Feature Development for Social Networking

Feature Development for Social Networking

illustration by scott bakal

Critically acclaimed and Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominated author Benjamin Rosenbaum makes his first appearance on Tor.com with an epistolary story—of a sort. Rosenbaum is a software developer by trade, which gives him precisely the right background to think through the implications of how fantastical tropes might alter a familiar technology that many of us use every day. Not to mention the fact that he and his family play a ton of Pandemic, and that all of his friends had already written zombie stories, and he was feeling a bit left out. Whatever the genesis, the result is a delightful and cheeky look into an all-too-plausible future.

This short story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by editor Liz Gorinsky.

 

Marsha Shirksy

Got bitten . . .

Roland Wu wtf? Are you kidding?

Buster Day that is so not funny

Emily Carter omg Marsha are you serious?

Marsha Shirksy I’m not kidding, you guys! There was a rager at the supermarket. I could tell he was acting weird & I know I was totally stupid not to just drop my stuff and run! I’d just been in line forever & they had this terrific local asparagus on sale. Yes, I may have just sacrificed myself for asparagus.

Emily Carter Oh, honey! That is awful.

Marsha Shirksy I’m so scared you guys.

Jesus Palanquin Where are you? Get home NOW, lock yourself in, and get on the CDC registry. Hospitals are turning adults away until symptomatic, and the cops in Oakland have been shooting first and asking questions later.

Buster Day oh shit Marsha I’m sorry

Jewell Thomas omg not you too!


To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Suresh Patanjali
Subject: “Became a zombie” Life Event

Hi Everybody

Legal has gotten back to me and they are cool with this feature! I think this has real potential, thanks for all your hard work.

Sur

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Tracy MacGier
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

Suresh, what the fuck? We decided AGAINST making it a Life Event! The point is to be able to tag other people as zombies. If you can log in to update your own status, you’re not a zombie, am I right?

Tracy

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Floyd Park
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

There is a 24-hour incubation period, so you could set it in advance of symptom onset.

Floyd

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Suresh Patanjali
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

Tracy, I do totally remember us kicking that option around, but I do not remember that being the consensus. I was under the impression that the possibility of griefing had shot that idea down, and that is why we went with Life Event. If you think about it, it is a Life Event. I do not think Legal will go for the tagging idea. I appreciate your input though.

Sur


Marsha Shirksy

What do I do guys??

Roland Wu I disagree with Jesus—don’t lock up yet. The incubation period is 24 hours, so get a couple of weeks of groceries FIRST: http://cdc.gov/pandemic/acquired-extreme-rage-with-cognitive-impairment-faq.shmtl

Emily Carter Lock yourself in your apt and I will bring you food. Seriously, we are stocked up like crazy. Paranoid survivalist hubby FTW!

Buster Day I know I’m an asshole for saying this, Emily, but she just got bit and you are going to SEE her? Is that smart?

Roland Wu Yes, Buster, you are an asshole for saying that.

Jesus Palanquin Roland, it is an AVERAGE of 24 hours, but cases have been observed with incub pd of as short as 6 hours. Read the FAQ you linked to. Marsh, how long ago?

Marsha Shirksy Like an hour ago! Emily are you serious? Maybe Buster is right. But I’m really scared.

Emily Carter np honey sit tight. I am on my way, taser in hand. You can stay at arms’ length :-) :-)

Marsha Shirksy Wow Emily. You are the best. I don’t even know what to say.

Fawiza Al-Musari I am in quarantine too, Marsh. We just have to hold on and wait for a cure. The best scientists in the world are on it & I have faith it’s all going to be ok!!!

Jewell Thomas this fucking sucks!!!


To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Tracy MacGier
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

Come on guys, this is a joke. You’re waiting for people to tag THEMSELVES as zombies? Seriously?

We already solved the griefer problem by limiting tagging to Close Friends, remember? I think if some dude I hardly know can photo tag me flashing my tits at Mardi Gras, I ought to be able to tag a CLOSE FRIEND as a zombie, am I right?

