Marc, thanks for sharing. It's a shame that so much great work went away because of one user.
I'm curious about that, and surprised no one has brought this up yet: Why did you kill the whole app over one asshole? To me this looks like Bank of America shutting down business because one branch got robbed.
With a larger user base comes larger problems like this. Instagram, Vine, etc have been battling porn and it's more sadistic, horrifying eighth-cousin that you ran into since their own inception. Terrible people are out there, and I didn't see your product or read your story and conclude, "Oh, YayNay was clearly going to be a haven for those monsters."
Also, as a dad—I'm angry for you over here. I'm sure that played some part. Ugh.
Thanks for sharing.
I agree. I feel like child porn didn't kill your app -- lack of uptake did. Had you been dealing with an active and excited user base, you would've figured out how to deal with problematic content. Popularity and abuse go hand-in-hand.
We had been debating killing the app based on the data coming in, but the child porn was the last straw, the bullet that really finished us off. We had a very very small user base, so we if we were already seeing these images then we knew we would have to stop dev. on product features and focus for a month on monitoring, filtering and other tools to help manage the community and we just couldn't justify the time.
Sounds to me like Marc got bored watching bad growth metrics roll in (600 posts over 6 months, ouch) and chose a link-bait headline for his post-mortem post. It's even buried in the article:
...the child porn incident, combined with declining lackluster user numbers and outside familial forces, we made the difficult decision to kill the app and remove it from the app store.
If there was great adoption, would you still have pulled the plug? I hope not! People who can't brush off one creep (on the internet of all places) don't have much business starting a company.
Lesson: Test your idea before building
This is the big takeaway for me. Designers and founders, check your ego at the door and validate your ideas before investing your team's time and energy. Don't be that entrepreneur who hires four people because he has an idea "someone out there will probably think is kinda cool", then finds 1 year and $200k later that no one really needed that thing in the first place.
kind of off-topic, but do you know if has Apple taken any action against this man?
Jim, great question. We filled out a form and submitted and it went into a black hole. I have the email of the individual but couldn't find a match anywhere on the internet (as you can imagine it was a temp/fake email). We will follow up.
If you want me to poke around on Spokeo let me know. Although that probably won't really produce much just wanted to offer an outlet in case you really wanted to look into it.
You're rad for offering Patrick. Let's see what Apple says. Just curious, if we found out where he lived then what we you do?
Me personally, not much as its not my axe to grind, but I can give you that info.
Sounds bad, maybe(?), but I just assume if its public knowledge that is pay walled might as well give it to those with more use than me.
And in this case, I can only imagine that this person may or may not really be a pedophile or sexual offender, and if that is true, that something serious.
Happy to field any questions anyone has here on DN ;) Thanks Matthew for sharing.
Thanks for writing this Marc. I have just a side question. Was this all done outside of work while you were at Google?
Hi Alec. Yes this was all done at night and on weekends, on my own separate machine after the kiddies went to bed, which is why it took 6 months. I think if a team was focused on an idea like this and doing nothing else they could build the same thing in a month. I built this to scratch and itch and have a creative outlet. I love building out ideas and I really believe the things you do in your spare time lead to your next job or career in life. I gained a ton of weight and have not slept and my wife is pretty much done with me and my kids have no idea who I am, ironically I built this to be closer to my 12 year old, but it has driven us apart because of all the time I spent on this project. So, I don't recommend this to anyone who has a full time job and family, there are real costs beyond the financial.
There's a lot of people who neglect family much, much longer... where things are impossible to repair... so stay positive man and be proud of yourself for having the realization of what was going on around you and rectifying the situation by killing the app. Sure, the porno-creep made the leap a bit easier to make, but it seems to me you were already headed in that direction anyways. Good luck!
I see a lot of myself in your story, but I've just been shitty to my friends. Being so passionate and driven, it is easy to justify hard work and late nights. But family should always come first.
All the best to you Marc. I hope I can learn from your story, and that things will work out for you and your family.
That's one of the most honest blogs I've read. I can really relate to focusing too much on getting a personal project through and forgetting the world around me. I think many could learn from this!
Thanks for sharing this Marc.
I hope I'm not being insensitive with this question, but if you could go back and put systems in place to stop this from happening, what would you have done?
I'm developing an app with a lot of user-submitted content and that's the kind of nightmarish scenario that stays on the back of my mind sometimes.
A few things: 1. only show comments from people you are following - this way trolls/abuse would not show on anyones posts. 2. a very clear way for a user to flag a post - three strikes and the post is gone. 3. Build out a nice admin UI that would allow us to hide a user profile and account (not delete) so we could send out a warning to the user, make sure their account isn't compromised. Currently we had to use the App Engine UI to remove comments and accounts. In fact, I delete the users comment and jacked our database on accident - Kasem was busy with his family so we had no commenting for a few hours - lol. 4. I think someone needs to make the akismet for image porn detection. Interesting Stack Overflow article on this http://stackoverflow.com/questions/713247/what-is-the-best-way-to-programatically-detect-porn-images
Thanks for the feedback Marc, I'll make sure to have these in mind and share with our team.
There are a lot of learnings from a failed attempted, I've experienced that a couple of times and each time is a different factor. But Gee! This is on another level to see your app and your concept twisted and corrupted. Its hard when these things are beyond your control. Such a shame, the concept and the story + experience was interesting.
Thanks for sharing this.
Thought this was a great post, seems a shame to throw all that work (and lovely design) away, have you had any ideas about repurposing it for other things? Other social APIs?
I am all ears! we have a nice framework in place, we would need to add facebook and instagram apis - I think we really need to push for a new idea - perhaps anonymous posts to your friends that disappears in 30 minutes (joking) ?