#3 Copy Pasta

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Here’s where my age starts to show in my writing. Day 3 of the new year and I’m already complaining about “kids these days.” I’m only writing about this because I see this happening in both the practice of law and in programming, and it worries me. This is somewhat of a relevant topic these days as we see issues spring from usage of opensource similar to Log4j, where large swaths of industry scramble to patch issues they weren’t aware they had. Why you ask? Because of the prevalence of open source and how easy it is to punch a few commands into a terminal and pull down a third party package that “solves the problem.” I’m not saying reinvent the wheel each time, but you need to understand what goes into your work product, whether contract provisions or code. Have a sense of ownership because I guarantee you that one day someone is going to point a finger at someone that touched the code, and it’ll be you on the receiving end.

I get it, at some point what your doing feels like it is too large to do on your own, so you look for a cheat. A shortcut. That’s where ctrl+c; ctrl+v becomes your ally (or cmd+c;cmd+v lest I forget our Macos brethren). Have I been guilty of copying from other precedent before? You bet your bottom dollar I have. No use in reinventing the wheel. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, I ALWAYS READ WHAT I’VE PUT DOWN. When I was trained as an attorney I was always taught that any document I touched I should be ready to defend to the death (meh, that might be a little extreme but I didn’t know any better). That means even if I wasn’t the author, I was in the chain of possession so I would be at least in part, an owner of the work product. What that did was instill a sense of ownership in the work product that not only came from my desk, but what went across it as well.

Folks I’ve worked with will tell you there are certain phrases that irk me to no end. One of which is “I didn’t write that code.” Usually that phrases comes up in the defense of something being buggy or going wrong. The problem is I heard that when I was practicing law as well - “I didn’t draft that document/provision though.” Great, where does that leave us as a team though? I subscribe to the environmentalist perspective — leave it better than when you got there (or at least correct). Hate doing that? Too bad, you’re either going to learn the hard way when you have to clean up someone else’s mess and wish they’d subscribed to the same mentality OR you’ll have realized it would have been easier had you spent the two minutes writing or reviewing something.

By the way, there are definitely instances where something hit my desk and I chose not to read it. It was likely due to a few things: (1) it was extremely low risk so I accepted if something went wrong I knew it was relatively easy to fix; (2) I grilled the person that gave me the work product or I’d already worked with them so they knew the quality they were expected to provide (honestly, I would still read it anyways); (3) it was physically impossible unless I figured out how to fit 25 hrs into a day; or (4) I was explicitly told not to review it (again, even then I would probably still review it or at least give it a gander because if I touched, I owned it).

At the end of the day, all I hope for is that people care just a bit more about what they did. I get it, sometimes you feel like you’re just pushing paper or code for others, but you shouldn’t just do good work because someone tells you to or when you think there will be a negative consequence. Do good work because you chose to spend your time doing it, might as well put your signature on it and let the universe know that you’re awesome.



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