People, we are all about visibility in the social cloud! Who’s single, who’s in town, who likes what, who hooked up with whom! And what is the most important thing you want to know about your social circle right now? THREE GUESSES!

Come on, Suresh, grow some balls, and let’s do this right!

Tracy

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Josh Rubenstein
Subject: Wording of new feature

Can we use a different word? I’m not really all that comfortable with “zombie” from a disability rights perspective. It has really negative cultural connotations. It’s one thing if people with AER/CI want to reclaim that word, but I don’t think we should be doing it for them. How about “rager” or just “contracted AER/CI”?

JRube

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Floyd Park
Subject: Re: Wording of new feature

“Rager” is ambiguous because it could also refer to a dance subculture: http://en.wikipedia.org/Rager_(disambiguation)

Floyd

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Robert Ullman
Subject: Re: Wording of new feature

I cannot believe JRube just called being a Z a “disability rights issue.” Dude, that is going on the Wall of Shame.

Tex

 

To: Robert Ullman
From: Josh Rubenstein
Subject: ???

Tex, I don’t see what’s funny about it. These are real people with a serious disease. I know people who may be infected.

JRube

p.s. Also that Wall of Shame thing is really juvenile. Can we not do that in front of Tracy?

p.p.s. Can you believe she told Suresh to grow some balls?


Marsha Shirksy

Doing crossword puzzles.

Buster Day lol you have panache Marsha, I’ll give you that

Jewell Thomas r u ok Marsh?

Marsha Shirksy I’m terrified. Buster, the crossword puzzles are to measure if cognitive impairment is setting in. So far so good!

Buster Day oops ok sorry

Jewell Thomas Hang in there and PLEASE keep posting! I’m worried about Fawiza she is afk so long . . .

Roland Wu Did Emily get there yet?

Marsha Shirksy No & she’s not on chat so maybe she’s on her way. Honestly I kind of hope she bails on me. The roads are pretty bad.


To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Suresh Patanjali
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

Tracy, I really appreciate your going to the mat on this one, and how everybody’s contributions are flowing and things are starting to gel. While I did personally envision this feature being a Life Event, I don’t want to stifle the team’s creativity, so I placed a call to Legal about the tag version. Apparently they are dealing with an infection in their building, but they will get back to me soon. I was also hoping Zuck would weigh in . . .

Anyway, the folksonomy numbers are telling us to move on this! Just in the past 3 days, we have ~180,000 graph nodes at the moment containing “is a zombie,” ~65,000 with “is a rager,” and more with “infected” and “bitten” and so on. And look at the way the hashtags #zombiescanbiteme, #zombieworldproblems, and #YOGBO are trending! I really hope we can nail this down at our four o’clock!

Sur


Emily Carter

Back from my expedition.

Jesus Palanquin, Jewell Thomas, and 22 others like this.

Jewell Thomas how is marsh??

Marsha Shirksy I am fine & now I have at least a week’s worth of microwave popcorn and burritos. Hopefully that will substitute for braaaaains! Emily you are such a sweetheart, I cannot believe you came all this way. I feel kind of stupid now. I totally could have gone to the store.

Emily Carter No problem. It was really not that bad. Just had to drive on the occasional sidewalk ;-)

Roland Wu Emily, you are badass. I’m setting up an “Emily Carter, Action Hero” fan page.

Emily Carter No you are not!

Jesus Palanquin I’m sorry I didn’t say this earlier, but do you have any Celexa or Paxil? Some sites are saying that SSRIs are controlling the anger response in some (only a minority of) subjects. Doesn’t help with the cog impairment, but that varies anyway, and if you start the dosing early it could make a difference.

Marsha Shirksy Unfortunately Jesus, I wasn’t depressed until today!!

Emily Carter Holy crap, Jesus, now you tell me! I could have brought her some of mine!


