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August 31, 2004 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Fired from Friendster.com • Scott Sassa, CEO of Friendster, has canned a programmer named TroutGirl for blogging about her job in what appears to be a generally positive and non-specific manner. Some are suggesting we cancel our accounts in protest.
posted by dhoyt (52 comments total)

 
On one hand, it's obviously a bad idea to blog about your company without their express permission, on the other hand, it was about service improvements and garnered Friendster some good press (the Java vs. PHP flamewars notwithstanding).

FWIW, I cancelled mine, though to be honest I never used it much, partially because of the poor service prior to the switch to PHP.
posted by tommasz at 11:44 AM on August 31, 2004


Well, I just cancelled my account. Friendster totally sucked anyways after someone went on an ego trip and decided that using a bag of cheetos for my picture was offensive and managed to convince an admin to delete it.

Fuck 'em. Friendster totally sucks arse anyways.
posted by shepd at 11:46 AM on August 31, 2004


Quick, everyone overreact! And whatever you do, don't try to learn the other side of the story before you do so!

Maybe she was fired for blogging at work. Maybe she was talking about company prioprietary information. Maybe the mere mention of Friendster violated some term of her work agreement.

On another note, how do you know if was the CEO himself who fired her?

On another note... people still use Friendster?
posted by mkultra at 11:49 AM on August 31, 2004


So, she worked on the switch from java to php, which was internally conroversial and externally was widely noticed. This is the sort of thing that tech people get in knife fights over. She talks about it in her blog, and says that "hopefully we can now stop being a byword for unacceptably poky site performance".

Apparently, she made these public statements about the internal workings of her company without clearing it with anyone.

As in other cases, I'm sympathetic, of course, but I don't think she's been wronged. It was her mistake.

And she links to Udell who says, in the context of Friendster's switch, "The current blogging revolution represents, among other things, a more optimal balance between two synergistic methods: serving dynamic content from a database and serving cached, static content from a file system." Someone tell Philip Greenspun this. Oh, also, Matt.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2004


public statements about the internal workings

The information was public and already the subject of dozens of heated slashdot threads and tech articles. She commented on them after the fact, as far as I can tell.
posted by mathowie at 12:02 PM on August 31, 2004


But that's not the point. It doesn't matter that it was public knowledge. It matters that she worked there, she was involved, it caused controversy, and she talked about in a public forum. Companies frown on that sort of thing.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:12 PM on August 31, 2004


She may have gotten a raw deal, but I still don't see why this is any of our business. Or why any of us should care about the decisions a private company makes. I mean, I'm sure she's a nice person and all, but aren't there bigger things to get all activist about?
posted by jpoulos at 12:37 PM on August 31, 2004


Besides, I know plenty of people who were fired for "unofficial" reasons that differed greatly from the "official" reason given.
posted by jpoulos at 12:38 PM on August 31, 2004


EB: I hope you're not anyone's boss.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:39 PM on August 31, 2004


On another note... people still use Friendster?

What is, or was, the appeal of Friendster? I rarely like any of my friend's friends, and I certainly don't want to hear from total strangers.
posted by Ayn Marx at 12:41 PM on August 31, 2004


a programmer named TroutGirl

Man, her parents were cruel.
posted by kindall at 12:46 PM on August 31, 2004


Friendster? I think I still have an account there, I'd forgotten all about it. So she bashed JSP, and declared the site's performance to be below par, before a technology change? Well ouch. Tsst! IT BURNS! As jpoulos remarks, I expect there's a cock somewhere that remains unsucked to this day, and which DESIRES VENGEANCE.
posted by chrid at 12:47 PM on August 31, 2004


Ha, Friendster sucks, news at 11.

(FWIW, Friendster usage dropped off a freaking cliff due to dropped messages and total unusability -- it's the only web site I know of that spawned its competition through its own inept implementation. Really, the only analogue to Friendster's performance malaise and subsequent improvement was AOL's growing pains in the mid-late 90's, to which they threw about $1B into infrastructure to address. And you know what? After they did, they bragged incessantly about having done it. Troutgirl's bloggings were a model for what Friendster needed to say publically, which is please come back, we're usable now. But instead they fired her.)
posted by effugas at 12:49 PM on August 31, 2004


Re: discussing one's company -- Companies frown on that sort of thing.

Should they? Should an employee's involvement in an online discussion of a feature or otherwise publicly-available technical note always merit disapproval?

Even if these statements weren't cleared by her employer - do the tone and substance of Joyce's statements actually merit termination without warning? (Assuming that's what actually occured - I realize that it's a bit unfair to assume veracity without actually hearing Friendster's side of the story.)

