Facebook Shows Bereaved Parents Their Year In Review Whether They Like It Or Not
Meyer is right that this isn’t a specific and unique failure on the part of Facebook’s design team, but he is a lot more understanding than I can imagine being in his position. I disagree that Gheller’s apology was unwarranted just because this type of mistake is so ubiquitous. I used to work in software design and testing, and I understand from a designer’s point of view the desire to have the work you’ve poured blood, sweat, and a vast ocean of coffee into seen and used by as many people as possible. But sometimes you have to give people the choice to opt out, or better yet in this case, to opt in. Ignoring the worst case scenario doesn’t become okay when you’re ‘only’ working with social media software rather than health care records or accounting or governmental databases. It should be a fundamental consideration – not an afterthought.
Computers are stupid, but designers can’t afford to be, because they are the only ones involved who can foresee inflicting unnecessary grief on the bereaved, the newly-divorced, and the out of work. Computers are stupid, because they don’t and can’t know what it feels like to lose a child or to find out a dire diagnosis. Or what it feels like to have your loss shoved back in your face on what looks like an antique PowerPoint background. Technology can do amazing things, but the most amazing thing it could have done here – and the most human – would have been to offer Eric Meyer the choice not to have his year-end review thrust upon him.