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Greediness, or Paranoia?

by defyance (Curate)
on May 13, 2002 at 19:26 UTC ( #166255=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Yes this is YACAW(Yet Another Complain About Work) post. What I'm really looking to get out of this is opinions.

I'm having personal issues with my employer, I work in a Tech Support department, and a very important tool in Tech Support is References. Without these, life can be a pain, unless you know 30,000 + numbers, and who they belong to :). We have references in Excel, Access, and also have a Utility on our Sun Boxes written in C/C++. The program was written by a guy who now handles our Network Security, and he simply doesn't have time to update it, in fact, it hasn't been updated since 96! So I wanted to come up with something to help the department, I wrote a program in Perl that does essentially the same thing as the one in C, only its much more up to date(it even has a secret game that the managers would never know about :-) ) I have been testing it myself, and it works beautifully, and was thinking about making up a presentation and showing it to the managers.

Here is my dilemma

Maybe I'm just being crazy, but I'm sure some of you will understand where I'm coming from.
I have given up my programs/ideas, to the company, for the company in the past, and have not seen desired results.

The person that wrote the previous utilities saw little or no recognition, and his code has been used for 8+ years now. He made this stuff, and left it to collect dust and be exploited by the hands of end users without a clue, free of charge. Now I'm not saying that I want to charge the company for using my stuff, not at all, because this is needed so bad, its not even funny. I suppose what I'm saying is, how can I avoid this fate? I'm not a "Programmer" as far as job titles go, nor was the man that wrote the other utilities, but if our "Reference Specialist" were doing there job, we wouldn't have to worry about this.

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is this:
Has anyone else here been in a similar predicament, where they have something in there hands that will make life easier for and entire department of well over 100 persons, but fear to let it go and watch it be devoured without so much as a thank you. I don't want to be left feeling like a fool for being the poor sap to come along once in a great while, make things nicer for all, then be forgotten in the shadows.. I realize that this is essentially the idea behind open source, and I would be happy to give this away to perfect strangers, but this is for WORK, and believe me, if they thought this was good enough, my employer would more than likely turn around and sell it.

Anyone understand what I'm saying?? Wish to comment??

-- Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of defyance.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by FoxtrotUniform (Prior) on May 13, 2002 at 19:43 UTC
      Has anyone else here been in a similar predicament, where they have something in there hands that will make life easier for and entire department of well over 100 persons, but fear to let it go and watch it be devoured without so much as a thank you. I don't want to be left feeling like a fool for being the poor sap to come along once in a great while, make things nicer for all, then be forgotten in the shadows.

    Hmm. The more I think about it, the more my work situation resembles yours -- only I've already released the software to the users, and I'm expected to be a programmer. Most of the users treat my code (and all of the internal tools in general) as some sort of bounty or weregild that we (the programmers) are obliged to provide, and complain bitterly when things break. Never mind the fact that most -- maybe all -- of these tools came into being when a couple of coders got together and said, "So-and-so's wasting a whole week doing repetitive, dull work. I bet we can automate that."

    And I can pretty much guarantee you that, in a couple of years, my work will only be remembered in the irritation of maintenance programmers fixing bugs. "Oh, Matt wrote this. No wonder."

    Every once in a while, though, someone will thank me for a script, or a feature, or a document, that made their lives just a bit easier. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning.


      In that respect, I can consider myself lucky, I guess. I am doing lots of supportive programming for guys that handles the orders on a web site, processes images for said site, and lots of other things + I also do stuff for administrators and designers.

      And it is very often that I come up with the tool when I hear them complain that they "spend at leasy a day every week doing this". Well, here is the beautiful part: they are very thankful for the stuff I do for them, and although they do ask me for help when something breaks, they do not whine or accuse me.

      Granted, it is a pretty boring place to work in otherwise, and I go on for hours about pointy hairs. But at least with my users, I am lucky. :)

      You have moved into a dark place.
      It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
      Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that someone out there is greatful for my effort. That does make it easier, but what kills me is that the Managers don't seem to give a rats ass, they are after all, are who decides my yearly raise, and promotions..