During some of these previously alleged blog-related terminations certain companies could have saved themselves damage control effort - I wonder if Friendster will release any information clarifiying her termination given the increasing attention her post is getting.

She may have gotten a raw deal, but I still don't see why this is any of our business.

For some, particularly those of us who work as developers for online-communication or content-creation tools, this is an important issue - we're trying to understand where our boundaries in discussion are commonly thought to lie.
posted by massless at 12:56 PM on August 31, 2004


Good heavens -- EB and I actually agree on something - the planets are in some sort of strange alignment!

The SMART thing to do -- no matter your position, no matter the company -- is to never, never, never say anything that could even be *perceived* as negative about your employer -- or even your co-workers in all but the most VERY general terms. The company has every right to do whatever it can to improve the public image of the company, and one loose-cannon (not necessarily troutgirl) from within can wreak lots of damage.

Discretion: it's a good thing.
posted by davidmsc at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2004


Maybe she was canned for gratuitous allusions to Roland Barthes on her blog.

There might be another reason. Her previous post expresses workplace paranoia.

Friendster blows. It's ambiguity about whether it's a dating service harms it as a dating service, in my humble opinion.
posted by inksyndicate at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2004


I never joined Friendster (due to the fact that I don't visit any site that gets my friends to send me spammy emails), so, you know... I'm ahead of the game on this one.
posted by reklaw at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2004


Joyce was once my Patron Saint. She bought me my domain name, gave me a copy of her book, and got me to start "blogging" on what used to be a regular basis. She's good people.

But... Having worked with Joyce (literally sitting across from her), I wouldn't be surprised if the blog was simply an excuse to get rid of her as she can be quite vocal and very adamant/opinionated (read: "difficult to work with") My guess is that she rubbed Sassa, or someone high up, the wrong way. It happens.

She doesn't seem too upset by it (at least in her blog), so it would seem that Friendster just made a poor choice for justifying her termination, as the wrath of (fellow) bloggers will be felt, regardless of the authenticity of the charges or Friendster's side of the story.

Friendster is pretty much getting its arse kicked by myspace, anyhow.
posted by shoepal at 1:02 PM on August 31, 2004


Cue lots of people lining up to say that "of course you don't blog about your job". D'uh.

Here's the deal: if the blowback from firing someone for blogging is, in the end, worse than anyting that was blogged about, then perhaps companies will reconsider being so stupid about such policies.

Friendster accout: gone. Was rather useless anyway.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:14 PM on August 31, 2004


Perhaps, one day, Real Soon Now, more or most companies will realize: the value of discussion, the value of community and it's involvement with the company, and that - like it or not - any company is an organism within its community, not above or beside or apart from it; And like all organisms, they are diffuse, permeable, and it is unethical and counterproductive to try to artificially reinforce illusory walls between company and community.

Along with that, some companies will evolve that consider protecting "secrets" to be no more than trying to protect old, stale ideas.

The good news is that there are already companies like this.

I'm considering cancelling my friendster account. It's not like I even use it anymore. Though, I found a few old friends through it.
posted by loquacious at 1:21 PM on August 31, 2004


What is regarded as "right" or "proper" for a company to expect of its employees is a matter of constant negotiation. We give up our labor power for a price; do we also give up our right to speak? And if so, where are the boundaries? What can we speak about, and what not? If employers had the technical capacity to do so, would they have the right to physically bar us from speaking, or from using knowledge gained in their employ for purposes of which they wouldn't approve?

OTOH, this does pretty much illustrate the big problem with American Libertarian theories of labor: This really never is a matter for negotiation, thought all labor relations are said to be matters of negotiation, unless you just plain don't want to have a job. That's your choice. Which is, of course, not a choice at all...[...waiting for a libertarian to jump in and say "and how is that not a choice?"....]
posted by lodurr at 1:24 PM on August 31, 2004


there's a difference between saying that, if you value your job above all else, you shouldn't talk about it (which is true), and thinking that this is a reasonable action (it's not - just because this does happen doesn't mean it's right).

some companies suck, and it looks like friends is one of them. given that she was working for a sucky company, maybe troutgirl should have kept quiet. instead, hopefully, she'll find a new job at somewhere that sucks a bit less.

if i was looking for someone to hire, a blog like hers would be a reason for hiring her, not a reason for firing her. she cares enough about her work to want to discuss it, and does so in a responsible way. excellent. that's looking for programmers. if i wanted a sycophantic windbag that makes excuses for those with power no doubt eb would be high on my list. but thankfully i don't work in marketing.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2004


I cancelled my account.
posted by djacobs at 1:50 PM on August 31, 2004


I fired Friendster... they weren't doing a good job at managing my social networks and did follow common social policy when it came to human communication. I don't want someone like that working for me, so I fired them.
posted by Nick Finck at 1:53 PM on August 31, 2004


Discretion: it's a good thing.

