The topic we came up with “Responsible Development of Penny Auctions” seemed well over due for its fair share of public attention even in our own closely bond community.
If you spend some time on the web and PAW especially you’ll hardly need to do any deep digging to find strings of messages filled with unfulfilled expectations and rigorous contempt as another website gets exposed as measly petty scam rather than a penny auction.
Suppose it’s no surprise that the cheated user’s mainly aimed their distaste and concern at penny auction owners, and it’s justified to some extent as they are victims of their direct actions. But will this approach do justice to the whole community? Can we really put all the weight and public responsibility of keeping penny auctions safe on common users, community vigilantes and stray luck?
Not if we want penny auctions to gain more trust from the public and help new projects develop and fresh ideas flourish.
As I’m afraid I’ll get overly side tracked let’s try to hack as close to the bone of this article as possible from now on.
Working on this piece I’ve spent quite a few hours discussing questions of responsibility and professional ethics with the head developer and some colleagues at Softmedia. The issue presented quite a stir, even further elevating its significance. Responsibility and ethics are a long tracing concern for the software development community and at first the answer bluntly presented itself in the form of the “Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice” first composed in 1999 by the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. After a short revision of the principles we found that while being sufficient for software development in general, developers that offer entertainment auction software have a bigger part to play and more responsibilities to carry out.
For additional guidelines we turned to the eaA code of conduct and publications on Code of Business Ethics most of which can be found here. After juggling key principals such as product quality concerns, entertainment ethics and business ethics 3 key aspects of responsible penny auction development began to take shape.
Development ethics in: developer – owner – users relationships
Game and entertainment elements : solutions for responsible bidding
In-box solutions business ethics The principles might still be lacking some important aspects but I feel that it’s a step in the right direction, and surly a healthy road map to follow to help auction owners and clients feel safer.
Development Ethics in: Developer – Owner – Users Relationships
Developers should never forget about professional ethics and professional pride as well. The software we produce will be the work frame that shapes the experience of the people who use it.
When you release penny auction software, do you think that people will have a good time on a site that it powers? Will the auction owner be comfortable using it to administer his site?
Will the software hold out and not fail them both?
Things penny auction developers should ensure for his clients and for the site users:
1) Guarantee that your software doesn’t provide technical solutions that will give the site admin a competitive edge over the sites clients while bidding. Dishonest people probably will find a way to cheat but we should not tempt them and definitely not aid them in this.
2) Make sure the code of the software is correct and optimized ensuring that everything’s is fully operational in general and especially under heavy load. In the end it won’t matter what additional features your software provides if it won’t be available to the users when the site crashes as first waves of heavy traffic over load the server. Common pitfalls of bad code can kill a penny auction almost instantly: timer lag, ping delays, server overloads, payment gateway errors etc.
3) Give your clients a realistic evaluation of the technical resources needed to successfully run a penny auction. Don’t promise features and services that you either can’t provide on a required professional level or that will jeopardize the owners’ chances to build up a sustainable business (including services of questionable quality that you don’t really aim to provide).
Be an expert and give an effort to educate your clients and you’ll see better decisions from them.
Entertainment Auction: Software Solutions for Responsible Bidding
Developers should always hold in mind the nature of the product they are creating, and plan out the reasons and ways in which people use it, and what kind of interactions can occur from the user’s experience.
Penny auctions have a strong element of gaming within them that as they closely tie-in two big game theory models “Volunteer’s dilemma” and the economic experiment “dollar auction.”
Penny auctions are not gambling, but some bidders can get carried away and that is a good a reason as any to help promote social responsibility among penny auction owners.
Promoting responsible bidding is a good way for an auction owner show he cares about his clients.
I believe that technical solutions that can help protect users with addictive temperaments should be made available in the software to encourage their practical use by responsible owners.
Some of the things that should be provided by developers to help this cause:
1) If a penny auctions supports a bidding method that’s hard to trace to who is actually places the bids (payment via SMS or phone dial) developers should provide methods of limiting or moderating their use. What if an underage picked up a phone and goes on a bidding spree?
A lot of damage can be avoided by simple means of technical limitations implemented in the software.
2) The very same methods applied more broadly can help protect users with bidding/gambling addictions. There are several approaches here the administration can have the option to set the limits for bids that can be placed daily/monthly by a single user. Or give this right directly to bidders and allow them to define personal limits as part of their account settings.
3) If you lurk around a less obvious source of dangerous behavior pops up on the radar, the so called “power bidders”, sometimes accused of being aggressive and selfish can ruin the experience for new users. So bidders must not only be protected from the game itself but some restrictions that could enforce fair play among fellow bidders might be a good idea as well. Placing a limit on the amount of auctions an individual user can win in a period of time might seem a bit harsh but it can be justified to discourage power bidders from unhealthy competition as well as special events like “virgin auctions” etc.
In-box solutions business ethics:
Most penny auction script developers offer clients In-box solutions or as some forum users called them “canned”. For most beginning entrepreneurs this is a perfect as they get (or aim to) an auction site that’s ready to be launched and used. They get a working key-component that they need to launch their business and approach people with their offer. No doubt this is highly convenient for people who plan to launch an auction as they can focus on the business aspect and hopefully forget about most technical issues (if they manage to get a hold of high quality software). But does this in return lay additional responsibility on the developers?
Yes, yes it does, as it is the software provider that first contacts the owner and learns about the ins and outs of his business plan in order to determent the best technical solution for his future auction. To be truthful, it’s the software developer’s role as big as the site owners to keep the industry moral standards high and help bidders feel safer.
It might be a hard step to take for a lot of script vendors as this might directly affect tier income. But I think it should be strongly discouraged to provide software to people who you certainly know plan on using illegal and dishonest methods in running their penny auction site.
Some of the red flags you can watch out for when dealing with prospective site owners are:
- Plan on using spam methods of advertisement
- Plan to host malware on the site or compromise personal data confidentiality
- Plan on using shill bidders and ghost bidders (not under any circumstances)
- Don’t plan to ship prizes don’t plan on obtaining a contract with a drop-shipment company.
- Don’t have a legal operating license to conduct business.
In conclusion, It should be a common goal both for the script developer and the auction owner to provide a good experience for users. For developers there’s no better way to show your professionalism then providing an auction that people feel happy and safe to use.
Using the above mentioned guidelines along side personal and professional codes of conduct can not only help to protect clients from unfair and foul play by auction owners but support the healthy development of penny auctions in general, and in return protect young entrepreneurs from low quality solutions, as like scammy web sites they will slowly die out. Promoting responsibility among developers and auction owners is no small task but a highly needed one as we won’t see the concept develop if cheating sites will keep scaring away bidders and low quality software will keep discouraging interesting start-ups.
It might still be a long time before these guidelines take final shape but the development department at http://www.softmedia.biz/ was happy to help me formulate them, and hopefully more developers will be willing to commit themselves to following and improving healthy practices of penny auction development.
Author’s Bio: Anthony Gonch
Studying media interactions and publishing in collage introduced me to the world of human behavior from an entirely different point of view. Currently I’m working alongside penny auction software developers at Softmedia to help promote informational awareness and develop methods that could help build a more pleasant user experience for bidders. Here I manage to get my hands on some interesting insights on how engaging experiences such as online auctions influence people behavior and what stimulates them to participate. Here I’ll be gladly sharing some of my observations with PAW readers.
Thank you Anthony!
Photo by The Factionist – ethical apparel
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