Jeremy Felt

Good Citizenry

Earlier today I was catching up on feeds and read a recent Fred Wilson post in which he briefly makes mention of Wattpad.

When I look at creating and publishing novels, Wattpad is in situ. Kindle isn’t.

This intrigued me enough to go take a look. I was feeling a bit oblivious because I’ve usually heard of a popular app like this and it was news to me.

Upon arriving at Wattpad’s site, I saw a bunch of books but found it kind of hard to figure out exactly what was going on. I wasn’t yet a committed user, but I was definitely interested. I figured the only way to really understand the site was to join. I clicked on Login With Facebook, being given the impression that this is the only way to create an account. All good, I got the standard permissions form.

For some reason there’s been a weird thing happening in Google Chrome lately where all of these authorization sessions end with a blank window, so I closed that and clicked Login With Facebook again on the main Wattpad site.

I wish I had a screenshot of the next screen, but it was a little bubble window of some kind on the Wattpad site that informed me some posts would be made to my wall automatically. This was a little bit of a flag, since I still wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing here, so I popped over to my Facebook wall. Unfortunately, an announcement that I had started using Wattpad had just been posted to my wall.

Now at this point I was pretty pissed, so I immediately revoked publishing rights to Wattpad and deleted the post. I removed my Facebook app connection on the Wattpad site and tried to destroy any link Wattpad had to my wall. I even tweeted my frustration to Wattpad:

Not cool that @wattpad posted to my Facebook wall without permission or warning upon signing up.

Somehow this caught the attention of @dorkitude, who replied with a link to an active discussion on Hacker News that I had been following all morning with mixed thoughts:

@jeremyfelt @wattpad Not possible..

I’m either confused or I’m crazy. I replied:

@dorkitude I understand it *shouldn’t* be possible. I also understand that as soon as I joined @wattpad, something appeared in Facebook.

We went back and forth a couple times, but I know I get frustrated at trying to express a big thought in 140 character segments, so I moved over to this platform.

So here’s where I’m at and what I get.

I totally understand that I gave permission to Wattpad to post on my wall. That’s part of the authorization process. Cool.

It’s even possible that somewhere in that blank callback screen Facebook returned after the authorization, there was intended to be a portion where I said “Now tell my friends, Wallpad!”. But that never hit my eyeballs and I never clicked go. All I did was login to a new website using Facebook to try and figure out what the buzz was. By the time Wallpad had made clear how they intended to use that permission, a wall post had already happened in the background.

The 1s and 0s may have lined up to create the event that happened, but it was totally unexpected.

Now especially, as we all continue to figure out what kind of sharing we’re comfortable with, good citizenry is important.

And if you want to be a good online citizen, Wattpad and others, make sure the process is explicit.

I’m happy to share my online consumption of content because that makes the community fun, but I can’t stand it when a company assumes they know the right answer. Users shouldn’t have to “understand the Facebook platform” to be happy with what a company does with their profile.

Also related, an article from Joe Flood a few months ago, The Software Is Wrong, Not The People, based on a quote from Matt Mullenweg during a WordPress meetup.

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