I love getting paid, but I hate contracts. I hate reading them, I hate the trepidation that I feel when I sign them because I always feel like I might have missed something and most of all I hate it when a document comes back to haunt me. Sometimes I wonder if lawyers boast the growth they achieved during puberty by the number of indecipherable paragraphs they can write.
I love challenges, so long as I’m not forced to meet them in solitary confinement. I was recently approached with a very interesting opportunity that will put every ounce of knowledge and experience that I have to the test. Accepting this offer would ultimately show me if I’m worth my salt as a systems programmer. I can’t say too much about it other than the fact that I’d be starting with the Linux kernel and not much else, while building a very task specific operating system.
The problem is the non-disclosure agreement, which is on the order of centimeters thicker than anything I’ve ever signed before. The agreement would effectively alienate resources like Stack Overflow while I try to meet a very awesome challenge in a very short amount of time. I’m just not comfortable with that.
I have no doubt that I could handle whatever came up, but what’s the point of struggling for days on something that could be resolved in minutes by simply tapping the combined knowledge and experience of my peers? I realize that certain types of projects just require absolute secrecy, often to the point of teams working completely oblivious to one another, but that just seemed absurd when working on something that would ultimately be released under OSI approved licenses.
I sent back the NDA with a list of objections and possible compromises. My main focus was asking them to spell out, in plain language how much code or context I could share for the purposes of asking for help. It could be that I just blew a great opportunity, but I question the value of any opportunity that would effectively place me in solitary confinement.
Sure, we used to work and get stuff done before the days of resources like Stack Overflow, just like we used to store food in root cellars and treat mental disorders with electricity. Why take such a giant leap backwards when time and correctness are of the essence?
We’ll see what happens. I wrote a related rant regarding keeping ideas secret some time ago, before going back to freelance work.