      -- Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of defyance.
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by andreychek (Parson) on May 13, 2002 at 20:34 UTC
    I do feel your pain. Are you saying you don't expect management to change their behaviour? If so, as long as your program is at least as good as the current one, they may not give a darn how good it is. That being the case, perhaps you should consider points like these:

  • How much easier would your program make your day to get through?
  • How much would you like to be able to modify the program thats in use? You will be able to if you use yours.
  • By putting your program into production, you gain experience you can put on your resume
  • And maybe, just maybe, you'll get that recognition you're looking for.

    It may be that the only group your program benefits are you, and your coworkers.. but maybe thats good enough. Recognition doesn't always come easy in the workplace. However, the good 'ol Peanuts characters have some excellent advice for us all:

      Lucy: "What happens if you practice the piano for 20 years and then end up not being rich and famous?"
      Schroeder: "The joy is in the playing."

    I've kept that quote in my email signature for awhile, you've reminded me to add it to my signature here :-)

    Not everyone has the opportunity to put a program of theirs into use at their workplace. It can be a really good feeling to see your own code hard at work, even if you don't get a raise for it. Good luck!


    Lucy: "What happens if you practice the piano for 20 years and then end up not being rich and famous?"
    Schroeder: "The joy is in the playing."
      "The joy is in the playing."

      This is beautiful and certainly applicable beyond this thread. I would imagine that the sizeable majority of programmers that find themselves wrapped up in the monestary have a genuine love of programming. A week doesn't pass during which the dreary routine of my job is brightened by the opportunity to apply my programming skills to help a co-worker with a manual task that would be incredibly tedious if left unautomated.
      Ask yourself why you're spending time writing code that wasn't required of you... is it to really help some clueless benefactor or is it simply for the joy of coding in and of itself. I love the book "The Fountainhead":
      "My work done my way. A private, personal, selfish, egotistical motivation. That's the only way I function. That's all I am...Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity."
      Learning to program for it's intrinsic rewards will obliterate any dependence and misgiving inherent in worrying what others will make of it.
      True, the feeling of knowing that someone else is making great use of your creation is an incredible feeling. I love that, and that alone was one of the reasons I wanted to create this. The problem is having a manager that doesn't seem to share your views on what is helpful, and worries about how I went about creating the programs, she sees coding as "HACKING". If she only knew what went into making a unix machine run, she wouldn't feel that way.

      -- Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of defyance.
        You work in technical support and built a new tool without management's permission. You used company time to do something other than your job. You included a hidden game designed to allow you and others to misuse company resources. And you wonder why you are having personal issues with your manager who doesn't trust you? You're not a criminal. You're simply unemployable.
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by Sifmole (Chaplain) on May 13, 2002 at 20:23 UTC
    When did you write this utility? Was it all written after hours or on the company dime? You might be interested in checking out the last thread started by tilly.

    What kind of recognition are you looking for? Programmers are not usually "Rock Stars"; if the code works you rarely hear a word about it and you might get an extra dime come review time. If there is a problem, whoa boy you'll hear about it.

    If you don't want to support it, then make part of your presentation that management needs to find a programmer to support it.

    How do you know the other individual didn't see any reward? What was he doing 8 years ago? How much of a promotion is running the companies Network Security from that? Would he have gotten there without it? as soon?

    What I am trying to say is that programming utilities is generally thankless, usually the closest you come to a thank you is someone telling you that tool would be useful if it could do X.

      I wrote MOST of it on the companies dime. I obviously should have been keeping track.

      I'm mainly just concerned with getting a little credit, like an e-mail sent out to the Dept saying, woo whoo, look at what Ben did, now shut up and get back to work. Also, it would be nice to see a little extra flow on my paycheck(Not that I see that happening) :)

      I regaurds to the other guy, I met him at a bar to talk about this project I was thinking of working on, to get his feedback on the idea.

      -- Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of defyance.
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by coreolyn (Parson) on May 13, 2002 at 20:04 UTC

    I'm not sure what you're expecting to get back. To me it's like feeding the Geese. They take your bread and gobble it down just to make a mess for you to step in, yet for some reason there's something enjoyable about doing it.

