Think About Principles

A blogger posted today about a rather unfortunate app that makes a game out of virtually killing real people, with a focus on “hobos”. The blogger in question is up in arms about the app and is “hoping people will use their voice [sic] to get [such] garbage thrown out of the Android Market”.

This is indicative of two problems:

  1. The blogger in question appears to be ignorant of the Streisand effect.

  2. The blogger in question may not be thinking in terms of principles and their application.

To publish apps on the Android Market, a developer must agree to the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement, the Android Market Developer Program Policies, and the Content Rating Guidelines. Apps failing to comply with these agreements are subject to removal from the Market. Conversely, apps that do comply with these agreements are supposed to be left alone.

In this respect, Google is stating its principles regarding apps on the Market.

Having a debate on whether those principles are the right ones is wonderful.

Having a debate on whether Google truly abides by those principles would be awesome.

Having a debate on whether any given app runs afoul of those principles would be excellent.

However, the phrasing from the blog post in question suggests that the blogger cares not a whit about the principles. Rather, the blogger intimates that Google should abandon the principles in the face of outrage.

This is scary.

It is scary because a capricious Google could start banning apps and developers for any reason they desire. We’re already halfway there by Google apparently not actually telling people why their apps were banned, suggesting capriciousness even if the principles were truly applied faithfully.

Now, we most certainly could have a debate on whether there should be an “outrage” clause added to the principles. Along the way, though, we would need to discuss how outrage should be measured and how countervailing opinions can be taken into account. The result would probably be rules akin to how Wikipedia editors work, and those principles are often the source of complaint as well.

Had the blogger in question simply pointed out that the cited app presumably violates the “Violence and Bullying” clause in the Android Market Developer Program Policies, and asked people to make this point clear to all parties, I would not have quibbled.

We need to focus on the principles, not ask that random apps be banned for random reasons based solely upon the opinion of random people.

Of course, that’s just my opinion… :-)

Want an expert opinion on your Android app architecture decisions? Perhaps Mark Murphy can help!