I seem to be on a rant roll these days, but I guess the grumpy old man inside me has resurfaced after having actually caught up on sleep. Last night I had a lapse in productivity and decided to entertain myself by doing my biannual LinkedIn cleanup (it’s like social network spring cleaning time here!) It was of course the usual process of accepting and sending connection requests from and to people I’ve met in more or less professional contexts over the last months, which, contrary to Facebook, is actually what LinkedIn is for in my book.
I don’t just accept any connection though, as I have no need for meta connectivity in a professional networking tool, and this time one person stood out. I did not by any means recognize him. Now, I’m not particularly good at recognizing people I’ve met briefly, but nothing about this guy seemed to add. Further digging revealed the fact, that I did indeed not know this fella — he is a recruiter. I decided to decline the connection request, as I’m not looking for a job and have ample opportunity to work with great people, so I don’t need a recruiter to be pitching me anything. When I opened the dialog box to do this, I noticed that he had added a small message to his request (thumbs down to LinkedIn for not making this at all obvious!). The little message was of course nothing but this recruiter’s usual copy-paste, but one thing that really pissed me off the fact that he started it with:
“I’m sending you this confidential inquiry…”
To be completely clear: there was nothing confidential in what followed. It was just a statement of an intent to present me or “my network” with exciting career opportunities. In fact, the wording was so impersonal, that I do not by any means see how even stating confidentiality had any implications — if you’re going to pitch me on opportunities of any kind, at least make your introduction just slightly personal (hint: my name is Nick).
But, for the sake of the argument, let’s just imagine that this guy actually did a halfway decent job at introducing himself to an extent where the confidentiality request actually mattered. What exactly then entitles this person, whom I have never met nor have anything in common with, to enforce any such confidentiality on me under any circumstances? And I mean enforce as the message didn’t ask me to accept any of this explicit confidentiality. I don’t get it. I simply do not understand, how anyone can think, that what they have to discuss with me in any more or less superficial manner is of such high value or importance that just having the courtesy to request my confidentiality, rather than taking it for granted, is beyond them. If the message had read “I’m sending you this in all confidentiality to tell you that I rape under aged girls at night,” would you then also expect me to honor your confidentiality? Now, I’m not saying that even requesting my confidentiality when contacting me is acceptable. Let’s get a few things clear here; you’re contacting me with some goal in mind, so you should at least respect the fact, that I’m not going to run around playing your games just to be able to give you a straight up answer. So, no, I don’t give a fuck about your confidentiality if you expect me to help you in any way (in fact, how lug worm reproduce is probably closer to my heart at any point than this).
Looking from the outside, it’s pretty easy for people to see how ridiculous this whole confidentiality thing is. But, especially people in the tech world seem to think that their every word is gold that should be protected and governed by legal documents and other such useless mumbo jumbo. Steffen Tiedemann Christensen and I recently had the most absurd of such encounters. Steffen has built a service called stalkify which essentially links your last.fm history with Spotify, which I’ve helped out with a bit and written a daemon for using the rather inept official API library. Some weeks back we were both contacted on Twitter by a guy praising our work on the service and requesting to talk to us about a similar project. Now, in an effort to be nice guys, we agreed to do a Skype chat with him to see if we could be of any help. However, the conversation came to a halt only 10 messages into it as the guy on the other end quickly stated “i can’t say too much at this point, i’d need you to sign an nda” (that’s a direct copy-paste, not my inability to at least understand capitalization.) Now, I’m sure that whatever idea this guy had was really great in his mind, but I do not see how it could be that great, that you’d have to require an NDA before even asking people for help. That’s just ridiculous.
Now, I’m going to be redirecting any future inquires of similar kind to this post, so for those people, let me just sum it up once again: I don’t give a fuck about your confidentiality. You’re not entitled to it, and your twisted sense of reality is going to get you nowhere. End of rant.