Thursday, May 6, 2010

Don't dis *******

The other day I had somewhat of a ranting post about a certain version control system which will remain nameless. It's very rare that I discuss programming issues at all on this blog, and that was the first time I had mentioned something that was even remotely connected with my job. Although I use my real name, I have meticulously avoided any mention of my employer whatsoever. It goes without saying that the commentary on this blog only represents my own personal opinion, not those of my employer, my wife, my dogs, my state representative, or my guitar.

If you Google around for this certain version control system -- which you can't because I'm not going to say the name of it -- you will find that their senior engineer rapidly identifies any blog or other web presence that is dissing their product, and tries to address the person's concerns. In some ways, this could be a good thing, and I can respect that. If someone had a problem with a product I worked on and was passionate about, I would both want to help them, as well as try to ensure that any public criticisms were at least honest. And in fairness, the senior engineer in question does seem to honestly want to assist people, and if you read his replies to other people who have complained, he is at times willing to acknowledge shortcomings in the product.

This is all fine and good, but I got a phone call yesterday that -- in light of some new information this morning -- has retroactively scared the shit out of me.

One of the guys from our local ******* support team called me up, and the following conversation ensued:

OTHER GUY: So uh, I heard you've been having some problems with *******...

ME: Oh yeah, [co-worker who was helping me try to track down a solution the other day] must have left a message for you.

OTHER GUY: Um, uh, no, it wasn't him.

ME: Huh. Well, okay, anyway, my problem was that...

A discussion of the problem ensued, which was reasonably productive (though my frustrations with ******* remain), but I was a little disturbed even at the time, because there was a subtle undercurrent of tension in the whole thing, and the poor guy seemed really eager to make sure any and all of my concerns with ******* were fully addressed.

Found out why this morning... the senior engineer in question replied to my post -- and actually I think there was a potential for a useful dialog there, despite the fact that I think he misunderstood the specific issue I was having the other day -- and alluded to "your company's excellent ******* support team."

So yeah. Apparently the senior engineer saw my blog post and wanted to address it -- which is fine -- but first he figured out where I worked, which I had thought was no mean feat (try Googling me; you won't get far as my name is rather common) and talked to the local support team. As in, he talked to my employer. Because of something I wrote on my blog. Oh fuck.

I am quite certain he was just trying to help, but this is total Panic Button time for me. There have just been too many horror stories about people getting fired because they expressed their personal opinions on their blog. I knew from the start I was taking a risk by using my real name, but since as a rule I don't discuss issues relating to my employer, and since it's non-trivial to tie my name back to the name of my employer, I felt reasonably safe being open about my identity. I guess not.

If you Google around about this product and the senior engineer's omnipresent defending of it -- which again, you can't, because I'm keeping my goddamn mouth shut from now on -- you will see that I am not the first to be skeeved out by his approach. As I say, I know he is trying to be helpful and is being passionate about his product, but if you were able to Google, you will see multiple people complaining that they feel they are being "put on trial" or whatever for complaining about the product. Nuh uh, I'm not going there. I have a 1-year-old son, I don't need to put my family's financial security in jeopardy just because I happen to dislike some of the design choices made by a certain tool that my employer uses.

If the senior engineer had replied to my blog post first, and without attempting to uncover personal details I had not explicitly revealed, we could potentially have had a dialog. But instead, he contacted my employer without giving me a heads-up first. It is very very very very important to me that nothing about this blog be connected in any way to my employer, since they don't have fuck-all to do with each other, and I would like to be free to express my personal opinions without fear of it impacting my family's future. I strongly regret having used my real name now, but it is probably too late (even if I changed my name in my profile, all of the old comments apparently retain my original name).

So I have deleted the apparently-controversial post, and I will not being saying anything publicly about ******* any longer. I have disabled comments on this post, because I don't wish to continue any conversation which connects my blog and my employer. If the senior engineer in question reads this, I would ask him to please not follow up on this. I'm just too freaked out by this whole thing, and would like to just put it behind me.