world of penguin

In case you missed today’s bout of penguin spam, I’ve archived it for your viewing pleasure here. If you or your family live in the US and have been personally affected by the issue of allowing children to blog here without parental consent, you may be interested to learn that the FTC have made it much easier to file a complaint about COPPA violations. If you are a staff member of Automattic, they have produced a useful checklist to help you comply with US data protection law and pre-empt any such complaints here.

Perhaps once they have ensured that they’re not going to get hammered with a fine they will be less afraid to deal with children when they misbehave. Right now, when they ban a child they run the risk that they or their disgruntled parents are going to grass them up and let them in for a world of pain. Taking personally identifying information from children and claiming to be unable to delete it? Inadvertent pron on kiddy dashboards? Ads for dating agencies on kiddy blogs? World. Of. Pain. It’s a good thing that penguins and their guardians are neither that smart nor that malicious.

(I’m also not wholly convinced that ‘your mom!‘ is an especially constructive approach to take towards trollkids, but if staff think it’s acceptable who am I to argue?)

18 Comments »

  1. Mark posted his email address to the forums a few days ago but now I can’t find the thread. Very surprised on their failure to follow their own privacy policies.

  2. Kissing Bandit said

    I’m stilling tripping on that ‘your mom’ screenshot. Damn. Who exactly is the trollkid in that thread?

    -KB

  3. I’m not. As has been noted before, Automattic employees can pretty much get away with anything they want.

  4. Kissing Bandit said

    Automattic employees can pretty much get away with anything they want.

    True enough, but that’s a new low even for an Automattic employee. Frankly, it’s disgusting.

    I don’t care what that penguin did, the employee is supposed to rise above it and project at least a modicum of professionalism. Seriously.

  5. deltafoxtrot isn’t an Automattic employee, or even a forum mod (yet). It is undeniable, however, that staff (mods aren’t in the equation — Isadora quit months ago, Trent pops in maybe once a week) allow the handful of remaining volunteers to say what the hell they like nowadays, probably for fear of pissing off raincoaster. If I had run around calling people twats, I would have been banninated a lot sooner than I was.

  6. Sorry about that. Must have been confused with someone else. Long day. I was thinking when you said “If staff thinks…” meant he was one.

  7. Kissing Bandit said

    I’m with Mike in apologizing for my assumption that he was a moderator or staff member, but the sheer fact that staff hasn’t even moderated the thread much less popped in there to say, “Hey, please keep this place somewhat respectable.” makes me lose what little faith I did have in Automattic and their sensibilities. This whole thing has got me wondering what their investors would say should they see half this crap.

  8. Having had a brief discussion with an employee of one of the companies that gave Automattic some of their VC money, it all comes down to the bottom line and return on investment. The rest about “growing companies” and “development” and all that is nice but it’s pretty much fluff outside of revenue growth. Bottom line is key. Everything else that gets them there is a concern but not as important as that bottom line.

  9. Absolutely. As long as Automattic are turning a profit, the VCs couldn’t care less exactly how that’s being accomplished.

    For all these new support staff being hired, I’m not seeing any impact on wordpress.com; if anything, resources are being diverted away from here. The forums are being gradually abandoned, just as .org was. The Light theme has been ‘updated’ (upsetting some of its current users who chose it for its freedom from the scourge of global tagegories), Google Gears has been implemented, and polls introduced, all without a whisper on the news blog. An increasing number of people are turning up on the forums complaining that their support tickets are going unanswered. Spam and bug reports are being disregarded. I sent in a feedback the other day about an inaccuracy on the FAQ and it was totally ignored. That wouldn’t have happened a couple of months ago; you would generally get some acknowledgement even if they didn’t bother fixing it.

    You’d expect things to start getting better once they hired more staff, but they’re actually worse. I’d imagine they’re just off doing corporate stuff. That stuff brings in revenue — keeping the forums clean and tidy doesn’t, and is therefore an ineffective use of resources. Also, letting the forums deteriorate provides a good excuse to junk them altogether a few months down the line. There’s far too many kids and people talking about Automattic’s use of Adsense there for corporate comfort. Take away the forums, censor a couple of tags, and hey presto, the penguins will be invisible.

  10. Modlooks are going over a week without anyone bothering to look at them over on the mu forums.

  11. Only to be expected; mu gets even less love than bbpress nowadays. It only exists so they can claim wordpress.com runs on open-source software. Providing support for potential competitors was never going to be a priority.

    I think there’s a general policy at the moment of letting all the forums go to hell, so that when talkpress opens its doors in a year or two they can consolidate everything over there and start from scratch. They pretty much have to keep the open-source support forums around in some form, however attenuated, but I can’t see the .com forums staying.

  12. Josh said

    Mike you talked to someone at TrueVentures or Polaris? You must have gotten more dirt than that. Spill it!

    As for COPPA I think they’re protected because the site isn’t “directed at children” which is what COPPA is all about. Also in all COPPA cases so far the sites asked for birthday information, which wordpress doesn’t do. Maybe that’s why they don’t have a social network here yet?

  13. Kissing Bandit said

    As for COPPA I think they’re protected because the site isn’t “directed at children” which is what COPPA is all about.

    Not entirely. First, I must preface this with IANAL, nor do I play one on TV.

    Now, on with it…

    It is unlawful for an operator of a website or online service directed to children, or any operator that has actual knowledge that it is collecting personal information from a child, to collect personal information from a child in a manner that violates the regulations prescribed under subsection (b). (Emphasis added.)

    FTC

    Although WP.com may not be specifically targeting their service to children, it’s pretty hard to deny the fact that they are collecting personal information from them considering the amount of penguins we have floating about the forums and announcing their 10th birthdays on their WP.com hosted blogs left and right.

    Just sayin’.

    -KB

  14. Also, while they will undoubtedly come down harder on you for collecting things like addresses and dates of birth, even a valid email address counts as personal data. Automattic’s refusal to delete accounts is almost certainly against UK data protection law, though presumably that’s not an immediate concern as they don’t have any servers here. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the global tagegory links break our laws on accessible websites, either, though I’ve yet to check that out.)

  15. What’s strange is the mu software does allow you to delete an account. There’s no problem with that as far as I can tell.

    Can’t remember though if you’re allowed to reuse an account if it’s been deleted. I know with deleted blogs you can.

  16. Chewypup makes an appearance on the mu forums.

    Hmmm, have to wonder about that.

  17. Cool, it sounds like Chewy is setting up his very own blog host where all the penguins can migrate and have their accounts ‘hacked’ by SuperAdmin Chewy and frolic far away from any pesky adults or COPPA concerns. Excellent idea! Swim, little penguins, swim!

  18. Andrea said

    Sure, you can delete users & blogs from the backend of MU. Except there’s still a record of them in the signup table. You’d have to muck around in the database to delete all traces of their existence, and without any other info, how would you know which ones were deleteable?

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