Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments
NOTE: use Perl; is on undef hiatus. You can read content, but you can't post it. More info will be forthcoming forthcomingly.

All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

use Perl Log In

Log In

[ Create a new account ]

scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Friday March 25, 2005
04:10 PM

NDA: d'oh, but not for Stallman's reasons

[ #23848 ]
I applied for http://jobs.perl.org/job/2383 and actually got a reply. Even having written a book, I *never* get replies from job applications. Sadly, this reply asked me to sign an NDA and fax it back (between two certain hours on a certain day). I asked that my application be cancelled but offered no explanation of why I objected to the NDA. To your average suit, the reason would seem obvious: my only intention was to steal his idea (ha!). To your average hacker, the reason would also seem obvious: the priority of helping other hackers predominates getting a job. No, on both counts. So let me tell you why I refuse NDA jobs.

As anyone knows who wasted their youth coding double shifts on the dot-com boom, ideas are cheap. Not only are they cheap, they're worthless. They're worthless because a good ideas requires vision not only to concieve but to implement, and no one but the person with the vision can do the idea justice. So, even if I wanted to steal your idea, it wouldn't go anywhere. I'd half ass it, or I'd miss the point entirely. This happens to hackers all the time when marketoid try to take one of our ideas and run with it: they butcher it into something unrecognizable. And perhaps there's an element of self-fullfilling prophecy here, too, because we hackers have coded thousands of your ideas and watched them fail. Because the chance of a suit with a successful idea coming along is almost nil according to this pathetic track record, we have a hard time making ourselves believe but any new idea has any value. Therefore, in our minds, it's worthless. Don't get me wrong - we'll still bust our butts writing code for you, but it's your code, for you, and we don't want it. This possessive attitude is akin to suspecting the bartender of wanting to sip off of your drink.

But that's not all. I have my own ideas that I want to code. Coding your ideas is my day job, and I do it to pay for my hardware and network connection that I use to code my own ideas.

And that's still not all! Companies that require NDAs tend to be lawyer run. I've seen them. Sometimes they're profitable. But they don't just have a litigious attitude towards their employees - they have the same attitude towards their competition and their customers. They tend to completely misunderstand the nature of technology. Anyone who thinks of technology as something that only generates value when it's patented, licensed, snuck to market, and has a copyright look and feel, probably has a really obvious idea, as a truly novel idea would gain no benefit these protections. The look and feel don't matter and aren't worth cloning as the market is new and legions of users familiar with an existing product don't exist, so any user interface is as good as another. The implications of the product are far reaching and far exceede what their creators invisions (just as with the WWW, Gnutella, the PC, and every other revolutionary invention), and it was done as an experiment, so the thought never applies to attempt to patent it. Humans aren't qualified to valuate an idea because the impact of a revolutionary idea is subtle but profound - it's dripping with NP-completeness - and by virtue of being subtle is very ambagiously a good idea or a bad idea. And this isn't just an assertion - this is my experience. The companies with the worst ideas are the most aggressive about defending them. So, if you tell me you want me to sign an NDA, your company almost certainly has no product, and that puts an enermous pressure on the programmers, where failure superficially appears to rest.

I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't work for a company that wants an NDA. As for rms, I suppose I wouldn't say "no" to the right request for help, and I identify more strongly with those trying to break flaws systems than those erecting monoliths of brokenness, so out of desire to avoid breaking my word, I'd avoid an NDA. I certainly identify more strongly with the hackers than the suits.

-scott
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
 Full
 Abbreviated
 Hidden
More | Login | Reply
Loading... please wait.
  • I think you're reading way too much into why a company would like you to sign a NDA. What it says is "we'd like you to do some work for us, but we wouldn't like you to blabber about it with our competitors".

    I don't find that unreasonable.
    • Neither do I. I am actually going for that particular job as well. I read the NDA and found it not unreasonable. It would be my first paid Perl job, which would be cool. I use Perl at work but that job appeals to me because I will be learning from someone more experienced in Perl.
    • Scottie is right that siging an NDA before an interview is a huge warning sign that says several things, none of which is good :
      • 'lawyers are more important than programmers here'
      • 'Our ideas are more valuable than yours'
      • 'We do not trust you'
      • 'When you work here you cannot open source any of the work you do and we will own any ideas that you have at work or at home'

      This isn't always the case, but an NDA before an interview shows that they are all likely and so the company is best avoided.

      There is a pla

      --

      @JAPH = qw(Hacker Perl Another Just);
      print reverse @JAPH;
      • In this case, the company is a startup. I do not find it unreasonable for that company to want to keep whatever they are doing private until such time they deem appropriate.

        However, I am glad he pulled his application since I am going for the same position(s). : )

        • I've worked for several startups, in each case they were capable of a) trusting me and b) providing appropriate information for the interview.

          The employment contract itself contained an NDA, which is fairly normal and certainly acceptable.

          I've always found that people with 'trust issues' like this are usually less trustworthy themselves.

          I would certainly think twice about accepting an NDA for an interview.

          --

          @JAPH = qw(Hacker Perl Another Just);
          print reverse @JAPH;
          • I did actually. I talked to a couple of friends that are also doing similiar things. I signed it for a couple of reasons. I want to work with Perl professionally. I like the fact that it will be a mentoring type position. I can still say "no" after the interview. If it was an established company I may not have signed it. It is a startup and my take is that they are being paranoid about whatever ideas they have. I can't say I fault them for that. I don't fault Scott either. He made the choice he thinks is ri
            • I think you missed my point entirely. First, I absolutely busted my ass for several startups, one after another, during the dot com rush. I'm not eager to work unnecessarily hard agian. I'm too old and tired. I don't mind working hard, but trying to save a struggling company with a super-human effort is for younger folks. So when I decide I don't want to work for a company, it's because I'm avoiding this situation. And the companies that seem to find themselves in this situation tend to be the ones that ask
              • "my article was only my opinion of why this correlation exists"

                I thought I said that too. Maybe I wasn't as clear as I should have been when answering.

                Of course, I could have missed the point entirely. That has been known to happen from time to time. : )

          • I agree. There's also a difference between asking to sign an NDA at a startup or at a medium/large corporation. (I am only talking about the NDA before the interview.) For the latter is usually just a practice who is proposed by people without even thinking about it. For a start-up, I believe it indicates some real issues in the people who are running it. Like, wasting time and energy on paranoia instead of fully dedicating themselves to the product they're building.
  • Let me put this another way.

    There are "puddle coat" companies that throw some sort of coat over a puddle for ladies to walk across, and there are "bridge troll" companies that identify existing bridges, stake them out, and contrive the situation such as they make a profit from the pre-existance of the bridge.

    I don't want to work for a "bridge troll" company. These companies are the hardest to stand up in and say "we offer no real service, we must do something useful" - because they don't want to provi
  • As the person who posted the ad, founded the company and requested the NDA, let me say this.

    I am not now nor have I ever been a: Lawyer, MBA, or a SUIT!

    I am a hacker, I have been writing code for years, and the simple reason for the NDA is 2 fold.

    1. Maybe you (Scott) are trustworthy, but how do I know that and what about the people who are not?

    2. The NDA comes with instructions. They are simple instructions, but I have found that some people can't follow them. This is an indication that they don't pay a