“I accept” may not be acceptable

A story I wrote in 1999 for Computerworld Australia about licence agreements. I wonder if this is still a legal problem. If you know, please comment.  

SYDNEY – Sites and software licensing agreements using an ‘I accept’ button may be problematic when the Electronic Transactions Bill becomes law early next year.

Phillip Argy said users could argue that the ‘I accept’ agreements are invalid if they can show they were unaware of what they accepted. The Mallesons Stephens Jacques partner and electronic law specialist was speaking to delegates at the Internet World conference in Sydney yesterday.

He said the new law will recognise a variety of electronic ‘signatures’ on agreements so long as the person making the signature is identifiable and there is an adequate way to indicate that person’s approval. “Online you have to ensure that the context in which someone agrees is appropriate.”

Argy said that in many standard online and software agreements, users are expected to read a page of conditions and then click on an ‘I accept’ button. However, in many cases user can simply “buffer the return key” and bypass agreements without acknowledging their existence or actually reading their contents. Then, if there is a dispute, they can argue they were unaware of the conditions.

He said, “The onus is on site owners and software developers to prove that their customers know that there is an agreement – they don’t have to actually read it, they just need to know it is there.”

He said that this problem can be avoided if developers ensure that the ‘I accept’ button doesn’t activate until the customer has at least scrolled down part of the conditions document.

Upgraded to WordPress no ads option

Today I paid US$30 to stop WordPress showing random ads on my site. They didn’t show up often and the ads WordPress displays – to my knowledge – were never offensive.

However some were inappropriate to my content. They added nothing for readers. Getting rid of them makes the site cleaner – which is a good thing. It was something I intended to do for some time now, but Ed Bott’s No more ads, no more trackers reminded me.

No, you can’t describe your business as ‘agile’

We’re all used to technology buzzwords crossing over into the general business world. If someone talks about their personal bandwidth it may be clumsy, but we know roughly what they mean.

But spare me from large, unbending monolithic companies who wake up one morning and decide to describe themselves as ‘agile’. They may do this because a few people have just started holding quick meetings where staff stay on their feet or they want to tell the world they respond quickly to changing circumstances.

Agile software development is a set of methods that encourages a fast and responsive approach so that customer needs are quickly attended to. Agile was formally defined in a manifesto more than a decade ago but its ideas are now reaching the management suite.

Some bosses like what they hear and want to ride the agile wave. Or at least use the name to make themselves look smarter. It doesn’t work.