Cruelty in Software

Clarkwood Software’s Regrettable Contributions to Virtual Unpleasantness

by Bob Clark

originally published May 2007; last updated July 2010

Clarkwood Software has been accused of virtual impoliteness, simulated environmental insensitivity, even fake cruelty. Excerpted from this complaint about Crittersim:

imagine my dismay when i read the product description for crittersim and came to the part that said, "apply herbicide and pesticide".

...this one needs to go back to r&d to create a sim that's more in line with 21st century agri-tech and also has a moral conscience...

[Nobody] should be promoting any product that says that endangering the health of people and animals and poisoning the earth is ok.

“Imagine my dismay,” wrote the complainer. And boy did we ever. We sat around all afternoon imagining his dismay, and came to the conclusion that we want no part in cruelty to made-up virtual computerized population simulations of fake species.

But there’s more to this humbling moment of recognition and contrition. Our eyes have been opened. There are other Clarkwood Software products that glamorize violence against metaphorical software entities, and we intend to root out and scrutinize any instances of faux unpleasantness.

Thou shalt not kill.
Exodus 20:13
Peek-a-Boo offers a feature to kill processes running on your Macintosh OS X machine! From here on, we will take a dim view of the brutality of this Old Testament no-no.

And there’s Multisite for iWeb and its ability to delete site documents. This euphemism doesn’t grate so harshly on the surface, but deep down there is still a subtext of extermination and death.

We’re still figuring out exactly where to go from here, but step one, for us, is to admit we have a problem. And we admit it. We have a huge pretend issue here, and we hereby promise to keep a lookout to prevent further contrived offenses.