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The ethics of humour

by demerphq (Chancellor)
on Apr 01, 2004 at 13:54 UTC ( #341624=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

No doubt many will think im suffering from a serious defficiency of humour in my diet but I want to get this off my chest.

The april fools hack that involves misrepresenting people by displaying content that they did not select on their homenode, regardless of intention or the perceived harmlessness of it, is unethical and wrong.

I work for a large company that for various reasons was legally obliged to put all of its 35 thousand employees through "ethics training". One of the lessons taught in the course was about how "little things" were dangerous despite the apparent harmlessness of them in of themselves. With regard to the home node hack we have an apparently harmless joke that to me raises troubling issues. Can I trust the gods? They apparently dont take such things as the sanctity of your home node seriously. From this I have to wonder what they do take seriously. And wonder about all the times they have taken things seriously whether they were really serious and what their motivations were.

I wrote a node a while back making clear my view that the gods were implicitly trustworthy. I now know different. Folks, what you thought was a funny joke has just made you look bad. Ive lost trust in you, and Im guessing that many more have too.

The XP hack is pretty funny in an antagonizing way. Certainly got me good. But XP is PerlMonks to give or take away. Its the sites property in a sense. And if the site thinks that messing with it is amusing then all the power to them. But note the difference here: The XP hack doesnt misrepresent me. It doesnt put words or images in my mouth. The home node picture does.

I can think of lots of circumstances where this hack could have been perceived as hurtful or inslting. I dont think its beyond the imagination of the gods to think of them as well. If they didnt then it shows lack of imagination, and poor judgment. If they did and still went ahead it shows just plain poor judgement.

Oh and as a last point, the next time you do a April Fools hack you might want to prepare it well BEFORE April 1, and include code that checks to make sure that it is in fact april fools based on the users local time. For instance I think you'll find that by the time the home node april fools patches was applied a big chunk of readers were already half way through the day, and at least some of the readers were already in April 2. The XP one at least didnt have this problem.I provided a patch to the home node one, despite my distate for the hack.

So not only was joke not funny, the implementation was poor too.

All in all I have to say: -- to the gods on this one. I suppose its not the first time that badly thought out april fools jokes have revealed poor judgment, but I have to say for me its been a real disappointment. *shakes head sadly*

Updated: I'm less sad now. I think vroom resolved this fine. People may find my view on this hardline but for me credibility is very important. Perlmonks has for me always been highly credible. The moderation system, the character of the people involved, the node deletion mechanism, lack of any real advertising, etc, etc, has always made this site superior in my mind. Anything that undermines that is for me very worrisome. Anyway. /me climbs off the soapbox with a blush.


    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    -- Gandhi

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: The ethics of humour
by Limbic~Region (Chancellor) on Apr 01, 2004 at 14:02 UTC
    As best as I have been able to tell, the rotating user image only ocurrs when you are looking at your own homenode. I have tested a dozen users logged in and they all come up with their normal picture. It is only when I go to my own homenode that I notice the randomly selected picture.


    Correction - diotalevi points out that other users are less likely to change.
    I can also say that the people talking about it in the CB have been thoroughly enjoying it. I don't know how many to determine if you are in the minority however.

      If you view your own home node it picks something random all the time otherwise only where rand() < .3.
        ...otherwise only where rand() < .3

        If it weren't for this fact, I would have to completely disagree with demerphq.

        If I would have done this prank, I would only have done it to your "own" homenode. Serves you right for being so vain to visit your own homenode so often... ;-)

        Still, as a prank for a single day, I can live with the 30% percent chance of someone not seeing my picture on my homenode. It can only get better ;-)



        Guess that this means my boss have one chance in tree of seeing my picture as that georgeous blonde in a really short red dress I just saw there.
        I will not think this as fun anymore if my homenode with a picture like that suddenly appears on the message board at the coffee room, here...


      No. It happens on other monks' home nodes too.

