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It's surreal that, after all the blow-up-in-your-face moments that social media apps have had after doing underhanded things like this in recent memory, companies are still pushing under-the-radar hard sells like this. It has to take an incredible combination of obliviousness and ethical failure to still consider something like this a good idea.

Also, this gives me a very vivid sense of deja vu; I swear I read this exact article at some point last year... strange.




> It has to take an incredible combination of obliviousness and ethical failure to still consider something like this a good idea.

Sadly people don't have to be stupid or evil to think this stuff is acceptable. Bob sees other people do it, and Bob knows it's bad when those people do it, but when Bob does it it's different somehow. There's a reason somewhere that means what other people do is bad spam, but what Bob does is not. When Ann looks at what Bob is doing she thinks it's pretty clearly dodgy.

These kinds of cognitive biases are tricky to spot in ourselves.

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Carving an exception like that for oneself strikes me as immediately disingenuous. I personally can't see how that doesn't make you either stupid or evil or both.

I don't think "cognitive bias" doesn't make you not-a-dick.

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Carving exceptions for oneself I think is very common and may not be obvious to the person doing it.

My wife hates when people talk on their phone while driving, to the point of screaming obscenities at them. Yet, if her phone rings while she's driving, she often answers it. If I point out the discrepancy, she dismisses it, as her call is "important" or "short" or she's "still watching the road".

I suspect I do the same thing, although (like my wife and her phone) I don't realize that I'm judging others for behavior I myself engage in.

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Doctors referred patients with osteoarthritis to surgeons for something called knee arthroscopy. They did this for years. Doctors, and surgeons, thought it was doing good. They were not dicks. They were not charlatans. They were not quacks. They were not idiots.

They just didn't have enough evidence, and persuaded themselves that the evidence they had was better quality than it actually was. The surgery isn't outlandish; it has a plausible mechanism of action; patients report good results afterwards. And the reason best standard research wasn't done is because there's a bunch of stuff we do that we've been doing for a long time and are only just now getting around to properly studying.

So, when a placebo-controlled blinded study was done we discover that knee arthroscopy probably doesn't do anything more than placebo for osteoarthritis.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthroscopy#For_osteoarthritis)

> Carving an exception like that for oneself

Well, I guess it depends on how aware people are of cognitive bias, and how much they're closing themselves off to the possibility that they're subject to biases.

These things are really hard to guard against.

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Patients demanding placebo like vitamin shots or antibiotics is an old problem (or technique, depending on how you look at it). For that matter, many doctors are regularly prescribing people stimulants or opioids because patients are asking for them - instead of turning down their money and/or making them unhappy.

I agree with you and like the example, but I wanted to provide feedback that this example is confusing in its relation to the current topic.

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This example is excellent for cognitive bias!!!

We know that we should only trust double-blind controlled randomised trials. This surgery hadn't had that trial, thus it shouldn't have been trusted, yet it was. And the reasons it was trusted are just biases.

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_You're_ doing it for a valid reason that makes sense to you

_They're_ doing it because they're pricks and trying to get as many eyes as possible.

That's normally what I see happen.

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Sure, but self-analysis isn't optional.

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No, it isn't, but it becomes much more difficult when you feel justified in your actions.

This is one of the areas that having "no-men" is a good idea. Someone who will force you to reëxamine your idea and lay out alternatives.

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You don't seem clear on what "cognitive bias" means. At all.

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As frustrating as it is, actor/observer asymmetry[1] is a reality and you can't simply say it's "unacceptable" unless you're willing to find a lot of people's normal behavior to be "unacceptable". It's a line that if you draw, it becomes hard to not appear dickish in normal situations.

Because sadly, everyone abuses actor/observer bias.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor%E2%80%93observer_asymmetr...

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It still happens because, when your seeking that viral edge sometimes the cost benefit analysis turns out in favor of pissing off a certain percentage of your members.

As far as the ethics involved, I don't really expect corporations to be ethical at any level. I would like them to, but I don't expect them to. I am a strong proponent of extreme fines/legal action because really if it doesn't effect the bottomline I dont feel it will change behavoir of a business.

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I'm pretty sure, as it is now, corporations that have shareholders are obligated to be unethical.

You're right in that being unethical is the best way to get ahead in the game, and it might be a good idea to make it so that's not the case.