    Bottom line, if you don't want to fix problems with your code when they arise, don't release it, but if you don't you won't get as much self-satisfaction, and have zero chance for a thank you.

      Yeah, but at least with geese there's the knowledge that at some point you're going to be able to wring their necks and eat them. And they'll taste good

      If you try doing that with management... well, they're unlikely to taste as nice as goose does.

(wil) Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by wil (Priest) on May 13, 2002 at 21:49 UTC
    I have been in similar situations with past employeer quite recently.

    What I have learned from all this is one important step. Before you start coding. Before you spend your first minute coding on *company time* - tell your boss. Give him the presentation before you have started the project and make sure he agrees that it's a good idea and maybe settle some terms there and then.

    The reason I'm saying this is at one company I worked at, I wrote a preety comprehensive quotation management system, that basically tracked quotations between certain departments and individuals and assisting people with communication. This tool later proved to be a very valuable tool which saved the company a lot of time and therefore money.

    However. I came very close to having disciplinary actions against me (nothing serious, just the first stages) because *I didn't tell anyone* in authoriy that I was developing this project, and I was doing that mostly on company time. Don't get me wrong, I put a lot of hours into this project over a few weeks, maybe months and a lot of these hours were clocked up at home, but the fact that I had been using company time to develop something without first discussing with my boss enraged him.

    At the end of the day, I could see his point. My time would of been far better spent if I had told him from day one. As you mention in your message, you have tested the software but no one else has. My manager's argument was that if I had told him he could have arranged a brain storming session with the people that most used the system and maybe then I would of developed an even better and more robust system.

    Anyway, here's just my $2 on the subject. Although it's a little late in your situation now. It would be worth bearing this in mind for future projects.

    - wil
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by cjf (Parson) on May 13, 2002 at 20:05 UTC
    I have been testing it myself, and it works beautifully

    So do most of my programs. Once I get others to start testing them, well, that's a different story ;-).

    Wish to comment?

    Yes, if it makes your job, and other's jobs easier/more productive, then release it. If nothing else you can include it on your resume at a later date.

    Depending on your arrangement with your employer, you may also consider releasing it under an open source license.

      I would have to agree with cjf here, try to open source it, or atleast arrange the licesne so you can show / tell other non-company people, and use it as resume fodder (at xxxx company i wrote a script that saved over 100 man hours a month) or something..
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by tjh (Curate) on May 14, 2002 at 01:02 UTC
    Good job on working to do something good and improving things. Doing it the way you did has resulted in the problems/questions you're asking, plus some issues worth thinking about. There's Beautiful Truth in this situation - and there's Savage Truth involved. In any case, work to make the best of it!

    • Actually, "...does essentially the same thing as the one in C..." begs the question "Then why did you do it?" ("Because it was old" doesn't fly - it was working. Maybe it's a reinvented wheel to them as well as you?) Can you make it better in visible, obvious and valuable ways prior to displaying it? It'd be better if they and the users, are happy to get it.

    • Remove the embedded game. Present as professional a product as you can or none at all. (But don't worry over perfection. Remember cjf's comment in this thread "...Once I get others to start testing them, well, that's a different story.")

    • You'll write a lot of code in your life. Will you feel this way (pride of ownership) about each one? I hope not. It's true that you have some of yourself invested in this one since you originated the project, but you're just gonna have to get over that part. Replay: You'll write a lot of code in your life.

    • It's apparantly unknown how the company will actually react;

      • You wrote it on their time without their knowledge or approval - will they wonder what you didn't get done on your other duties? Companies will see both sides; the possible good of having this done, and, the possible opportunities lost while you weren't doing what you were being paid for, and the money they unknowingly invested in you doing this project.

      • Have you tested it thoroughly enough that you're confident of releasing it for production or does it need a full beta? If so, can you enlist the help of the previous author as a respected ally in championing/testing the project?

      • Assume you'll get nothing in return except the thanks of those who use it.

    • Forget the Open Source project idea - unless they understand it. However, assume it belongs to them, not you. Their equipment and resources, their time, built for them to use solving their problems; problematic arguments when discussing ownership. If you're somehow thinking you own it, or have some reason to want to assert some ownership, see a lawyer pronto. (Personally, I'd skip the ownership thinking in this instance. And, I'm NOT A LAWYER! thank god.)

