Concerns about Selling to Specific Groups

Over on the Business of Software forums, Andy Brice shares some moral concerns that he has:

I have just sold a copy of PerfectTablePlan to a large tobacco multinational.

I disapprove of tobacco companies. In particular those that use their marketing muscle to promote to smoking to naive consumers in third world countries. I was tempted to refuse to issue a key and refund their purchase, stating that I was morally opposed to the practices of their company. I am quite happy to lose a sale to keep my principals, but I don't know if this practice applies to this particular company.

In early summer of last year, I received an email from a particular group. They were looking for a serious of dotProject customizations and tweaks in order for them to manage their projects and report effectiveness back to their contributors. This sounded like a great set of tweaks but something about the organization's name struck me as familiar. After a bit of Googling, the name clicked… Their offices had just been raided in numerous cities worldwide and they had numerous links with Hamas. After Googling further on the specific person who contacted me, I found his extensive involvement in discussions and posting discussing how better to fund their various operations (interesting, they called them projects to me).

Being friends and acquantences with many in law enforcement and even working with the FBI a few years ago, I knew what to do. I immediately submitted a report to the FBI along with all the names, links, and other information I had tracked down. Thinking further, I went ahead and removed my personal address from my web page… ah, the joys of a mISV. The day had started out exciting. Here it was only 6:30am and I'd already researched a terrorist front group, updated my web page, and now the phone was ringing… I spent the next 20 minutes speaking to a nice Special Agent who took my information, asked for any further notes I had, and generally told me not to be concerned.

The whole thing shook me up a bit. It feels great when people use dotProject and are able to improve their schedules, have better tracking, and generally make their teams' lives simpler. It is something else entirely when you learn that “effectiveness” could be defined as “how many women and children did we kill last month?”

Therefore, I apply a simple rule:
“Can I sleep at night knowing that this group may be more effective because of our work?”

As I've noted elsewhere, CaseySoftware does not take on any work for a customer who directly benefits from – and is therefore often motivated to cause – the misfortune of others.