That said, the US of A is an adversarial society.

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A corporation is just a group of people. It's not possible for a corporation to be ethical or unethical, a corporation doesn't have a soul or a conscience.

It's possible for specific people inside a corporation to behave in unethical ways. However, the definition of maximizing shareholder value is not simply "make the stock price as high as possible in the short term." It's perfectly possible for executives in a corporation to take the high road as the optimal strategy for maximizing shareholder value.

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It's not possible for a corporation to be ethical or unethical, a corporation doesn't have a soul or a conscience.

Thankfully, ethics do not depend on the existence of a soul nor conscience. There is a such thing as emergent behavior, after all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence

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> I'm pretty sure, as it is now, corporations that have shareholders are obligated to be unethical.

Not if the shareholders want them to be ethical more than profitable. Arguably, shared ownership tends to promote turning a blind eye to that aspect.

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Not for a public C corp. They must maximize shareholder value, or a minority shareholder could sue and win.

Patagonia changed their corporate structure to a California B corp to allow this.

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Sounds like a caricature of the actual laws.

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This reminds me of "Why is there tele-marketing when everyone hates telemarketers and getting calls at 7pm when you are sitting down to dinner?" Because it worked! It was profitable. Now, interestingly we then hit a tipping point where there was enough outrage (US) that a "Donotcall" list was created - very effectively. How long till there is a "Donotemail" equivalent? The industry is arguably not policing itself well enough. I'm really glad the CEO showed up her to defend his/her company but "Hey guy didn't pay enough attention so what are ya going to do?" is too cavalier. Imagine if social services had to check all email addresses given out like this against a central list to see if they were on the "no social offers no matter what"

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The email equivalent is CAN-SPAM and carries hefty fines for violators.

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The problem is, it works. It is, after all, why LinkedIn itself has such a strong network (my father used once and apologised many times for using, although you'd never guess that from looking at his 170-contact network). It is the only reason I ever had a Bebo account.

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They do it because it works. And will continue to do so until it stops working.

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It's not really an under-the-radar hard sell. Here's the page in question, which nobody in this thread can be arsed to look at: http://cl.ly/image/2V302C3j290B

Now, I can see how one might miss the fact that this will send an email.

Things you can say if you're being intellectually honest:

  * The fact that this will send an email should be more prominent
  * The content of the email should be more explicit
  * The tone of the email was overly personal
  * The from: field appears as if it's from the person, not FD
Things you can't say if you're being intellectually honest:

  * The form is opt-out
  * There's no copy on the page indicating an email will be sent
  * The copy on the page is hidden below the fold
  * The copy on the page is worded designed to mislead the user
  * The fact that clicking submit will send an email is obscured
  * There is no indication about the content or tone of the email that will be sent
Looking at this page, the most aggressive case I can make is for a slightly confusing design that should better highlight the consequences of choosing vouchers. It doesn't seem in any way misleading and doesn't show any of the fingerprints of someone looking to trick a user into accidentally emailing their friends.

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So, being honest (intellectually or not), here's what I can say :

The tone and wording used in the auto-generated email shocked me. I would be pissed if that had been sent to anyone I know.

Saying that the content of the email "should be more explicit" is an understatement of significant magnitude, and it glosses over the crux of the issue. The site clearly betrayed the OP's trust, and had I been in his shoes I would have felt the same way.

edit :

My comment was made prior to your edit which added mention of the "tone" and the "from: field".

I have also up-voted your comment, although I strongly disagree with the conclusion.

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That's not the page the blog post is talking about. The page the blog is talking about is the one people are sent to after they vouch for someone who has filled out that page.

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Fair enough. Before people jump on the "omg spam" train they should take it upon themselves as thinking individuals to look at the primary source.

I just created a fake LinkedIn account and will post a similar (and honest) analysis after I receive the invite.

The fact that nobody in this thread bothered to do their due diligence before pouncing is enough for me to discount their opinions as uninformed. But we'll see what the actual page looks like in a sec.

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Screenshot & description :

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5677462

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Any luck on that page?

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Here's the mistake you're making. You don't find it misleading. Because you don't find it misleading you're assuming nobody else should. That's not how reality works.

Other people are saying they found the page they saw misleading. You have to take them at their word.

If FounderDating folks have a brain in their heads, they will take that feedback seriously.

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