You seldom find a programmer who is unappreciative of the fame that the cyber age has bestowed on him/her. The new-age “super heroes”, as some would claim, are having their fair share of world dominance at the moment. Maybe it’s because of our indispensable skill set, or maybe it’s because we have earned ourselves the most publicized revolution in history – considering the fact that the discovery of Bacteria used to be more popular than the constant re-invention of the smart phone – but one thing is certain, programmers love the lime-light…(and like the celebs)maybe too much!
Research shows that cyberbullying is on the rise. It is my opinion that its definition should be broadened to include a new type of cyberbullying which now exists in the form of aggressive apps, and this time the bullying is being perpetrated by those who should defend the universe – programmers. The world is daily bombarded with downloadable apps, most of which are not scrutinized by a standards organization or an ethics panel of some sort; any programmer can launch an app of any kind onto the internet platform for mass consumption without thorough vetting of the features and functionalities of the application or proper investigation of the motivation and mindset of the developer(s). The case in point is, an unchecked system will crumble on itself soon enough.
It’s easy to attribute reason for articles like this to the “black hats”, but how much do we know of the activities of the so-called “white and grey hats”? Recently, applications have been given enhanced functionalities that were previously attributed to the notorious “invasive tactics” of hacking. In a bid to garner more “hits” from unsuspecting users (thereby increasing income), applications that were formerly “safe and reasonable” have turned aggressive, further stripping the user of cyber surfing freedom. A typical example of this aggression is evident in several apps; the “right key” of the mouse or touchpad is assigned a “single-click” action for conventional “double-click” events. So a blog reader, for example, who intends to open up a URL in a different tab would end up loading this new page with a single click of the right-key. This simple act, which may not seem like much initially, robbed the reader of the options in the pop-up menu, and a potential choice. Eventually, the “bounce-rate” of that blog is increased and interest wanes – a potential customer/client/partner is lost!
The ever increasing “compulsory” ads on YouTube that must be viewed before proceeding to ones video of choice; the touch event-listeners on the Blackberry (BBM) messenger that swap the notification you intended to view with an ad; the super-aggressive bubble of the Facebook messenger which submerges any other app you may be interested in as soon as it pops-up; the “compulsory” ads associated with yahoo videos which warn you against attempting to skip with the threat to serve you more (“click here to see more”); the endless request by commercially optimized sites to install cookies (sometimes blaming it on the browser); are examples of aggression from programmers which constantly frustrate users.
The definition of cyberbullying clearly highlights intimidation and threat via electronic communication (which is what is obtainable in quite a number of the popular apps available worldwide) as standout features. These omen is played down apparently because of the great demand for the services that these applications offer. Granted…there is need for optimization and commercialization via information retrieval and advert distribution, but programmatically intimidating the client to achieve ones targets is a blow below the belt for the helpless users who find themselves lured further into the beckoning arms of uncontrolled programmers through the mouth watery functionalities of our genius inventions.
As developers, we must remember that the user is the goose that lays our golden eggs, not vice versa. It is important to note that people usually gravitate to a place of greater peace – where choice isn’t a luxury but a fundamental right. An application that is more subtle in its approach would eventually generate greater traffic.