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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A Saga, Chronologically
Exhibit 1, from Forbes' website, posted June 3, 2004:

Scott Sassa, the former television wunderkind, has thrown in his lot with Internet phenom Friendster, agreeing to serve as the rising "social networking" Web site's chief executive officer.

Friendster, sometimes described as a dating network, sometimes described as something else, is premised on the idea that it connects people not through random searches but through "through networks of friends."...

Sassa has been associated recently with Efficient Frontier, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company engaged in "search engine marketing" that purports to "link your business needs with your search spend." He was on the board of NBCi, NBC's disastrous Internet venture. But it's not clear how he wound up at Friendster. Perhaps he has a friend, or a friend of a friend.

Exhibit 2, from a personal blog, posted June 29, 2004:

Friendster goes PHP

As most of you probably know, I've spent the last six months working at Friendster. I have not managed to release any code in that entire time. Finally on Friday we launched a platform rearchitecture based on loose-coupling, web standards, and a move from JSP (via Tomcat) to PHP. The website doesn't look much different, but hopefully we can now stop being a byword for unacceptably poky site performance. I also want to call out our first new user-facing feature in a long time, Friends in Common (upper left corner of your friends' profiles). Try it out and let me know what you think.

Exhibit 3, from the same personal blog, posted August 14, 2004:

Udell column
Jon Udell's latest column mentions Friendster's rewrite. He makes exactly the right point: the programming language itself was not really the issue. It's the combination of decisions -- the "it all adds up" factor -- that makes the difference between a platform which fits the task and one which does not. It was kind of tedious to be the poster-girl for JSP-bashing there for awhile, especially since I didn't actually say anything anti-Java at any point.

Exhibit 4, from the same personal blog, posted yesterday (the references to "this one and this one" are to the two entries posted above):

So I was terminated from Friendster today. The reason given was blogging.

The levels of irony on this are pretty deep. For one thing, I wrote a fairly well-known paper last year about the need for semi-permeable blogging. For another thing, by all accounts the particular posts that led to my termination were this one and this one (although feel free to check my archives for any other incriminating information). I try really hard not to blog about anything that is not a matter of public record... but I guess that's not protection any more. You get Slashdotted, make Udell's column, lose your job. And finally, it's especially ironic because Friendster, of course, is a company that is all about getting people to reveal information about themselves...

Let me note that I loved working for my VP of engineering, Jeff Winner, and I loved my team with all my heart. I worked really hard for that company, and I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of.

Exhibit 5, from Accordion Guy, posted today:

On Troutgirl's Getting Fired for Blogging [Updated]
by Joey deVilla at 12:11PM (EDT) on August 31, 2004 | Permanent Link
Last night...I noticed a link to Joyce "Troutgirl" Park's blog entry on how her employer, Friendster, fired her for blogging....

In spite of the fact that everything she'd written about the company was a matter of public record, Friendster's new CEO, former NBC President Scott Sassa (ah, a television exec -- I'm beginning to see the source of the stupidity) saw fit to fire her. The firing is especially stupid in light of the fact that Friendster's business is about divulging information about yourself.

Since my displeasure with Friendster's move is far, far greater than its utility to me (my blog remains my most powerful social software), I have decided to cancel my account with Friendster....

C'mon, free market! It's time for invisible hand to do some pimp-slappin'!

Exhibit 6, from ZDNet, posted today:

Friendster, known for breaking new ground in online social networking and promoting self-expression among peers, fired one of its employees Monday for her personal Web log, or online diary. Joyce Park, a Web developer living in Sunnyvale, Calif., said her managers told her Monday that she stepped over the line with her blog, Troutgirl. They declined to elaborate, except to say that it was CEO Scott Sassa's ultimate decision, Park said.

"I only made three posts about Friendster on my blog before they decided to fire me, and it was all publicly available information. They did not have any policy, didn't give me any warning, they didn't ask me to take anything down," said Park, 35.

Friendster spokeswoman Lisa Kopp said that the company does not comment about employee matters....

Critics of Friendster's move called it "silly" in light of Park's boosterism of the company.

"Especially for a social networking company, it seems to reflect a particularly poor understanding of the medium," said Wendy Seltzer, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation....

"I felt I didn't say anything disparaging," Park said. "Friendster is in the business of getting people to reveal information about themselves, and for them to terminate me like this is sort of undermining their whole mission."

Exhibit 7 is yet to be written. It will be the announcement of Joyce Park's new employer. Hey, Michael Hanscom survived his experience...Joyce will, too.

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