Software should solve real-world human problems, and the most important problems will probably be the hardest.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when developers come face to face with people who depend on a software app for their lives.
I am currently attending the ISC Project's Global Workshop, which brings together technologists and activists from all over the world. Most of the attendees are activists from different communities across the globe fighting for human rights, political freedom, and independent media. All of them use technology to advance their work, but the choice of which tool to use requires vastly different criteria than societally privileged people typically consider.
Most of us answer "Which tool should I use?" based on some pretty simple criteria:
- Is it well designed?
- Is it fast and reliable?
- How much does it cost?
Imagine needing to answer these questions before you even considered your normal usability ones:
- Can I trust the developers of this software and their company?
- Will this app leak or sell my data?
- How will this app hold up to surveillance?
- Can I trust this app with my life?
I've been talking to folks here at the Global Workshop about Talky, our no-plugin, browser-based video chat app.
There's a real need for Talky in the world of global activism, but answering these tough questions about our app – knowing that someone could be trusting their life with your software – is not something to be taken lightly. (Nor is it something that we do take lightly!)
Privacy and openness are core tenets of our company, but the critical need was underscored heavily by meeting Talky users who truly understand the implications of surveillance and closed-door technologies. Let's stand with them as a developer community, and strive to do right by them.