    • Be humble when presenting it. Hopefully others will be lauding you over how good or helpful it is and you won't have to appear defensive or anything else.

    • Don't be upset if you get nothing extra from them. Go for the personal satisfaction, the 'thank you's', the experience of having to support something you wrote ;)

    • You said, "I'm having personal issues with my employer..." Don't take it personally before it's happened, and if anything happens, unless it's personal, don't take it personally. They most likely think "it's just business". This won't be the last employer/client you'll have personal issues with, and it won't be the last unappreciated work you'll ever do. Trust me on this one...

    • If you get it released, put it on your resume.

    And, good job on getting it done in the first place.

    my $h_opinion=0.02;

      Very informative, very helpful, very well spoken. You stated:

      Actually, "...does essentially the same thing as the one in C..." begs the question "Then why did you do it?" ("Because it was old" doesn't fly - it was working. Maybe it's a reinvented wheel to them as well as you?) Can you make it better in visible, obvious and valuable ways prior to displaying it? It'd be better if they and the users, are happy to get it.

      I should have been more clear. I said that it essentially does the same thing. There was a small database(about 15mb) with information that needed updating, and it needed to be accessed faster. There are several things that were written to make new needed functions more automated, and access to several new systems, much easier, in addition to similar functions that the C version provided. The C version could not have accomplished this, with out a complete re-write/major upgrade, and I really didn't feel like picking through someone else's code, we all know how that works out.
      Not meaning to go into detail, but I wanted to clear that up.

      -- Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of defyance.
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by rinceWind (Monsignor) on May 14, 2002 at 10:21 UTC
    I have been in extremely similar situations, and I will give some insights as to how I have tackled the (people) communication side.

    Mr. Unix

    At one place, I was hired as a technical consultant for my VMS skills, although I was also a competent and experienced Unix sysadmin. However, when I joined, I was taking a dead man's shoes role of a Mr. VMS. I found my opposite number on the Unix side very reticent and reluctant to divulge information.

    This company was a software house, developing and supporting a product that runs on 6 platforms - C source code served out from a VMS box via NFS. When I joined, although there was a single code base, there was no integrated build process across the platforms. I managed to get the ear of the department manager (who was a good chap), and he managed to psychologically beat Mr. Unix over the head and get his cooperation with my integrated builds project.

    Tech services team

    At the same company, there was also a team of guys who would go out on site doing installations and upgrades. In many ways, they were doing unnecessary work, as they were claiming huge amounts of expenses for working on site. In practice much of what they did could be done using modems.

    A programmer colleague attempted to run a project automating the upgrade and install. However, this required the input from tech services. TS were effectively able to stymie and squash the project.

    This team of 7 was disbanded 1 1/2 years later, making 3 of them redundant.


    Whoever gets the ear of management has the odds in their favour, and if you don't get on with your boss or department head, it may be resume time.

    Try and focus on the business aspects of what you are doing. Put together a formal business case, with a cost benefit analysis. If your line manager is any good, he will pass this straight on to senior management, and you may well find you get more support and encouragement than you bargained for!

    Also, if you are doing too much support, and would rather be cutting code, why not say so to your boss? Honesty pays here, because should things get worse, at least you have made your opinion clear. Annual review time is a good time to do this.

    My $0.02 --rW

Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by ignatz (Vicar) on May 14, 2002 at 01:04 UTC
    My theory is that it's all a big power trip. If I'm making two to four times as much as you as your "manager" and have no clue as to how you do anything, one way that I can justify my pathetic existence if I have yet to obtain any level of enlightenment is to make it seem like what you're doing ain't shit. If they need to play that game, let em. That doesn't mean you have to play it.

    All that matters to me is craftsmanship. A love and respect for the creation of quality work. That doesn't mean that people ever have to even notice it. It's like the art of good typesetting. The best work should never be noticed. No one (except a few nuts like me) is going to be reading along and suddenly go Ahhh.... I just love the way they use the Golden Section as the ration for the margins and using Times New Roman is a very sound choice for such a text. For me the same thing applies for much of software. You've done your job well when you hear nothing but the sound of people getting shit done.

