Don’t Make Me Opt-Out

Dear Reader,

I got the following email this evening that really got me riled up.

Hello, Worderella —

Recently, we launched a beta test of a premium feature called “The Scribd Archive” that allows people to download certain archived content for a fee. This test does not restrict readers’ ability to interact with documents on Scribd or across the web. As a valued member of the Scribd author community, you will always be notified about new Scribd features, and we hope that you were not caught off guard by this test.

The program helps us maintain our site and fund development of future products, but we realize that you may want to ensure free downloads of your work so we’ve given you the option of removing all your documents from The Scribd Archive in your account settings page. By opting out of the Scribd Archive, your documents will be available for download (if you have enabled download) for no charge.

Thank you for your continued support and feedback.

-The Scribd Team

P.S. You can always fine-tune which notifications you receive or opt-out completely.

No. Lynn Viehl wrote about this a week or more ago and I can understand her fury because I’m furious as well. This is just as shady as Facebook automatically opting people into services they didn’t join Facebook for, all because the Facebook team assumes “hey, you joined Facebook, so you must want this.”

No! Do not automatically opt me into something and then tell me, as if you are being so kind, so very generous, to allow me to opt-out of this service I didn’t know I didn’t want because it didn’t exist when I originally signed up for the service.

The proper way to do such things is to create the service and email your existing subscribers about their newly available choices.

Authors, pay attention

No one likes to be automatically opted into a service without their permission. In an extreme case, it’s an army draft. You will make enemies. Give people the option to select your service, and those who want to, will. Those who don’t, won’t hate you for making them tell you they don’t want to.

Don’t automatically subscribe people who you have emailed onto your author mailing list. Send them an email that they have the option to, since you’ve exchanged emails and perhaps they might be interested. Don’t spam them on Twitter on Facebook by only talking about yourself, because you’ll have tons of un-follows and un-friendings… the ultimate opt-out.

I just really hate it when software companies take advantage of their customers. And I’ll be damned if I like it any better when authors take advantage of their social connections and readers.

All the best,


4 thoughts on “Don’t Make Me Opt-Out

  1. I don't know. i have mixed feelings about the archives on scribd. On the one hand Scribd has been marvelous to me as an English language scribbler based in southern spain. It has provided me with a community of writers who share my interest in word-craft and who understand my words. On the other hand even though I am too lazy or busy to publish my work the idea of money being generated by my work and not going to me seems somehow wrong. Luckily this is all moot for me as I doubt anyone would bother to pay to download my poetry or stories.
    I truly do think that scribd didn't do this with malice. For professional writers (ie. those who live off writing) I can see how this might be more worrying than for "gifted amateurs" but I also understand that the costs of producing and maintaining a web page go up with growth in number of users.
    While it is true that ethically it would have been better for them to give us the choice to opt in rather than to opt out it is also true that when they made this change I found it blazoned across my scribd page, so it wasn't exactly sneaky.
    As to authors taking advantage of their social connections. Honestly, I've seen the game up close in the past, writer, actors, painters, and you don't get anywhere unless you know how to take advantage of your connections, the trick is to do it nicely and not to be a complete ass about it.
    In any case. You and anybody who is riled about this should drop the scribd help desk a line, I did and explained the reasons I had for opting out, so that they can remedy their behaviour.
    Your servant
    Jeremy ffrench Birmingham


    1. I hear what you're saying. I'm coming from a human-computer interaction standpoint where as a user I shouldn't be automatically opted in to any sort of service without my explicit permission. I take umbrage to the fact that systems such as Facebook, Scribd, etc, are taking advantage of the fact that their privacy and terms&conditions pages are convoluted and difficult to read. As such, their users tend not to waste their time reading.

      This doesn't excuse the fact that someone can and is making money off of my hard work without me seeing any benefits or royalties. If Scribd is going to automatically opt me into a service where someone must pay to read my writing, then I think it only right that as the creator, I see a percentage of the profits, such as a 70/30 split.


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