing. At least this guy was civil in his email; the problem is that like the previous example, this guy gave me nothing to go on. "No, I don't know why it stopped working. Is your computer plugged in?"

Example 3:

Email Subject: keylogger addon
Email: I was looking for a keylogger that I can use to monitor the activities of my teenaged daughters (hereafter referred to as “the monsters”), and stumbled across the experimental version of your application. For this purpose, because the monsters are not stupid, I am looking for something that works pretty much surreptitiously. I noticed that the description indicates it will not be hidden. I am not a programmer or other IT professional, and would never consider changing an application, as some have indicated they have done to accomplish this [ed. note: the whole point of making an application open source is to allow anyone to modify it however they want]. Will there be a “parental supervision” version of this add-on that will allow me to be sneakier than the monsters?

Commentary: At first, I wanted to respond, "Seriously? You're an adult? And a mother?"

In the end, I wrote the following:

I'm sorry, there are no plans to create a "Parental Control" version.
You may use it to monitor your children, but far more often,
technologically-savvy children would use it to steal their parents'
usernames, passwords, and bank account numbers.

Honestly, your best bet would be to have your computer in a public
place (such as the kitchen or living room), and educate your daughters
on the various online dangers. It's a losing battle getting in a
technological war with today's generation. It's just a thought, but I
suspect that the first time you show them evidence from your
monitoring, they will realize what you are doing and either retaliate
(perhaps by installing a keylogger of their own) or simply move their
computer use to a friend's house where you have no control instead of
the small control you have now.

Good luck with your situation! I don't envy you the difficult job of
dealing with teenagers, and wish you the best in your parenting.

1 comment:

Anna Marie said...

Ha! Ha! Great response to the mom.
You are amazing!