Software engineers are indoctrinated to believe: "People only hate ads when they aren't relevant." This doctrine has led to over 20 years of mass data collection. It's a lie, and if more engineers dared to question it, we'd get a lot further on .

@kylerankin I'm encouraged by the new emphasis on ethics in engineering and how many engineers are starting to speak up (or vote with their feet) when companies order them to build unethical machines.

@kylerankin You can't blame the software engineers for the moral failings of business leaders. I get that I'm at a standing desk, but I wont stand for that. 😏

@russsaidwords Both groups are ignoring their conscience in exchange for more money. I have more faith in the engineers to change and more faith that the industry will change if they do.

@kylerankin One group is dependent on the other group. The power is entirely in the hands of the business leaders. I'm not saying "I was just following orders," I'm saying if a developer says no, they get fired until the business leader finds a developer that wont say no. The economy we live in and have lived in, created by those with the capital, does not lend itself to streams of developers willing to say no to terrible ideas. That's the truth of it. "You want this to blink? Okay."

@russsaidwords Engineers, collectively, have the power. The business leaders are dependent on talented, in-demand engineers and their ability to attract them away from competitors. See the impact of Google engineer protests on Project Dragonfly and forced arbitration. We need more of this, it works.

@kylerankin Where do I join the Software Developer Union?

Seriously though, that worked at Google when the stakes were "we're going to develop drones that are more effective killing machines," and rightfully so.

Every other moment of "We're going to amass data on every individual on the planet the likes of which no one has ever seen before, and then use it to not be evil" was just fine with those developers. Because collecting data isn't killing people, just a means to every other evil that it leads to.

@Phaserune False dichotomy. Plenty of ethical employment options for engineers. People pick big adtech firms because they pay more, not from lack of alternatives.

@russsaidwords @kylerankin "[…] if a developer says no, they get fired until the business leader finds a developer that wont say no. […]" — It's like saying that no voter's voice matters.
When less engineers are willing to work on a project, it reduces the supply of "talent", and drives the prices up, thus making the project less attractive for ultimately the investors.

@russsaidwords @kylerankin On the other hand, there seems to be way more software engineers than the work worth doing. So, in order to feed themselves, most of them have to work on destructive projects, with negative total sum.
I'm actually wondering why doing IT professionally is still considered a valid career choice. It's just as good as professional sports or show business…

@russsaidwords @kylerankin To simplify it further:
• if you like sports, you'll most likely end up being in the army, doing whatever
• if you like arts, you'll most likely end up being an advertiser, making people buy
• if you like computers, you'll most likely end up improving the surveillance machine

Per se these are valuable skills & knowledge, and one should be interested in them.
But it doesn't mean one should aim to do it professionally. Hobby for most.

@russsaidwords @kylerankin P.S. Also don't forget that many/most engineers working in the destructive projects, sincerely believe that there is no problem, mass surveillance is OK, democracy is futile, and so on.
If those are the best experts, they'll make the system into whatever they believe is best for all…

@amiloradovsky @kylerankin Driving up prices by forcing a company to look for "scarce resources", developers willing to program terrible things for money, only provides fuel to the fire for people willing to say "Look at what those developers are willing to do for money." If you paid me $XXXk per year, I'd probably be willing to do some pretty shitty things that don't affect me personally: This bot just says "Mortgage denied!" all day. It does not address the root problem.

@amiloradovsky @kylerankin The root problem being that companies are incentivized to do shitty things. Take away the incentive and they will most likely stop doing shitty things. They don't do these things in a vacuum. People want "free" email. They just don't understand what that really means, yet. Asking developers to fight that tide is pointless.

@russsaidwords @kylerankin The incentive is that investors want highest possible returns. Not sure how to solve that.

Educating users is, of course, also important aspect. But for that you'd need to have louder voice than that of advertisement and propaganda. And how to achieve that, if all the people capable of doing the outreach are busy with the sales campaigns?

@amiloradovsky @kylerankin

How to solve that?

Regulation. Remove regulatory capture. Bust up monopolies & companies that are "too big to fail." Heavy penalties for infractions of privacy and other basic human rights. Election/campaign finance reform. Reverse partisan gerrymandering.

The list goes on... but I'm sure "conservative" ears are already burning, and this is likely my last reply to this thread. Have a nice day.

@russsaidwords @kylerankin Few developers, even if paid crazily high, won't be able to do much. And their products will be easy to counteract (outcompete), if much more developers are working on that.
That'll make the price of the shitty thing, some managers came up with, even higher and even less worthy of undertaking.

The only solid argument here is "what else will I do", and I don't really have an answer for where else those conscious developers could go.

@amiloradovsky @russsaidwords @kylerankin
“no voter's voice matters” — When employees have an equal vote in what their company works on, that might be relevant.
Silicon Valley companies are not run by vote of the workers, but by dictate of the owners. Workers can attempt to get collective representation but, without that, talk of voting about the work is empty.

@FimbulFlower On purpose? I can't remember the last time I did, but to be safe I'll say less than ten, some time in the late `90s.

@kylerankin yeah that's what I thought. Online ads are seen as scams and bad deals.
Even ads on roadside signs have more credibility than an online ad.

They really need to rehabilitate online ads image. I mean most of us don't block then cuz we hate being advertised to, we just hate the security risk and the tracking.

And whenever there's a malicious ad that installs bullshit on your computer? Oh it's no one's fault. Bah.

@kylerankin it's a lot less about relevance. It's much more about legitimacy.

I certainly went through this indoctrination. I do think it's true that people prefer more relevant ads and find them less annoying or not annoying at all. The problem is the surveillance necessary to do it; I don't think most people understand privacy well enough to make an informed decision about what information to allow advertisers collect. I don't think they even understand what's being collected or with whom it's being shared.

Between intent-based and content-targeted ads and history-driven recommendations (not paid ads) where the history is voluntarily handed over and aggregated across merchants by the user, that should be plenty to both serve advertising needs and to help people find products and services they want.

@icedquinn @kylerankin
Let's take the emissions scamming software that Volkswagen created as another example. Winterkorn (facing 10 years in prison) could not have coded that himself. I hope one day we hear the whole story on how he got his developers to do it.

@kylerankin The human mind can delude itself into believing anything to justify that fat paycheck at the end of the month.

Besides, some companies make it explicit that "if not you, there are others".

Employees all the way up to the CEO can easily justify unethical actions because the corporation is responsible for those actions and not them personally, conveniently forgetting the fact that corporations are just abstractions, not natural persons.


Actually it's not entirely false (of course your point is valid too): I remember when reading wargame magazines I liked to see ads for good games.
Of course they weren't really intrusive and they were actually relevant and quite informative (at least about the existence of the game, not necessarily of its quality, but there weren't much other ways to get informed about new games at those times)...

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