What is the price of my principles? $49.95 plus shipping and tax.

I’d have to say that it’s an interesting start to my day when I wake up and find that I’ve been smacked down not once, but twice by Joel Spolsky. And that I just had, by far, the most hits ever in one day on my weblog. Not something that happens every day, you know…

As with the comments a few months ago, many people have asked questions regarding legal aspects of the patent application. And, as with my previous replies to those comments, I’m not going to try and answer those questions because I don’t have a law degree and am not qualified to comment on any kind of legal question. As a general rule, I’ve found it is best to try and not comment on subjects about which I don’t have a fairly substantial grasp of, and that goes double for this case. That said, there are a couple of responses that I have concerning the new round of comments:

First, I would have to say that I’m extremely gratified by everyone’s high estimation of my employability. Were I the type of person to quit a company because it pursues software patents (more on that in a moment), I’m glad to know that everyone believes I’d have an easy time finding a job at a company that doesn’t pursue such patents like IBM… er, Google… uh, Borland… um, Sun… eh, Oracle… oh, well, maybe Fog Creek Software. (After Joel’s comments this morning, though, maybe I shouldn’t count on that one…)

Second, on a more serious note, several people have asked (in so many words) how I square my statement that “I don’t believe software patents are a good idea” with this or that action by Microsoft. With the implication being that if I truly believed in my principles, I’d quit this evil corporation and go find someone more pure to work for. Well, the answer is pretty simple: while I don’t believe software patents are a good idea, I don’t think that they’re such a big deal that I’d quit working somewhere just because of it. As some of you may have guessed (but perhaps found hard to believe) I actually like Microsoft, enjoy working here and believe it is a good company. Certainly, the company has done things at times that I don’t agree with, but none of them have ever risen to a level where I thought that they overrode the basic decency and good intent of the company as a whole. Does this mean that there are things that I would quit Microsoft over? Sure. If, for example, I were to find out that Microsoft was manufacturing its products using Soylent Green, I would quit in a New York minute (and give Charlton Heston a call). But so far that hasn’t happened for me.

I’ll also add that my intent in saying this is not to denigrate those people who feel much more passionately about software patents than I do and who refuse to work for any company that pursues such patents. I may not feel the same way as they do, but I recognize the genuine passion that they feel around this issue and really respect it. And I think that it is really important, as a human being, to know what your principles are and stand up for them. This one just happens not to be such a major one for me that I feel the need to start prepping my resume…

P.S. – As for those who suggest that I’ve sold my principles for stock options, have you seen our stock price, say, in the last few years?

6 thoughts on “What is the price of my principles? $49.95 plus shipping and tax.

  1. Daniel Berger

    "Certainly, the company has done things at times that I don’t agree with, but none of them have ever risen to a level where I thought that they overrode the basic decency and good intent of the company as a whole."

    Apparently blackmailing OEM’s so they won’t boot any other operating system besides Windows doesn’t qualify as a violation of basic decency and good intent, eh, Mr Vick?

    Make no mistake, Microsoft is as ruthless as they come. Good intent indeed.

  2. Karl

    Joel was soo cool in 2003…the guy hardly says anything worth, well, anything.

    While i know I’m a regular troll on your blog, I think your right on the ball with this one and your attitude is correct.

    Keep up the good work,


  3. Bruce Johnson

    I always thought that the passions of the people opposed to software patents were aimed in the wrong direction. Rather than be annoyed that Microsoft, et all are patenting software, focus on getting the playing field changed. After all, Microsoft is working within the rules as they are currently written. For them to do anything else would be tot the detriment of their shareholders and a breach of duty. The same is true of any company.

    So rather than chirp at Microsoft, the people who disagree with the idea should be writing, emailing, phoning their congressional representatives demanding that the admitedly antiquated patent rules should be rewritten. Make suggestions for improvements. Join lobbying groups that have the same goals. Because until the laws are rewritten, all we can work with is the current set.


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