I’ve written before about Solipsist design – those services which have been designed to work only for a very specific type of family.
I was taking a look at Google’s “Family” proposition – which allows users to share their purchases with other family members. What I found didn’t impress me.
File under "Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Families." pic.twitter.com/3vGIQ0ursF
— Terence Eden (@edent) March 27, 2017
Let’s take a look at some of the more baroque requirements in their terms & conditions.
Does your family have more than five members? Around 10% of babies born in the UK have three or more siblings. It also ignores families which want to include grandparents and in-laws in their group.
You’re adopted, having been with a few foster families this year. You can’t join the same Google family as your new brothers and sisters.
You split up from your partner – you can’t join a new partner’s family for a whole year.
In the UK, you can marry and/or start a family at 16. Are a young married couple really excluded from sharing their media?
The credit card requirement also seems odd given that you can purchase media using pre-pay cards with no age restriction.
Your adult child is about to be deployed overseas. Can they remain in the family so you can buy them games & films?
You live with your mum & step-dad. Your bio-dad wants to add you to his Google family. What do you do?
Why does Google have such a narrow conception of what a “family” is?
Falsehoods programmers believe about the “falsehoods programmers believe” meme
OMG! The number of people who think I *literally* blame programmers!
The "Falsehoods" meme is about exposing poor planning at *all* stages.
— Terence Eden (@edent) March 28, 2017
All of the “Falsehoods” memes – including the original – are a shorthand for “Constraints placed upon a complex system by a mixture of ignorance, apathy, business requirements, or other legal constraints”.
That’s not quite as snappy!
This is undoubtedly a licensing issue. Google have used “Family” as a consumer-friendly term for “Group of people who want to share media but may or may not be related.” The nuclear ideal of Mom, Pop, Dick, Jane, and one miscellaneous doesn’t really fit with many people’s reality.
If I buy a physical DVD or videogame, I can lend it to as many people as I want – whether they’re part of my family or not. The friction of dealing with moving physical items is really the only barrier to me lending out my entire collection to the whole world.
So we’re stuck with a situation where a mega-corporation and their lawyers try to define the minimum viable family which will keep other lawyers happy and, hopefully, won’t piss off too many real families.
How do you think they’re doing?