      Cheerio, Sören

      Agreeing just a bit with demerphq's concerns I vote to stop the image rotating by noon of the monk's local time

      The fact that the impact of this of is relatively minimal does not detract from the point that it overall unethical and wrong.

      I recognize not everyone would agree with me. But the abuse of super user powers to change how an individual represents themselves is in my eyes _wrong_ just about whatever the justification. Editorial intervention when something is outright offensive is one thing. For a joke? Nah sorry, its just unethical.


        First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
        -- Gandhi

        I take full responsibility for this joke and the poor implementation. As many pmdev members know it's not the only reprehensible code I'm responsible for, in fact there's a lot of it on this site.

        If anyone is seriously offended by their homenode being misrepresented /msg me and I'll see what steps can be taken to find an amicable solution. For anyone I offended or let down, I apologize.

        demerphq I would contend that if you find this action to be offensive you may want to consider the contents of your homenode. Some others might take issue with clicking the button on your homenode only to find a message they hadn't intended placed in the chatterbox and represented as their words.

        Personally I can see the humor in both and think that depending on the words chosen for the message, and the extent and type of homenode changes the chance of serious offense can be minimized. Clearly some use of personal judgement is necessary in both cases. I don't think either of us got it seriously wrong. I do welcome people telling me if they think I displayed poor judgment. If after hearing from others I find this was in fact the case I will take that feedback very seriously and hopefully exhibit better judgment in the future.

        Update: It is clear from the XP losses I am sustaining that the will of the community is against me on this. I haven't received any /msg's regarding this problem but the message delivered through voting seems clear. I've modified the code so now only your homenode shows other images. This way we can have fun and still be *more* ethical.

        So get rid of that "Huh?" button on your home node, then, if you're so hung up about misrepresentation.
        abuse of super user powers to change how an individual represents themselves is in my eyes _wrong_

        In my cursory tests, I did not find that there was any change in the way users represented themselves to others and is the main reason I commented. I was not disputing your claims of it being un-ethical. I have sat through enough ethics training seminars myself both for the military and for the government to know that a myriad of things I would never consider un-ethical are.

        After discovering that this was just by chance, I did not want to delete my reply, so I updated it.

Re: The ethics of humour
by flyingmoose (Priest) on Apr 01, 2004 at 15:08 UTC

    Good show, PerlMonks -- but next time stick it to home node only. Serves me right to link to perlmonks home node from my web page though. After all, merlyn looks dopey and if his node shows up when somebody clicks my name, it will ruin my chances of picking up women :)


Re: The ethics of humour
by inman (Curate) on Apr 01, 2004 at 15:55 UTC
    I thought that it was quite amusing and was totally in the spirit of a lively and vibrant community. I am sure that everything will be back to normal tomorrow.

    and what is 'Ethics Training' anyway? It sounds a little like somthing the Borg would do.

    Big Brother is watching ...

Re: The ethics of humour
by BrowserUk (Pope) on Apr 01, 2004 at 14:40 UTC

    Trust, like respect, is not given, but earnt.

    Examine what is said, not who speaks.
    "Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
    "Think for yourself!" - Abigail
Re: The ethics of humour
by wolfi (Scribe) on Apr 01, 2004 at 16:53 UTC

    since i caught the end of this discussion in CB w/demerphq and others, i've been vacillating on my opinion of the whole thing.

    i think, the random pictures were actually cute - but i see, where the others are coming from. When i first popped on and noticed that my XP had fallen so sharply, my only thought was "oh, no - what have i done?" It's almost like being ostricized by your peers.

    i've found, in my short stay here, that this is a community, that prides themselves on content and professionalism. One is ranked by how much they offer and how good this offering is. To have this achievement tossed around willy-nilly... it may seem to some, that the value is lost or its importance to the owner isn't held by the management.

    that being said - we're all human. We make mistakes. Some liked it, some didn't, but i don't believe this was done maliciously, so i'm gonna move on to the next topic :-)

    ps: there's always next year... ya can start plotting your revenge now guys *wink* (jk!)