To: Josh Rubenstein
From: Robert Ullman
Subject: Re: ???

Dude, you have the funny in the wrong direction. You know what? My AUNT got bitten, and she is in no shape to do any disability rights activism. She is locked in the fucking basement in Pensacola until my uncle can score some more Valium or Haldol, and then someone is going to have to go down those stairs and administer it. You could pretty much tag her profile with whatever you like right now, and it would not offend her tender sensibilities. You read me, JRube?

Tex

p.s. I don’t want to be a downer, man, but your chances of getting with Tracy are about like my aunt’s chances of hosting this week’s bridge club. Or of Suresh growing a pair.

Fuck I gotta go.

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Suresh Patanjali
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

Hi Everybody

Well, I had a slightly frustrating conversation with Barb over at Legal. The good news, I guess, is they have the infection situation under control . . . the whole building is quarantined, with a couple of folks sedated, and they’re just going to wait it out there. Barb said the minikitchen is fully stocked, the mood is good, and—her words—“it’s just a big old slumber party.”

The bad news is that this means they’ve apparently decided to take the rest of the day off. I just could not get an answer out of Barb about the tagging feature, even though I explained to her that we feel this is a really critical aspect. Frankly it just did not seem like she grasped the importance. But I guess that is something we sometimes have to wrestle with as an “emergent” or visionary team.

I was also told Zuck has a cold and is not reachable at this time. Without some sign-off, I don’t think we can go forward with the tagging version.

Tex had to take his girlfriend to the hospital. I realize the rest of us may have family crap to deal with, and I am totally okay with authorizing flextime? But it would be great if you could wait until after our four o’clock? We need to nail this down. Thanks!

Sur

p.s. There are Grief and Loss Counselors near the massage tables on the second floor, if that helps. Thanks for hanging in there!


Jewell Thomas Fawiza Al-Musari

r u ok? is ur power out? is that why ur not online?

 

Jewell Thomas Buster Day

hey arent u local to fawiza? can u check on her??

Emily Carter, Marsha Shirsky, and 6 others like this.

Buster Day She’s only been afk for 4 hours, people! Maybe she’s taking a nap.

Roland Wu I’ll go . . . Buster, I’ll swing by your place afterwards.

Buster Day Dude, if you’re shambling and groaning when you get here, I’m not letting you in!


To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Tracy MacGier
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

Suresh, you know what, FUCK legal. They can’t expect us to wait on their slumber party! Don’t tell me you don’t KNOW which side of this Zuck would come down on! Floyd, how long will it take to drop this in?

Tracy

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Floyd Park
Subject: Re: “Became a zombie” Life Event

I actually coded it up already yesterday and QA did some testing in the sandbox env, so when we get sign-off, I can merge it into the trunk and go live in about an hour. I coded it Tracy’s way, but it’s only like another hour’s work to make it a Life Event instead. Plus testing.

I was thinking about how this would interact with the geolocation stuff. Most people have smartphones now, and it’s not like zombies are going to turn theirs off. A whole lot of people have autocheck-in enabled. If enough people tag their friends for infection, this could be a smokin’ heads-up feature. I could whip up a Places mash-up which would let you see infection distribution in your neighborhood. Cool, right?

Floyd

p.s. Suresh, you should check out the 2nd floor webcam. There’s not a lot of Grief and Loss Counseling going on up there right now. Nor do I recommend a massage.

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Josh Rubenstein
Subject: second floor

HOLY SHIT! Is that isolated? Did you see Pender and Joelle up there? Should we do something????

J

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Tracy MacGier
Subject: Re: second floor

Jooooosh, hello, read the bulletin from security! Second floor is locked up and they do NOT want us “doing anything” until the rent-a-cops get here. I talked to Sheila from marketing who is locked in a bathroom up there. She said it is mostly Pender and Joelle smashing monitors. Pender was acting guilty when he came back from lunch! Must have gotten bit and not reported to Medical—totally fucking irresponsible, as usual!

