Twitter shaming: There's no app for that

App maker Enfour tried to embarrass users who'd pirated its pricey dictionary programs, but ended up humiliating itself

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Some two weeks after foisting this bit of nonsense onto its user base, Enfour publicly apologized. It had already provided an update to fix the "bug" that caused its antipiracy module to shame the wrong users, though clearly lots of its customers continue to be unaware of that. But Enfour didn't apologize for having the original stupid idea that "shaming" someone on Twitter is likely to get them to somehow fork over $55 or that hijacking their social media account is an acceptable response to alleged piracy. Consider this excerpt from the apology by Enfour veep Tracey Northcott:

We can't thwart truly determined hacker & crackers, but we wanted to possibly shame those who were opportunistically stealing our software. Just like installing a shop-lifting alarm in a store, we thought we were being creative with a notification and a timed tweet for users of a cracked app. In retrospect, this was not the wisest choice.

Ya think?

Let me walk through this. You're an app developer. You're getting reamed by people who are ripping off your software and using it for free. Isn't that where you're supposed to be focusing your antipiracy efforts -- by making your stuff hard to copy?

If you can detect a cracked copy, why can't you block a cracked copy? At the very least, you could display a splash screen that tells the user their copy is illegitimate and ask them to politely pony up for it. Is there some technical limitation I'm missing here? I mean, as stupid and flawed as Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program was, it managed to do that.

There's plenty of shame to go around here, but most of it falls on Enfour. As Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin notes, the app maker's move "is the very definition of how not to fight theft" -- not to mention the very definition of stupidity.

What are your favorite stupid tech company tricks? Confess them below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Twitter shaming: There's no app for that," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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