Re: The ethics of humour
by johndageek (Hermit) on Apr 01, 2004 at 22:56 UTC
    How to respond?
    What makes it funny: The unexpected.
    What makes it hurt: The broken trust.

    Am I an expert on ethics? No. I am a dad, who is working with a teenage son who has run afoul of the law. He has trouble seeing what the problem is.

    A dad's explanation: Trust is what I extend to you when I entrust you with anything of mine (tools, car, name, reputaion etc.). Expectations - How I expect you to treat things that belong to me (or that I am responsible for).

    The higher my expectation of good treatment of whatever is entrusted to you, the more I will trust you with.

    In other words, if you user my shop vac, and it comes back full, with 2 attachments missing and the hose has a crack in it, you will NEVER borrow my car, and odds are that the best you will hope to borrow will be my second best pair of pliers (this will be to see if they come back in decent shape, and perhaps be a path to more trust).

    On the other hand, if the shop vac comes back with all the attachments, and has been emptied, with the hose in good condition, you will be allowed to borrow it again, as well as some day you may be allowed to borrow other things.

    Now, if the shop vac comes back emptied, in good condition with a new filter, or cleaner than when it went out, or you tell me the hose got crushed and you bought a new one, you are setting yourself up for the ability to use some high end tools, and building the trust I have in you to allow you use of more and more of what I am able to provide.

    How does this reflect on a business, or a site like Perl Monks? Generally there will be no lecture, people will just stop giving their best, or honest representations of themselves, or people will just go elsewhere.

    Ok, Ok, here is where we cap the lecture on "Don't take yourself so seriously". I don't, however I take YOU seriously until we know each other. e.g. I am old, bald and fat. This is not news to me, nor to others who meet me. I joke about each and all of the above. My children and close friends will sometimes offer to buff "the dome", all in good fun. However, I would never presume to make such an offer to another bald person unless I knew them well. Why? Perhaps they had cancer, perhaps they are very sensitive about it and so on. Why should a site such as Perl Monks presume to change the representation of me. If that representation is not held sacred (or at least left alone) then this is a joke site, and those can be had at a die a dozen, and can be expected to be treated as such.

    Just my 2 cents worth

Re: The ethics of humour
by logan (Curate) on Apr 01, 2004 at 22:12 UTC
    When I logged in this morning, I didn't notice anything strange at all. I saw that I'd gained 2 XP, and went to my home node to see if it was the random XP gain or if someone had upvoted one of my nodes. "Ack!", I thought, seeing that I'd lost 10 XP and that my image had changed. My mind raced, thinking I'd had my account hacked and that someone had been flaming people using my account. Then I reloaded the page and saw that the image had changed again and I'd lost 7 XP. It was at that point that I realized it was a prank.

    To sum up: vroom and the other gods played a prank on the people who visit vroom's site. I figured out what was happening within one minute, and realized that within 24 hours everything would be back to normal. No harm, no foul. I've played far more elaborate and far-reaching pranks on people with far less (or no) provocation.

    Speaking as a victim of this cruel breach of the sacred trust I have with a bunch of people I've never met and whose real names I'm unaware of, I say "Well played." I can't wait to see what next year's gag will be.

    "What do I want? I'm an American. I want more."
Re: The ethics of humour
by Plankton (Vicar) on Apr 01, 2004 at 16:06 UTC
    I thought it was funny. I got the "Take that you feeble Emacs user" cartoon. Very funny.

    Plankton: 1% Evil, 99% Hot Gas.
Re: The ethics of humour
by tbone1 (Monsignor) on Apr 01, 2004 at 15:57 UTC
    April 1: better known as 'amateur day'.

    tbone1, YAPS (Yet Another Perl Schlub)
    And remember, if he succeeds, so what.
    - Chick McGee

      April 1: better known as 'amateur day'.

      That pretty much sums up my take on April 1 pranks. An even better summary is 'annoying amateur day'.

      I offer no criticism of any of the PerlMonks April 1st pranks (we had at least 3, some with multiple implementations). But I do profess no involvement in any of them.