I choose the other pill.
posted by srboisvert at 2:20 PM on August 31, 2004


Cancelled. Even if there was an unofficial reason, the reason given is unacceptable to me. The company gets my time from 9 to 5 and should expect I not disparage them publicly, but this reads more like they want prior approval over whatever comes out of my mouth.
posted by bashos_frog at 2:23 PM on August 31, 2004


I canceled my account as well. Their service always sucked ass anyway.
posted by bshort at 2:24 PM on August 31, 2004


Here are my blogging rules ...

The Rules

(1) Don'?t write about your friends unless they?'re doing something amazing
(2) Don'?t talk about work unless you?'ve left
(3) Don?'t talk about things you know nothing about
(4) Don?t make the rules too conspicuous
(5) Some rules can be broken ...

I followed rule 5 quite a lot which means I break rules 3 and 4 all the time. But I've never broken rule 2. Not ever. It's just too much of a risk -- I have plans, and those plans are consistent with my need to stay in work. Some people know I blog (and even know what one of those is) in there and I'd really hate for anything to get back.
posted by feelinglistless at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2004


Yeah, the pragmatic and moral issues are distinct. She should have known better than to talk publicly about something controversial and embarassing related to her employer, that she was involved with (correcting). And validating the negative judgment of both the prior incarnation of Friendster and the people who made the decisions to use java and (likely) defended that decision later. Generally, this was about as office politics inept as anything is.

On the other hand, I'm not endorsing the idea that employers have or should have the right to hold their employees hostage to anything they might say about their jobs away from their jobs. I'm all for a more enlightened company policy about these sorts of things. But we do live in the real world, after all.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:51 PM on August 31, 2004


Perhaps, one day, Real Soon Now, more or most companies will realize: the value of discussion, the value of community and it's involvement with the company, and that - like it or not - any company is an organism within its community, not above or beside or apart from it; And like all organisms, they are diffuse, permeable, and it is unethical and counterproductive to try to artificially reinforce illusory walls between company and community.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

wanna buy a bridge?
posted by quonsar at 3:03 PM on August 31, 2004


You know, almost all of the rockstar webdevs and engineers I know are bloggers. Blogging among skilled professionals is on the rise, and companies are going to have to come up with sane, well-defined blogging policies if they want to attract and retain engineering talent.

What's particularly ironic is that Joyce authored a whitepaper on the need for legally-valid privacy with regard to blogging, long before she was hired at Friendster.
posted by scottandrew at 3:08 PM on August 31, 2004


Simple - this is old train vs Cluetrain. Friendster has proved with this act that it is engaged in extinction management. The truth will bear that out eventually.
posted by Duug at 3:12 PM on August 31, 2004


I follow (or followed, when I was blogging regularly) a rule that I never posted anything that I would be uncomfortable with the head of my department reading. But I wouldn't think that this rule should be imposed on anyone else-- I really fail to see what Joyce wrote that was so controversial, though internal politics can always be fraught and full of untold stories... but if they gave blogging as a reason for firing her (as opposed to something much more realistic like 'Being abrasive and too hard to work with') they aren't particularly clever, as various kinds of net-related wrath will fall on their heads.

On the other hand, I hadn't looked at my account for months, and found when I just checked on it that the site had set my age back to some default date, making me briefly 18 again. Heh.
posted by jokeefe at 3:22 PM on August 31, 2004


You know, just when you think that the management at Friendster cannot possibly f**k themselves up any further, they manage to top themselves.

I agree with Jeremy Zawodny on this one. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on Troutgirl's blog that was not already a matter of public record, including Friendster's switch from JSP to PHP to make it run faster. They are a social software company, and they fired an employee for blogging?!?!? Jonathan Abrams and company should be ashamed of themselves.

And this is exactly the excuse I need to end my Friendster addiction for good. I am cancelling my account, and I suggest you do the same. I mean, Friendster is a ongoing joke anyway. It's time to cut to the punch line and let it go.
posted by Esco757 at 3:36 PM on August 31, 2004


if i was a member of friendster i'd also cancel my account over this particular firing. having to censor what you say after work is something i don't understand; not working in the mainstream i have no experience with the sorts of companies that operate this way, and while i can see the need for company privacy on some matters, to some degree, it seems that most of these stories make the co. in question look like paranoid bullies.

i guess i also don't see blogging as publishing, to me it falls into the category of conversation - so if i'm having a conversation with a large group of people, say at a party or bbq, i have every right to say what i want about the place i work and the people i work with. maybe these companies should clean up their act so they don't have to worry about what employees might say on their own time.

anyway, i belong to orkut which i believe is similar to friendster, in that it's a social networking service, so if any ex-friendsters would like an invitation to join it, just use the email addie in my profile and i'll invite you. altho' by this time most mefites must already belong to it...
posted by t r a c y at 3:54 PM on August 31, 2004


Simple - this is old train vs Cluetrain.

