Sex, Lies, and Software Development

Are there any programming jobs you wouldn't take? Not because the jobs didn't pay enough, had poor benefits, or limited upside -- but because the work itself made you uncomfortable? Consider the tale of one writer:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Is it any more ethical to work for a company that deliberately misleads its clients or under-quotes with the full knowledge they’ll have to claw more money later on? Sales in general has a lot of ethical questions against it, because quite frankly in the lot of industries if you don’t play those cards you don’t make the sale because someone else does.
We take jobs on at companies that have those practices because they aren’t the kind of questions we ask because they aren’t within our remit, we like the tech and focus on the tech.

Coding up a system to distribute porn is one step in a more direct influence but it is just one step and I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference because it isn’t directly the act of doing it. Would you work at a company that processed credit card transactions even if they allowed the pornographic companies to use the service?

Being ethically consistent with indirect influences is a fallacy. We buy shoes made in sweat shops without knowing, we use electricity that was ultimately obtained through questionable sources, we rely on slave labour indirectly almost every day.
We’re tainted by our circumstance of living in the first world.

Ergo, I’d say doing the tech for a porn company is the least of any ethical concerns. Those that do think it unethical haven’t looked too much at their own indirect actions to see what crimes they’re also indirectly committing.

An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex. - Aldous Huxley

Therefore, you’re a bore to programmers if you apply your intellectual prowess to serve porn to boring people.

Hey, nobody ever claimed that programmers are saints or know how to argue logically. ;D

Interesting how many people want to skirt around the root of the issue here.

All of this can be summed up with don’t take a job you wouldn’t be proud to have.

Does the subject matter dilute the excellent technical work the IMVU team might be doing? No. But at the same time, I can’t help questioning the ultimate value of that work.

Why? Okay, S.O. is a great service. But other projects you’ve worked on… what was their content and why did it make your work valuable? So you write, for example, an app so a realtor can sell houses more easily? So friggin’ what?

Anyway, this entire post is based on the false premise that there’s something bad about porn relative to other industries. Archaic, prude, and disappointing.

Mike (@#4) commented that it’s a strange world where porn systems are seen as things to be hidden and weapons systems are plum jobs. I agree.

I’d have an easier time working for the porn industry than either weapons manufacturers or financial trading companies myself.

Voting down (err… if there was said feature) for being subjective and argumentative. Motion to close.

When I graduated from college I said there were two things I didn’t want to do. One was weapons development and the other was financial applications. I only kept one of those promises.

Here we are teetering on the edge of Godwin’s… I can barely stand it.

@Isidore: Can you bring up a study backing your claims?

You’ll be surprised at how many normal people (and couples!) watch/seek porn routinely or from time to time. If it is a rapist in the audience too, well, that’s life. He may have been in the same school as you. Does this makes your school one that raises rapists?

I started making adult websites my senior year of high school. This was back in 1996.

I worked in the industry for about seven years, and went from website developer/designer to photographer and content provider.

Porn paid my way through college (yes it does that for some people).

It came to a crumbling halt in 2003. I decided to quit.

I’ve been on interview before where the manager found it very cool, entrepreneurial even.

However, I did find out that Clarity Consulting wouldn’t hire me after I brought it up during the lunch interview… They asked what the coolest thing I ever worked on was, and I told them about my former career. I only know this because I work with a consultant now who had heard about the guy who brought up porn at the interview and that was what led to him not getting an offer.

Mind you I wasn’t a porn star. I shot pictures and video and ran a paid membership site for years and made a ton of money doing it.

But I guess some people just are put off by it.

I think that will change as my generation takes over managerial roles.

Porn is like an addiction. Taking that kind of job is no less worse than selling narcotics. It’s probably worse because it eventually leads to rape, child pronography, destroys marriages, disrespects women, etc., etc.

Isidore where did you come up with this trash? Every man on the planet looks at porn occasionally, and yet only a tiny fraction are rapists or child abusers. Every guy you ever dated looked at porn - while you were dating him. Grow up.

The reason is feels wierd is because it’s about doing something wrong. All people have a conscience that tells them it’s wrong, some just choose to do things that are contrary to their conscience. It can only hurt you in the long run.

Porn is strange. Everybody is all moral about it, yet everyone owns it and watches it, even your parents.

