Tag Archives: employment

Employment Agreements vs. Open Source

Reading through an interesting, and mostly accurate piece about OpenSSL the following jumped out at me:

The fact that OpenSSL pays next to nothing constrains things further. Those who do help Henson out often juggle coding with full-time paying jobs elsewhere. Others can’t code for OpenSSL: Their employment contracts prohibit it, so they simply act as advisers. That leaves Henson responsible for 60% of the code commits (or sets of changes to the source code), twice as many as the next-most-prolific developer, Andy Polyakov, who’s compensated some. Most of the code added in the past few years has been approved by Henson, or tapped out on his own keyboard.

via The Internet Is Being Protected By Two Guys Named Steve.

Last week a bunch of tech companies signed up to donate $100K to help projects like OpenSSL. However, money really isn’t the most constrained resource here, it’s people with expertise.

A lot of large companies that aren’t incorporated in California have really stringent IP agreements with their employers. Something along the lines of “relate to the actual or anticipated business or research or development” of said company. In a large company, this means, everything. California has a state law that trumps this, and doesn’t allow companies to claim anything that you create on your own time, without the use of company equipment.

I wonder what the impact would be if these same companies also pledged to adjust their employment agreements to let their employees contribute to Open Source in their own time. I expect that it would have a much larger impact than the financial pledge.

Rands in Repose: Bored People Quit

This was a very solid top item on Hacker News today:

Much has been written about employee motivation and retention. It’s written by folks who actively use words like motivation and retention and generally don’t have a clue about the daily necessity of keeping your team professionally content because they’ve either never done the work or have forgotten how it’s done. These are the people who show up when your single best engineer casually and unexpectedly announces, “I’m quitting. I’m joining my good friend to found a start-up. This is my two weeks’ notice.”

You call on the motivation and retention police because you believe they can perform the legendary “diving save”. Whether it’s HR or a well-intentioned manager with a distinguished title, these people scurry impressively. Meetings that go long into the evening are instantly scheduled with the disenfranchised employee.

It’s an impressive show of force, and it sometimes works, but even if they stay, the damage has been done. They’ve quit, and when someone quits they are effectively saying, “I no longer believe in this company”. What’s worse is that what they were originally thinking was, “I’m bored”.

Boredom is easier to fix than an absence of belief.

For the engineering sector, this nails it, and matches well with a tweet I saw yesterday:

@johndbritton: Q: “Do you know any good developers that need jobs?” A: “No, that is an entirely unheard of scenario.”

This all especially struck a chord as I’ve been organizing my Google+ circles, and noting how large the population of used to work at my employer is.