I wrote recently about how important our users / visitors trust is to us. If our users don’t trust us, they’re not going to use our services.
Following up on this theme, I’d like to tell you a quick story of how a software developer has turned me from being a big fan to losing me as a user by violating my trust.
When editing the last post to The Startup Gardener, I had the need to hand craft some of the html behind the scenes. It was then that I noticed the following in the code:
<img class="zemanta-pixie-img" src="http://img.zemanta.com/pixy.gif?x-id=[tracking code]" alt="" />
Somehow an image from an unknown server was being inserted into the post. In fact, it had been inserted into a number of posts on The Startup Gardener. This image would allow “zemanta” to know whenever someone reads one of my blog posts. So not only was my trust violated, but also the privacy of my readers. Add the fact that this image could have easily been slowing down The Startup Gardener’s post load times, I was not a happy camper. How on earth did this happen? Was my server hacked? Did I have virus on my machine?
Well, after quick bit of google sleuthing I found the following illuminating blog post that explains that ScribeFire, a firefox plugin that I was using for blog post editing, was responsible for inserting this code into each blog post that I had used it to edit. Out-fracking-rageous. The author of the plugin has stated that “we were very open, it is in every release notes. Also, that’s why there is an off switch”, but that does not cut it in my book. Such functionality should be off by default, and turned on only after giving explicit warning to the user about what is going to happen. Anyway, it took me no time at all to decide that I didn’t want this author’s software on my machine. If he plays it fast and loose like this, what’s to say he doesn’t upgrade the plugin in the future to do just about anything to my posts and machine. Heck, the people responsible don’t even need me to upgrade the plugin to wreak havok, they could just replace the image file they inserted into a whopping big banner and there it would appear plastered all over my posts.
So, I have uninstalled it and written this blog post as a warning to others about using this sofware. I have also put up a review on the mozilla plugins page warning others of this “feature” of the software. See how quickly someone can go from being a happy user promoting your software to someone who will go out of their way to warn people to stay away from you.
It’s a shame too, as the functionality of the software was pretty good, but not good enough to put up with those shenaigans. And as the sayung goes, once bitten, twice shy. I will not be using ScribeFire again.
And that is that.
What do you think? Am I overreacting? Share your thoughts by commenting below.