What year is this, again?
posted by reklaw at 4:00 PM on August 31, 2004


I met my girlfriend through Friendster -- see, it does work as advertised, we've been living together since January -- and I just cancelled my account. Partly because I never look at it any more (Orkut is a better Friendster than Friendster ever was) and partly because a site about networking should be embracing blogs, not seeing them as an enemy. And right now Friendster needs all the friends it can get.
posted by Hogshead at 4:13 PM on August 31, 2004


What year is this, again?

Yeah! Ideas older than 24 months are crap by default! Haven't you heard?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:22 PM on August 31, 2004


If I had an account there, I would cancel it.
posted by rushmc at 4:44 PM on August 31, 2004


What is, or was, the appeal of Friendster? I rarely like any of my friend's friends, and I certainly don't want to hear from total strangers.

I am a Friendster user. I am going to continue as a Friendster user, at least temporarily. Why? Because it's helped me reconnect with quite a large number of people I knew in high school. I have no other way to get in touch with them at the moment (though I keep trying to encourage them to join Friendster's competitors, especially Tribe.net or Multiply) and so I'm keeping my Friendster account because I want to keep in touch. I also explore their networks occasionally because I can find out which other classmates have signed up since I last checked.

That's the appeal for me.
posted by etoile at 6:11 PM on August 31, 2004


etoile - I'll invite you and all of your friends to Orkut, if you like. Email me.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:37 PM on August 31, 2004


Enemyster.
posted by iamck at 7:07 PM on August 31, 2004


iamck, you can't do that without sending me, personally, a beta code.
posted by kenko at 7:39 PM on August 31, 2004


the wrath of (fellow) bloggers will be felt

I am going down into my survival shelter even as we blog...
posted by meehawl at 8:41 PM on August 31, 2004


I cancelled my account.

I hadn't used my Friendster account in 6 months, and never met anyone through it that I would not have met otherwise.

The firing of Joyce was the last straw.

There is no business model there.

Bye-bye Friendster.
posted by gen at 8:44 PM on August 31, 2004


i cant believe how popular myspace is

is fucking ugly, its vomited on by adspace, the interface is terrible (updating your profile requires you to click and open a seperate window for every characteristic/trait etc)

not to mention its fucking ugly.
posted by Satapher at 8:47 PM on August 31, 2004


Wow.

Does anyone else remember when no one cared what you wrote about on your personal website?

It was much cooler, then.

This really sucked, for whatever reason she was really fired, this excuse sucks - and if this IS the reason then it's just bad.

I mean, why do they even care?

I just don't get that.
posted by erratic frog at 9:31 PM on August 31, 2004


I agree with Hogshead; I would have much more sympathy for some naive business that was scared to death of the big, bad internet and its dangerous "blogs", but Friendster? How oblivious can you get?
posted by taz at 11:02 PM on August 31, 2004


Cancelled. Orkut kicks its butt anyway. I try to keep a low profile blogging at my job. I think my boss knows about my site but I don't talk about it and he's never acknowledged it privately. I avoid talking about work issues as much as possible because I want to keep my job. My site, as much as I like it, isn't worth the money that keeps the mortgage paid and feeds my family.
posted by bbrown at 1:21 AM on September 1, 2004


Friendster - redefining the word to align it with "spinster" - old and without a spouse.

"Friendster" - old and without any friends.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:14 AM on September 1, 2004


The question is not whether Friendster has the legal right to do what they did, or whether Troutgirl could conceivably have followed a more keep-job-at-all-costs strategy in her life. The question is whether Friendster acted like jerks and whether we should punish them by cancelling, and for me, answer is yes.
posted by anser at 5:26 AM on September 1, 2004


Does anyone else remember when no one cared what you wrote about on your personal website?

I was once suspended for writing nasty shit on Usenet - websites were a few years down the road.

Our current move into a surveillance society does raise some interesting questions. Our future politicians will either tend to have been almost completely unwired while young and verbose, or preternaturally discreet lest every weird utterance and racist/libertarian/sexist comment of their youth be indexed and rendered for future generations of journalists to find.
posted by meehawl at 7:34 AM on September 1, 2004


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