Dark patterns in networking email


Harry Brignull coined the term dark patterns to refer to designs that trick us into performing actions we wouldn’t otherwise. They rely upon scummy psychological deception and tricks, and need to be called out!

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I was faced with such a pattern this morning in an email:

From: Andrew [Last name withheld]
Subject: Network Outage

This is serious. A network outage will cause customer downtime, so it’s an immediate level three issue. Time to stop eating weekend breakfast with the girlfriend and jump on a console.

So I opened the email… and it was advertising for a new line of network monitoring gear.

Mission accomplished from their side, I read their spam I’d have otherwise ignored. But what poor form. And entirely counterproductive, I sure as hell I won’t be buying any of their devices now.

Update: Spelling corrected from physiological to psychological. Though I suppose it could also be the former if you broke out in a sweat from nervousness or rage!*

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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