Monthly Archives: September 2014

“Sex Tape” is implicity condoning piracy

FBI Anti-Piracy Warning

FBI Anti-Piracy Warning by bizmac
Creative commons license, found on Flickr

A while ago, I went to see “Sex Tape” with my wife. It’s a moderately entertaining movie that’s got its moments and is good enough for an evening of light entertainment. The story itself and the associated technological premise is ludicrous, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief on that. There is however, one thing that stuck me: the movie is basically condoning piracy, even though they don’t seem to really realise it. From a movie coming from Sony, I’d expect a bit more paranoia.
Now, if you want to go to see the movie, stop here, as I’ll have to explain the plot in order to follow my argumentation.

Basically, the story is as such: Couple makes sex tape to spice up their sex life using an iPad. The movie gets accidentally uploaded to “The Cloud” and is automatically distributed to all (Apple) devices ever owned by the couple. Incidentally, they gave away some “old” iPads to friends and acquaintances (and the mail man). Now, why these iPads were not wiped by the previous owner, is explained as following: The owner, the man in the couple, working in the music industry (!), explains that the iPads are just a “container” for the real present, namely the “playlists” he makes.

Whoa! Stop right there! They are trying to tell us that giving away iPads fully, associated with your user account (because that’s what’s required to get connected to his part of the cloud) and all the music the guy owns on his iPad, is totally okay?. I mean, the guy is sharing playlists, but for these playlists to work, you actually have to have access to the music itself. I mean, sure, I can give you a playlist of my favourite Pink Floyd songs, but that wouldn’t help you at all to listen to them legally, provided you already own all Pink Floyd albums. Logically follows, that the guy in the movie is simply aiding unauthorized distribution of music, which is affectively called “piracy”. Sure it’s under his account, but that doesn’t make it right. Ok, fine, your normal Joe Sixpack surely doesn’t know he’s doing something wrong, but a guy working for the music industry? You want me to swallow he doesn’t know what’s right or wrong regarding music distribution? You want me to think he doesn’t know anything about the legal status of distributing music? No, I can’t really see how that is possible whatsoever, and I am ignoring all computer-related problems the movie has.

Of course, this I’m supposed to do the whole suspension of disbelief thingy, but really, I expect better from an industry that claims billions of lost sales due to so-called piracy.

I wonder who actually comes up with some business processes.

Orange pills

Orange pills by .candy
Creative commons license, found on WikiMedia

Business processes are everywhere.  Yes, you don’t really realize that, but for every administrative process, somebody has been thinking about use-cases and make sure that these processes run efficiently.  Well, that is the theory.  Some, grow organically, I admit.

Now, in my first “big project” as a greenhorn IT guy, the analysis of those business processes went thoroughly wrong.  I know the causes, and I also know that it was unavoidable given the constraints of the project.  Fact is: one day, not even a week after initial production, we got a bug report which was basically “we made a typo, and we could fix this in the system before”.  Obviously they couldn’t know, because every business process was conceived from the “no error will ever happen, especially not human error”.  The fix for this bug, was one of the biggest hacks I had to write in my whole career.

Every day, I’m starting to see problems with the business processes of our “Caisse de Maladie”, basically our healthcare system.  The people setting up these processes are either grossly incompetent, or the processes are designed in such a way to make getting your money back harder.  Now, I could rant about the S2 issues we had, but that is rather complicated and would require too much explaining.
I’ll stick to the one I had today.  So, my wife needs prescription medicine due to the surgery she had this summer, and yesterday she tells me one of the meds is out.  Fine, I’ll fetch it in the morning.  So, I go to my friendly neighbourhood pharmacist, and present the prescription.  They know me and my wife, I never had to present our social security card, because, well, we’re in their system.  That’s probably convenience, I assume you’re supposed to present that social security card every time.
Alas, they didn’t have the medicine and the wholesalers in the country are out of it too.  They need to order abroad.  He calls a pharmacist in a neighbouring village, but they’re out too.  He suggests, I try to call around myself.  Bummer.
Now, over lunchtime I do a couple of phone calls and find a pharmacist who can provide me with what I need.  I go there and give them the prescription and then they ask me whether I have the social security card of my wife.  Well, duh, no!  She’s supposed to have it with her at all times, so obviously I don’t have it.  The reply is: then you have to pay full price because she’s not in our system.
I say, that’s no big deal, I know her social security number (and besides, it’s written on the prescription for crying out loud!), just enter it in the system and be done with it.  It turns out they can’t do that (or aren’t allowed) and they need to scan the bar-code on the card.  The pharmacist tells me I could try to send it in to get my money back.  Well, I’ll try.

How many problems have you identified in this scenario?  Me, a few:

  • Needlessly administrative: the number they “need” is on the prescription, the social security card is superfluous.
  • There is no way to bypass the “easy” bar-code scanner way.  Hell, even cashiers in your local supermarket can do that!
  • Patients cannot, by definition, task someone to go get their medicine.  Nah, all patients are totally mobile and can go fetch their own stuff.  If I say “by definition”, it means there is a logical contradiction: You are supposed to have your card on you at all times, which means that you can’t give your card to someone else.  Obviously, that’s not possible if you want to task someone to get medicine for you.
  • The business process is clearly inflexible: if you don’t fit in, you pay full price.  You may, or may not get your money back.  Yay!

I don’t know what to say and I’m sure you’ll find additional flaws.  Of course, you could say “It’s your fault, you should have had the card with you”.  Duh!  That’s the “not-connected-to-reality” case. Somebody, came up with this process and thought it was a good idea to ignore very common scenarios, like, your partner getting your medicine. Exactly like in the IT project I was involved back in the day: no error allowed, no deviation possible.
Look, I’m in IT, I used to be a programmer.  Exceptions is what we’re all about.  When you’re defining business processes, the exceptions are what you should be on the lookout for.  You have to cover them, try to fit everything you can think of in the schema.  The “common” scenario is the lazy and easy scenario.  You’re not doing your job right if you’re just doing that part.

Now, I just talked to Flirty in the kitchen.  She told me you can ask a new social security card on their site on the Internet.  Which is what I’ll do.  A duplicate of mine, for my wife and a duplicate of my wifes for me.  However, I shouldn’t have to.