My NonDisclosure Promise

Jul 6, 2010 business
This post is more than 18 months old. Since technology changes too rapidly, this content may be out of date (but that's not always the case). Please remember to verify any technical or programming information with the current release.

As you may remember, I wrote a piece about why I do not sign any NDAs here. I’ve had some time to reflect on that entry, and I want to move forward. I want to give any client I work with my new “promise” - the Non Disclosure Promise. Let me tell you a bit more why I choose not to sign NDAs, and what I can offer you instead.

Open Source Licensing

I specialize in PHP. PHP is open source. There are still some licensing requirements with PHP, however. To use the most standard features and create my own code, I’m bound to only PHP’s license. This allows me to create code for my clients and allows them to have full rights to the pre-processed source.

There are times, however, when it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel (see: code things from scratch). This is where the Open Source philosophy of PHP flourishes. There are tons of scripts and code snippets that are available open source and free. However, they may have different licenses. Some licenses even require that the source code that you modify be contributed back to the project (or even worse - BSD’s license which requires the copy right text in the code). Because of this, it is possible that a library is chosen that I have to slightly modify for the client’s project. Depending on the licensing, I may have to submit the changes back to the project.

Idea vs Implementation

I touched on this heavily in my last piece, but I just wanted to refresh: There are a million ideas - success comes from the proper implementation of said ideas. I’ve seen it so many times that an Entrepreneur comes across an idea that they think is ground breaking - and clutches to that like no tomorrow. There are tons of cool idea companies that failed (see: dot com bust. see: 200x recession). It’s all in the implementation. Suggesting that a programmer legally bind themselves to not talk about a specific idea in the open source world is akin to death - and here’s why:

Two heads are better than one

Sometimes it can be useful to talk a solution over with a trusted colleague or friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created a User Interface and then turned to my trusted doctor friend and asked her to use it. When she stares at me blankly, I know I have more work to do.

I’m not the smartest guy alive

I know - you didn’t think I’d say it. But it is true! I have some friends and peers that are better suited at specific technologies than I am. For example, if I were making a PHP/Java bridge, I would have to consult with some of my Java buddies. If I couldn’t at least explain a portion of my “problem” to them, they will not be able to help me. And that help produces a better product and saves the client money.

My Non Disclosure Promise

With all this explanation done, I want to tell you what I can do.

I promise to program ethically

I will never take, sell or abuse the technology and proprietary ideas that the client has entrusted me with. Besides, this is like shooting myself in the foot. Trust and responsibility are key in this industry. If I started doing things in-ethically, it would be the death of my career.

I will try my hardest to protect your investment

There are times when the ‘secret’ gets shared - even with the NDAs that programmers sign. However, I’ve ran a business and participated in many other. I know there are more intangible resources in the business than anyone can calculate. I recognize the hard work, and will do my best to both solve any issues, program any solutions and share only what would be needed to further the project.

I will communicate

In the absence of the NDA, I have a certain liberty to speak with colleagues about the project. However, if there is something that I think I may want to discuss with someone but think it may be infringing on what the client may consider proprietary business matter, I will communicate both the what I want to communicate and the why I want to talk with someone about this. I will also present alternatives if that is an uncomfortable choice for the client.

Is this good enough?

Now, I have both a decision not to sign any more legally binding NDA documents as well as an official public promise - one I take dearly serious - one that is tied to my name - I give my word. I hope this is honesty is enough for potential clients to understand and trust me for future projects.

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