Ethics in IT?

Learning from those before us; copying and rewriting someone else’s code and sharing our code, applications and practices is considered par for the course for careers in IT.

It would be impossible for me to express my gratitude to the many persons who have shown or taught me things. It would be even more difficult to credit the articles, books and people that have inspired me. Worst of all, it would be almost shameful to relate how half of the best ideas or applications I’ve written or designed are nothing more than works built on top of the very innovative initiatives of others.

Maybe not; those who have worked with me know I am usually the guy rooting for copying ‘what Google did’ or wanting to do ‘what the rails guys did’ but the point is that, in the IT industry, most of what we do has already been done. Maybe in a different platform or infrastructure or maybe in a different language or process. More telling and more critical is that the same errors and mistakes keep being made. Only the people change and it doesn’t take a decade for mistakes to repeat either…

Some call this cross pollination, some call it stealing and the famous saying is that copying is the sincerest form of flattery…

Whatever – I believed I agreed fully with the cross pollination line of thought but…

I have recently discovered that an old colleague of mine has ‘posted as his own’ a detailed overview (code and all, lol) of a semi-decent piece of functionality I developed for our then-common employer. How decent? Decent enough that I have built this same functionality again for more employers.

Lamest part is the ‘apparent ownership of ideas and development’ implied. At least, the ‘offender’ is touting something he recently fixed that he had broken in the first place.

How stupid is THIS post you are reading you ask? Better choice of pronouns would have made me content with the post. (and happy for him) Soon after reading I called the person on it and he claims ignorance and indifference to whole situation.

Mind you, this is not about outing anyone but about feeling a little ‘erased’ by the recent posting I read.

Is that what I’ve been doing every time I create something for my employer? ‘Erase’ that person from which I learned from? It is true that not knowing our history we are bound to repeat it.

I have already forgotten how many times a supervisor has walked into my field of vision and broken the ice with: ‘How difficult would it be?…’ and sent the team on a wild goose chase because he will not accept ‘no we can’t do that’ or ‘that has been tried and it sucks’ for an answer.

I am convinced this is a ‘technique’ on the supervisor’s arsenal to ‘inspiring confidence’ on a team when the request is unrealistic. Not that it works since, by attempt, the supervisor has already questioned the team’s confidence in what they do.

The end result is that the team toils away with given request knowing very well expectations will not be met. Maybe I should have tried answering those with ‘neither you pay us enough for doing that nor do we know how to do it’ or something along those lines…

Missed opportunities, my curent boss totally gets it. Wow, this could be a post about managers! Sorry, this is only sometimes-applicable, not a rule and, there are way better posts on this that what I can write.

Back to post.

In hindsight, I should not have gotten worked up about such a thing. I am certain this happens all the time and its one of those things that makes us grow. I’m gonna take this situation for what it is and use it as a lesson to not take myself so seriously.


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