      I've given up performing April 1st stunts. I can't think of one that I consider more funny than annoying, rude, mean, and/or immature (including the ones I've done in the past).

      I'm not here to tell other people to stop their own pranks, especially those who have an appreciative audience. But I no longer fall into either group.

      Enjoy your day... (:

      - tye        

        An even better summary is 'annoying amateur day'.

        Actually, I pulled a pretty good one at work on the first. Everyone was expecting something, all day, and I did nothing.

        Then, without my know it, a UPS package arrived for someone after I left for an afternoon dentist appointment. The person had no idea who the sender was, and they all thought I'd done something for April 1.

        I wish I could plan things like that. And I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces when it turned out to be medical-related promotional items from a vendor. Does anyone want a pink foam-rubber thcochke known as "Mr. Colon"?

        tbone1, YAPS (Yet Another Perl Schlub)
        And remember, if he succeeds, so what.
        - Chick McGee

Re: The ethics of humour
by astroboy (Chaplain) on Apr 01, 2004 at 17:40 UTC
    What?? People don't find April Fools jokes funny???? Next thing I know, people will be telling me that bodily functions aren't amusing...
Re: The ethics of humour
by spikey_wan (Scribe) on Apr 02, 2004 at 09:50 UTC
    Well, I thought it was funny, and you're a big girls blouse! So there! ;-)



Re: Turning off the blinking Other Users
by kutsu (Priest) on Apr 01, 2004 at 19:16 UTC

    Although this didn't mention the blinking Other Users box, I decided to post code to solve that problem (for those who find it annoying).

    #Other_Users { visibility:hidden; } /*this will make it a gray bar or */ #Other_Users { display:none } /*this will just not show it or */ #Other_Users { text-decoration:none; } /*this will display it normally +*/

    To turn off the other April Fool's jokes (which I liked but have gotten old) switching your timezone to April 2nd works best

    "Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum - I think that I think, therefore I think that I am." Ambrose Bierce

Re: The ethics of humour
by jryan (Vicar) on Apr 01, 2004 at 21:28 UTC

    I'm often very annoyed by this site, probably because many of its users have sticks up their respective asses. Then, something will change my mind and make me smile, like this April Fool's joke. However, then, I see nodes like this one; my smile vanishes, and I just want to close the browser window.

Re: The ethics of humour
by Anonymous Monk on Apr 01, 2004 at 19:34 UTC
    Some day ... we are all going to die. It's moments like these that make me happy to be alive. It's people like you or at least those that have such a serious attitude that ruin it for the rest of us. We are all going to die. Have some fun man. I really hope you are just having a bad week, because this is not the kind of bullshit i excepted from you. Stay young.
      We are all going to die.

      Shit! Since when???

      I've got to see the Pyramids, go skydiving, cure world hunger, figure out those NP complete problems and F*CK WITH THE PERLMONKS IMAGES.

      Now who's sad?

Re: The ethics of humour
by chaoticset (Chaplain) on Apr 15, 2004 at 19:46 UTC
    Perlmonks has for me always been highly credible. The moderation system, the character of the people involved, the node deletion mechanism, lack of any real advertising, etc, etc, has always made this site superior in my mind.
    Hm. Yes. However, two things stick out here:
    1. It's not my site. Not my call. It's at the mercy of Vroom and the rest. While it strikes at my shriveled, fact-checking, pedantry-exercising heart to see things modified in such a manner, it's not my choice to make.
    2. Like the Lost Legends at Snopes, it's a message encapsulated in a trick, the message being that veracity is not always guaranteed in life and that when you do have people of such fine caliber attempting to provide said veracity, it should be well appreciated.
    Keeping those things in mind, I find it hard to be too upset about the prank. It Wasn't My Choice, and It Made Me Appreciate The Site More.

    As for ethics...I've always found them either too broad to allow actual freedom, or too personal to bother discussing with others. Much like religions, actually.

    You are what you think.

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