Posts Tagged 'Development'

Software and the Law

If you check the sylabus on most it ComSci degrees, it is unlikely that you will find a course or even a hat tip towards anything legal. Even the course that I took which included subjects on Communication, Managment and a full year project had no content on anything legal.

This is why my friend Thomas Otter is investigating in his efforts to become a Pointy Headed Doctor err… a Pretty Harmless Driver … err Purple Headless Dragon. Actually none of those. He is completing his PhD. Not to be confused with PHP which, I grant you, at some level is very similar but on others completely different.

Anway enough of the rambling.

I will let Thomas actually describe what he is doing:

Legal systems have evolved over centuries to codify rights and obligations in societies. Throughout history law and technology have interacted, modifying each other along the way.  It is often an uneasy relationship…

I want to ask as many software people as possible about what they understand of the law that can impact software, and what their attitudes are towards a couple of legal concepts in a software context.

It is designed to gather information about the knowledge, education and attitude of software developers towards the law related to software, and how law is or isn’t built into software. My goal is not to just have a small survey of a couple of hundred developers, but to really survey lots of them.

To do this, I want to tap as many of my readers  as I can to spread the news of the survey, and for as many of you to take the survey as possible. The more answers I can get from around the world, the richer the results will be. I will also be following up with telephone interviews with a much smaller sample group.

In this survey I have used the term software developer rather broadly. I define this to be anyone working professionally to design, build or maintain software (information technology). So if you are a product manager, solution manager, implementation consultant, systems architect, business analyst, or a systems tester, for instance, then we would be just as interested in your responses. The survey isn’t just aimed at those who code, but those who make a living from its construction and maintenance. Much of this group would fall under that definition. The Germans have a rather nice term,informatiker, but it doesn’t really translate very well.

You can access the survey here or use this link in twitter to get the word out to your friends social network, tribe or whatever the new word for friends is this week.

In a world of SOX and Data Protection this is very timely research.

The goal is to get at least 1006 responses so that the data is statistically significant.  (You did stats 101 didn’t you?) I am reliably informed that it is progressing well but until you take 10 minutes of your precious time to add your response it will not be complete.

Documentation starts in the kitchen and ends with your brother

I am all for good documentation. Whether I do it myself is something that I will leave for others to judge me on. I have had a ‘documentation is like labeling your power sockets’ post ruminating in the back of my mind for a while now and then I read this.

Elizabeth Naramore has added to Chris Shiflett’s PHP Advent Day calendar with an excellent piece on documentation.

She makes some excellent points on how documentation can be like telling a stranger to putting the dishes away, how it helps you examine your code, how it keeps you mindful of portability, how it will save you debugging time and how it will save your ass.

I like the anecdotes.

I have my own. As I said, I have been ruminating on this thought for a while but for me documentation is like well labeled power sockets. Power cables are an interface. They interface your stereo, laptop, dvd etc with the power. The problem is, just like parameters, power sockets all look the same. A little blue label can go along way.

I am sure that you have never had get behind some really inconvenient cabinet and change a video over for a dvd and you had no idea which socket was safe to pull out. Whoops, you just pulled out the TV.

I have to do this all the time. I am always pulling out my laptop and moving it somewhere else. Office to client, back again, into power strips neatly organised with 3 neat little friends it can hide next to, retrieving it from a tangle of power cables printer cables and usb cables.

Power cables with labels

It might look a bit silly but when you go to pull out your power a little blue sticker can save you a whole lot of time.

Ditto for documentation. Sure putting that extra little comment in there looks a little silly but 6 months from now you or the guy who comes behind you is going to appreciate it.

I met someone the other day at and we started comparing notes about all the projects we had worked on. ‘Ahh’, she says. ‘I remember your work from client such and such a project. You left good comments.’

Sometimes your brother can be your best friend.

Brother labeller

Anyway that’s enough serious stuff for a Friday night, I have a friend coming over with his X-box and I am going to have to find some power sockets for him.

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July 2020

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