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Quality of Life

Certainly the individuals who designed the "finger" command and its network protocol did not intend for the command to be used to single out, for harassment, people with certain ethnic names. The purpose of these commands was to find out information about people in a collaborative atmosphere. Given its wide availability, it seems reasonable to think that it has succeeded in enhancing the online quality of life by helping people to find each other.

The email transfer protocol, SMTP, has also been a success. The time stamps initially designed to track the efficiency of the email transfer process have been used for different purposes, many of them ones that receive wide approval. For instance, time stamp headers are used in tracking down the originators of unsolicited commercial email (commonly known as "spam"). In our case the headers were used to track down the originator of hate mail. There are a variety of other uses for these headers.

Thus a software tool (like SMTP or finger) can be reused for both bad and good purposes. We cannot expect the designers of tools to foresee all (or even most) of these reuses. But we might expect designers to design knowing that some reuse will be done.

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