Let’s not get distracted people!

Tracy


Marsha Shirksy

Not doing so well with the crossword puzzles. Is tit just stress?

Jesus Palanquin Marsha, I sent you some HOWTOs in email. I think we have to assume infection. Are you on the CDC registry? They hope to eventually get people out there to help. In the meantime, lock everything sharp, poisonous, or made of glass in one room and hide the key. Think of it as babyproofing for a very large angry baby. Fill the bathtub and some buckets with water. Put out food, especially meat and sugars; you are going to be hungry. If you have any sedatives, quaaludes, or Valium or anything, put them where you can get to them in lucid moments, or even crumble LOW(!) doses into the food. If not... See More

Emily Carter It’s probably just stress! But do what Jesus said. It will help get your mind off it!

Marsha Shirsky oh God ok

Jewell Thomas sweetie! :-( :-( put on some soothing music too like Mozart if u have some. i know that sounds dumb but check it out: http://youtu.be/0MbM5h-5M80

Marsha Shirsky I think the neighbors have it too. I hear screaming.


To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Suresh Patanjali
Subject: Good Work!

Hi Everybody

That was a very productive meeting and I am really relieved we are all on the same page and good to go. Thanks team!

The word from the top is that because of the governor’s announcement, we should encourage people to stay here tonight. In addition to the futon and the couch, we have blankets and pillows, and there’s the soft-pile carpet in the conference room. I was thinking that we might as well take the opportunity to turn this into a Team Event. We could do another Left 4 Dead 2 tournament, I guess, but I had this idea that we should go for a retro vibe, so I brought out Twister and Pictionary. I guess we’ll just see what people are feeling like.

Sur

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Floyd Park
Subject: food run

I’m going to head to Safeway for some coding munchies. Anyone want anything?

Floyd

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Tracy MacGier
Subject: Re: food run

Floyd, you are not going anywhere until the feature is live! Ha ha only serious. What could you possibly want that is not already in the minikitchen? Jesus Christ. This is not about the Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda again, is it? Fine, I will go! You code!

Tracy

p.s. dibs on the futon.

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Josh Rubenstein
Subject: Re: food run

too late, tracy, I’m already in the parking lot! floyd & you guys, send me your shopping list

JRube

[Sent from my iPhone]

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Floyd Park
Subject: food run

Canned food, mace or pepper spray, any sedatives you can get over the counter, and any antidepressants. Maybe St. John’s wort?

If you can find either Grape Nehi or Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda that would rock. Also Mountain Dew and Terra Chips, particularly sweet potato.

Suresh, can he expense the mace/pepper spray/sedatives/etc?

Thanks for going, man

Floyd

 

To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Suresh Patanjali
Subject: Re: food run

Josh, if you get marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey bars, we could make s’mores as part of the Team Event.

He can expense everything! :-)

Sur


Marsha Shirksy Emily Carter

YOU BTCH Emily Carter I CANT OPN THIS FCUKING POPPPCORN!!!!!!

Emily Carter should I go over there again, you guys? I do have a taser.

Emily Carter the hubby says no :-/

Jesus Palanquin Emily NO. It is bad out there right now. You stay put. If Marsha is still typing, things are not that bad.

Buster Day Marsha try a burrito!

Jewell Thomas oh STFU Buster

 

Buster Day tagged Marsha Shirksy as a Zombie.

 

Buster Day tagged Fawiza Al-Musari as a Zombie.

 

Buster Day tagged Roland Wu as a Zombie.

Buster Day He was at my front door you guys it wasn’t pretty.


To: “Emergent UI Features Team”
From: Tracy MacGier
Subject: feature

Floyd, you are the man! People are adopting already. This is awesome.

And you even did the Places mash-up! That is sweet. Although, check out Safeway: I told you that soda run was a dumbass idea. Josh, honey, what’s your ETA? Everything okay out there? I would skip the s’mores at this point.