There’s also a lot of differences between countries. Here in the Netherlands we cannot understand how Janet Jacksons’on-stage revelation during the MTV awards means anything. Big deal. We see a lot more controversial stuff on public channels, also during the day. Yet, in the US it seemed to be a total outrage, the story of the year.

Make love not war. It is religion that skewed our view on sex. Sex is a great thing, not a forbidden fruit or immoral.

Oh, and one more thing. One should not have to ask for permission from a g/f to work somewhere. What ever happened to real men!?

The pussification needs to stop.

Hmm… seems more like a personal moral issue. However, there are much more disturbing jobs than porn. Scientology website? Casino site? Government contract?? Much more disturbing.

Also, I hear from friends that search quality engineers at Google see a lot of porn. It’s just part of the job or something.

You pretty much have to make your moral decisions in life and deal with them. Part of that is defending them to people who want to judge you because your morals are not the same as (what they claim) theirs are.

Myself, I would have no moral problem working as a programmer for a porn outfit, and if someone gave me shit for it, I would tell them to grow up.

On the other hand, I did once interview for a company I wasn’t sure I really wanted to work for: a retail tobacco chain (which shall remain nameless – suffice to say they claimed to sell Cigarettes Cheaper than others). I was kind of glad when the interview didn’t go that well (involving, as it did, a panel of interviewers, interviewing two candidates at the same time, and giving us some stupid standardized personality test as well).

One of the best bosses I ever worked for once had his own successful brewery that he founded. He sold out of it after around 10 years, because he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that his best customers were alcoholics.

Now, having said all that, Jeff, I don’t think you’d be getting all the flak you’re getting in this thread if you hadn’t claimed one thing (I’m no prude) and acted contrariwise – judging others, and their work, for being involved with a company that kinda, sorta uses pseudo-sexy imagery to sell something. I mean, that’s a hell of a tangential involvement in something you say you don’t dislike to be looking down on them for it. That’s not to say you wouldn’t get flak for doing the judging in the first place, but to do so while claiming not to is just asking for it.

I’d take a government/military job. Making weapons more precise only kills fewer people, IMO.

Also, to the masses of unoriginal comments about Jeff being a prude: I’m no prude, but… is an idiom. It’s a transitional phrase, to provide a contrasting background to what he’s about to say. Maybe he is a prude, so what? You don’t win the argument by proving someone is a prude. That doesn’t discount their opinion. This isn’t high school, where the popular opinion is right.

I also felt like Jeff was taking an honest look at himself, and not just condemning the porn business outright. It’s easy to claim racism is bad and to judge others for it, harder to admit maybe you have an issue yourself, much harder (I would think) to bring it up publically.

I wouldn’t work on a project where I’d constantly second-guess my good judgment for being a part of it.

That said, I try not to be so thin-skinned about it in the first place. I have a colleague who bailed on a project because it promoted Christianity (it was a church website, after all). I scoffed at that decision at first because I thought he was being a little over-sensitive but later just accepted that people are always going to have different values and tolerances. My original reaction was a bit hypocritical.

My list of offensive material may be very different from others. I’d work on a porn site, a defense site or a religious site (well, as long as it weren’t some wacko fringe-group sacrificing goats or something) and not lose any sleep over it. I’d work on a political site for a group with different political views from mine. I won’t do anything for the fur industry, the tobacco industry, or companies that implement spyware. That’s not a complete list, but my point is that it’s my list and I don’t expect everyone to agree or even be able to make sense of it.

I do think we should all try a bit harder to respect each others’ values and decisions, though. It’s a shame that some people are so insecure that they will refuse a job to someone else who doesn’t share ALL of the same personal values. I emphasize ALL because I realize that certain obvious values like work ethics do have an impact in the office.

Ok, I get that working for the kind of people who start porn sites might be quite annoying. That part alone would make me consider carefully whether I wanted a job in that industry.

But that aside - who gives a flying rat’s rotunda?

What will we tell our parents? Really? Grow up and tell them you work for a porn site. Most likely they’ll ask you why, and you can explain that the technical challenges are really interesting, and it’s a growth industry. If they can’t understand that, who cares? Are you really in need of your parents approval still?

Would you put it on a resume? Um, yeah. Anyone who’s interested in my technical ability will likely appreciate the skill I had to have to work in that industry. Hell, they’ll probably go home and check out your site.

News flash, folks - MOST PEOPLE LIKE PORN. Just because our society is ashamed to admin they like sex isn’t a very good reason to turn down a job you’d otherwise take.