14 May 2008

Self-Created Legitimacy - Is It Ethical?

A recent episode of "The Office" featured a distraught staff, distraught because they had to come in on a Saturday. The company website, Dunder-Mifflin Infinity, had extremely low sales. Ryan, the one-time temp now the boss, handed down the order for the staff to come in and enter unregistered sales via the website. Why? To create legitimacy for the site, to show it actually produced sales.

For me, this is obviously unethical. Now, forget about the fact that this stripped commissions from those in the office who originally sold the product. Ryan is creating false numbers, in essence, cooking the books.

This got me thinking about websites that launch and create a bunch of "example" profiles. At first, it is a terrific way to set the model for future members. But at what point does the creation of system accounts that pose as actual members become unethical?

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