    BTW, none of this means that you don't CYA. Part of the power trip is the competitive incentive to screw over people who do. Be selfish. Make sure that what you do always benefits you. They sure as hell are.

Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by dthacker (Deacon) on May 13, 2002 at 22:07 UTC
    Now that you've finished this, are you done writing code for good? I'd guess not. Forget the money, forget the pats on the back and throw it into the fray. See how it works. See if all the assumptions you made were true. See where it breaks. Then take all that feedback and turn it in to something grander next time.

    It sounds like you expect some credit from your company when they have a history of not giving any. IMHO, that is an unrealistic expectation. If the code works, your life will be better, your co-worker's lives will be better and you'll have added some positive energy to the universe. Not a bad day's work, with or without the corporate salute.

    Good Luck! Remember, there's more than one way to be defiant.....


    Code On!
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by greenFox (Vicar) on May 14, 2002 at 01:09 UTC

    Yeah I've been there and done that :) The company I worked for is still using an (shudder) access database system that I developed 4+ years ago. I got no honours or recognition for it other than the knowledge that I had done a good job (well at the time...) and produced a useful tool. My advice- release the code, update your resume and find a job with someone who *will* appreciate you.

    All the better on your resume if the product *is* so good they sell it- imagine going into an interview and being able to say to a potential employer that you saw a problem within your present company, that on your own initiative you solved the problem *and* your solution was so good that the company was able to turn it into sales revenue as well.

    Do what you love doing. Do it well. Let the accolades and the money take care of itself.

    my $chainsaw = 'Perl';

      I have to say, all of these suggestions are exactly what I was looking for(aside from the trollish Anonymous remark).

      I will say, I had every intention of removing the game before I decide weather or not to actually release it. The way things are going, I more than likely will present this to my Boss, I do need to give her something. I never planned on feeling like I do about this, I thought I would just write it, give it up, and move on. That's what I have done in the past, but I suppose I just got fed up with being taken advantage of because I went above and beyond with this kind of thing before.

      Shit, now that I think about it more, I should be proud to release it, and dammit, I should be happy cuz I have something new to add to my resume.

      Thanks for the suggestions, I now know what I need to do.

      As for my personal issues with the boss, its not her personally that I have any problem with. Infact, I respect her very much, and she is a doll, I just don't like her Managing methods at times. Why you ask? Well, there isn't one manager that I can say I would approve of, guess its a flaw that I need to work on, as I don't want to have problems my entire career.

      -- Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of defyance.
        Hey, I'm glad you got some useful comments out of this thread. For my part, I agree with those "tell the boss sooner than later / release it and don't worry about subrecognition" posts.

        However...I'm not a PC sort of guy, honest...but I recommend not actually referring to your boss as "a doll" in any of your conversations with her. Maybe it's different where you work, maybe not. But if your workplace is like the average largish corporation in the U.S. and you yourself are not a doll, then it might be wise not to mention that aspect of your perception in the hopes of winning brownie points. Consider it a strategic decision rather than an unwelcome thrust from an overly-sensitive society.

        Unless, of course, defyance is truly your modus operandi.

        For further information, I refer you to this point-counterpoint article on The Onion. Make of it what you will, those jokers have their finger on the grey pulse of the U.S.


Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by Anonymous Monk on May 13, 2002 at 22:20 UTC
    To really succeed you need to have reliable and used
    utility and then give it away for free.
    Then when people start using it and making suggestion
    on how to improve it, add a bunch buggy inhancements and
    ripped-off ideas and charge way too much for it.
    Signed Bill 'Satan' Gates ;)
Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by torin (Sexton) on May 14, 2002 at 17:07 UTC

    In the following, I'm not trying to say that you did something wrong but to offer a perspective as to why it's good for programming to go through usual channels.

    At the company where I work, folks in HR developed a survey system using Access off of a webpage. It did what they needed and they even got recognition at the monthly company meeting. This should be a good thing, no?

