The moral responsibility of office software

Si elegansOn practical ethics Ben and me blog about user design ethics: when you make software that a lot of people use, even tiny flaws such as delays mean significant losses when summed over all users, and affordances can entice many people to do the wrong thing. So be careful and perfectionist!

This is in many ways the fundamental problem of the modern era. Since successful things get copied into millions or billions, the impact of a single choice can become tremendous. One YouTube clip or one tweet, and suddenly the attention of millions of people will descend on someone. One bug, and millions of computers are vulnerable. A clever hack, and suddenly millions can do it too.

We ought to be far more careful, yet that is hard to square with a free life. Most of the time, it also does not matter since we get lost in the noise with our papers, tweets or companies – the logic of the power law means the vast majority will never matter even a fraction as much as the biggest.

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