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
To your average suit, the reason would seem
obvious: my only intention was to steal his
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
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
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
And perhaps there's an element of self-fullfilling prophecy here, too, because we hackers have
coded thousands of your ideas and watched them
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
And this isn't just an assertion - this is my
The companies with the worst
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
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.