As some of you know, I’m labouring away at what must be one of the longest part-time PhDs ever. My research is looking at how software code and law work or don’t work together. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In order to add a bit of empirical juice to will be a rather dry theoretical legal tome, I’ve decided to do a survey.
I won’t bore you with the whole long story of the diss. here , but if you are interested in knowing more, please drop me a note and I can send you more details.
Whether it is ERP systems or toasters, software impacts much of our daily lives. We ask and demand software to do things on our behalf; software transacts, it searches, it assesses, and in some cases it judges us. 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.
Whether it is contract law, licensing, intellectual property, privacy laws, accessibility, liability software and law interact significantly. There is a fairly large field of research looking at this relationship between code and law. (Lessig being the most famous, but there are many others)
However, not much research has focused on the role of the software developer and software firm in this relationship. So I decided to spend part of my dissertation looking more closely at the role of the software firm and the software developer in the code as law 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.
Gartner is supportive of my PhD, this research doesn’t form part of my formal Gartner research agenda. In other words, it isn’t a Gartner survey!
Several developer friends have been kind enough to test the survey, and give me feedback, much of which I have incorporated in this final version. (If you tested the earlier versions, please take the test again)
Blunders and errors remain my responsibility.
Here is the survey as it stands today.
Please take this link and spread it to your software friends. colleagues and families.