    Well, it isn't. At least from the standpoint of the programmers in IS.

    We're in the midst of migrating the company off of a different home-grown system that used Access. It is horribly broken and just isn't up to the load that a 600 person company puts on it.

    We've already received requests for support on the HR application. We passed the requests back to the "programmer" in HR that wrote the original code. They said that they don't have the time to support it. It has now come from on high that we will support it even though we didn't write it.

    So, -they- get the award while -we- get the pain of supporting something that would've never gotten past the first stage of QA...

Re: Greediness, or Paranoia?
by Anonymous Monk on May 14, 2002 at 15:14 UTC
    I have had similar experiences.

    I recently designed a web-site for my Operations team that condensed our entire day's reporting/checking into a five minute "click-fest". To this day, no one, other than a few co-workers, have done anything but complain that my site is not 100% MS Exploder compatable.

    I look at it this way. It makes my job easier, and once I move on to a different position and/or company, the only way that app will get updated is if they hire me as a consultant!

    Unless your app has some commercial viability, use it to make your job easier, don't splash your name around too much (unless it will get you a raise) and just "don't worry, be happy".


Re: Art
by artist (Parson) on May 16, 2002 at 05:43 UTC
    I hope you would give all your attention to understand my wisdom.

    "The art is to act and not to react, and that is the best way of living the life."

    For the 'situation from your perspective', understand the art of supervisors and managers and don't do anything in the expectation that they will react positively or negatively. Your art will come automatically and will be in harmony with the world and especially with your inner self.

    Remove fear of the past and greed of the future from your perspectives. After that, you would certainly enjoy what you are doing currently. Do the best in your current world. Share the best from around the world and share your best with world. You would be a very happy person ultimately.

    Point of view
    an artist.

      Now that is a nice way of looking at things, I never really thought of thinking about it in that respect. Giving back to the world some of the knowledge that I have gained is an excellent way to build self confidence, to say to ones self, yeah, I know how to do that, let me help you learn. Similar to the all around aura of perlmonks. I should consider what I have done as a helpful thing, not look at it as my property and be greedy with it. I once thought that I was totally into this "open source" thing, but it looks like I have a long way to go before I even understand the true meaning behind it all. I can take something that I have done and show it to someone, but not feel comfortable with giving it to them, maybe because I don't realize that I may have made something to help them out, because I have never looked at in that respect. I have the concept down, now, the true trial will be thinking in that manner, wanting to give back, wanting to help, wanting knowledge to be shared, because with knowledge is power(not the M$ type of power, the personal kind), with power is happiness, and happiness is what will save this world.

      Thanks for helping me open my mind artist, it was by chance that I saw this reply when I did I had no intention of coming to perlmonks, hit the wrong link on my bookmarks..

      -- Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of defyance.
        I would say based on your perception of my writings, find more and more ways to help your manager insteading of limiting yourself to your current project and idea that you are planning to convert into project.

        You will find serveral ways of doing because of the number of application/people in your department/companies are very large. You can use magnitude of technologies and websites and expert advices etc, to make your manager's task faster, smoother and almost effortless for them.

        I am sure that you will get all types of help from your manager once you declare your intentions to your self and start exercising better thinking and working practices.

        If it's possible, make a list all the ideas that you think can improve your department/company and also write that you think like that. Don't think of implementation complexities as of yet. Your mere thinking is what is of extreme value. You can send the list to me and I may be able to help you to complete it.

        With that the amount of recognition and self-fullfillment that you will get will be much much more than even you have expected in the first place.

        Try to understand this second formula with all your attention and try to understand the meaning behind it. See if you can feel it.

        First you be right, than everything will be allright .

        Also, if you think that appreciation is necessary and the nature of your need for it is of immediate type, than start appreciating the intelligence/power of other things/people immediately surrounding you, only after being AWARE of them. You will realize soon that the awareness of intelligence within them is one of the important factor before the appreciation. Which may prompt you to think about awareness of your managers about you and your intelligence and you would be able to understand their art better. More you become aware, more you will know about life and enjoy it.

        Read the projects like ThinkCycle and you would consider more about being an open source personality.

        Point of view
        an artist

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