Monday, March 28, 2005

Meeting Pure Evil -- Socially

Last Saturday night, I bumped into Pure Evil while at a party thrown by a neighbor. I didn't think I was going to meet Pure Evil, and didn't even realize who it was until we had chatted a bit. But there he was, with a wine glass in his hand. He (and I won't mention his name for reasons you'll see in just a bit) is a former executive of several software companies and has been (and is currently) a consultant. He is now engaged in 2 lines of business: the first is to act as expert witness in dubious patent lawsuits for software patents that should have never been granted. The company he works for finds outrageous patents (they have found someone who has allegedly patented ecommerce -- the whole process) and sues major software companies. While ethically a little shady, this is not illegal. And I know that some smart people agree that you can patent software and processes. The ambulance-chaser way they are doing this, however, is a little creepy.

Turns out that this was just the appetizer. His other line of business is to sell small to medium sized business on as much enterprise software as possible. Things like SharePoint, PlumTree, Biztalk, etc. He really, really likes Microsoft back-office software because, as he puts it, "it's very easy to install". I asked him if most of his clients really need that much stuff -- wouldn't a wiki or something lighter weight solve the problem more elegantly? He was dumbfounded at the question because he can't charge big money for the care and feeding of that kind of software. He also professes to like .NET a lot because it is so extremely RAD. I asked him if doing development like that didn't cause problems during the maintenance phase of the application. After all, that's where you pay for rampant RADism, trying to find all that code you've sprinkled throughout your user interface in event handlers. His response: "We're generally through with the contract at that point, or leave for other reasons, so we don't have to worry with that too much". To summarize: sell them as much software as possible (that we don't have to understand very well), slam together applications that quickly become un-maintainable, then get out of Dodge before the repercussions hit. Clearly, this person and his company are trying hard to make sure that consultants are universally loathed.

People like this have the ethics of slave traders. Back in the day, slave trading was legal, and I'm sure it was very profitable...and morally repugnant. Mr. Pure Evil was also bragging about how much money he made last year ($350K). But how does he sleep at night? It made me realize first hand that you can randomly bump into people like this, who care for profit at the expense of ethics and brag about it. Excuse me, I've got to run take a shower...

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