RE: ethics, morals in documentation?

Subject: RE: ethics, morals in documentation?
From: Darren Barefoot <Darren -dot- Barefoot -at- capeclear -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001 17:22:55 +0100


That's a very interesting question...I encountered a similar sort of pang of
guilt when I learned that software I had documented was being used by, well,
let's just say, a certain military/industrial consortium that I was opposed
to. I didn't give it a whole lot of thought...after all, it was just one
user among thousands.

Things become more complex as some of us (myself included) work on more
open-source technologies. If you document a Web service, for example, and 5%
of the users invoking that service are objectionable, what do you do? In
this environment, it could become quite difficult to remain squeaky clean.

I think one can only make a personal judgement about the amount of negative
impact a given product might have. I, for example, would never document a
missile system, regardless of how much money you paid me. On the other hand,
I probably wouldn't have a problem documenting a phone system that was, for
example, used by consenting adults for "chat".

A similar discussion has recently arisen on Techcomm regarding distributed
computing (a la SETI -at- Home et al), and whether the CPU cycles you offer a
company might be used to cure cancer one day and Philip Morris the next.

That's my two cents. DB.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: anon [mailto:unknownidca -at- yahoo -dot- com]
> Sent: 05 April 2001 16:59
> Subject: ethics, morals in documentation?
> I thought I'd share a strange little situation from
> work. Yesterday myself and several other staff were
> called into a meeting and asked if we'd have any
> problems modifying our product for a company that can
> best be described as a porn empire.


> I've already made my own decision to participate in
> this project. I thought, however, that describing the
> situation might stir up some interesting debate.


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