Anyway, we’re done for the day, am I right? I’m ready for some Twister!

Tracy

 

Afternote:

Thanks to David Braginsky for his help in researching life at Facebook.

 

“Feature Development for Social Networking” Copyright © 2013 by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Art copyright © 2013 by Scott Bakal

23 comments
Jenny Thrash
1. Sihaya
Nobody's commented yet? Well, I'll say, "Bravo!"
Theresa Wymer
2. Tekalynn
Good lord. This is brilliant and exemplifies why I avoid Facebook like the (metaphorical) plague.
Mez
3. Mez
What? No! I need closure!
Patrick Hurley
4. hurlepat
This one made my morning. VERY well done!
Nick Hlavacek
5. Nick31
I don't know whether to be amused or depressed that this is probably EXACTLY how it would play out in real life. I'm going to settle on amused. Both sets of interactions (those on Facebook and those on email the FB offices) are just spot on. Very well done.
Mez
7. Jackaddict
That was just awesome! But I want more now!
R.J. Robledo
8. RJRobledo
This is magnificent! Not only was it depressing, but it also made me tense with a bit of fear. The build-up was incredible.

As everyone else here has mentioned, it probably would go down just like this. I'm sure we all could name any number of "Buster Day"s in our digital lives.
Mez
9. Elm
This is one of those gimmicky short stories that manages to combine the modern average Joe with his (or her) nightmarish doppelganger so easily and effectively it makes me feel freaked out, jealous and inspired all at once.

The zombies of Serling and Wells will be impressed with this once they finally get rid of that dial up modem. Now THAT'S a problem too embarrassing to discuss on fb.
Mez
10. Dar
I want more! What happens to Josh? What happens to Buster? What happens???
Mez
12. Samuelsamaz
It was patetic, but awesome!!! Little bit more, please? hahaha
Mez
13. Marsha Shirksy
STILL CANT OPN THIS FCUKING POPPPCORN!!!!!!
Mez
14. Max Z
I agree about the 'more'. It really worked. Felt totally believable, part from the last line. After the rush of trying to get a deadline met was over, they would start to feel more fear, especially for Josh. Characterisation was great though, you knew who they were and lived that experience with them.

Also, they were right to get that feature out. Very practical. If it had been live before Josh made his s'mores runs, maybe he would thought twice and stayed to play Pictionary with the team. And all the 'Busters' tagging their mates are what allows people to know Safeways is dangerous.

If there ever is a Zombie Apocolypse, Facebook will hopefully have taken note and have this feature ready to run.

Great work, and I would buy the novel or novelette.
Mez
15. Fawiza Al-Musari
What's all this zombie nonsense ?
My damn cable modem dropped out again. Just spent 6 hours on the phone with tech support. Made me feel like running out into the street and biting someone in frustration.
Eric Williams
18. emw
Brilliant, hilarious stuff, Benjamin. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Mez
19. Chris Gerrard
A great read. I laughed. I cried. I gnawed my own knuckles.
No, really.
Well done, Ben.
Mez
20. NicholasC
Brilliant! I wanted more. I can see weaving scenes like this into a novel.
Mez
21. tigrislilium
More please. Love it :)
Mez
23. Joseph Durant
Awesome, but Facebook as directing people like zombies is a closer analogy than I think many people are comfortable with. People have a monotonous existence and wake up and automatically log into Facebook. The reality is that Facebook used to be a ground for hanging out, and is now a marketplace for selling stuff. Every other post is a sponsored ad or a third party post by the types of companies listed at BuyLikesReviews.com for example. We're all zombies, and Facebook is the zombie king directing us where to go. Just wish that society had some brains about this.
Michael Walton
24. tygervolant
FB mashed up with the zombie apocalypse? There are no words for this level of awesome!
Mez
25. thetreeocelot
TheTreeOcelot and 24 other people like this.

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