PHP Developer Quits aka Working with People you Don't Like

This past Friday, Slashdot was fired up over with the headline: Lead PHP Developer Quits about Jani Taskinen. There were quite a few people who suspected it was a hoax or a compromised email account, others who didn't have a clue who he was (like me), and finally others who attributed it to simple burnout which most of us can understand. The real reason was a bit different.

From this message on the PHP Internals list, the reason is much simpler:

Jul 27 17:16:21 <_sniper_> I will also quit this project. As long as it's backed by some Israel company, I don't want to have anything to do with it.

Wow, sounds pretty definitive, huh? Regardless of whether or not I agree with his decision, I respect him for making it. It had to be hard to cut himself off from a project which he's been intimately involved in.

Jani – like any other developer – has the right and even the responsibility to not work with groups or people whom he doesn't like or disagrees with morally, politically, religiously, etc. As I've noted elsewhere, individuals must have the right to associate or not associate with those of their own choosing… but I believe this even extends a step further. Many people complain that corporations don't have ethics, demonstrate bad faith, and a whole multitude of other things. If we expect corporations and their leaders to act in a way we – defined as the markets – find acceptable, we have to communicate these expectations to organizations, encourage good behavior, and punish bad behavior.

This means contacting them and communicating via channels such as letters, email, blogs, newspaper editorials. Some organizations are going to ignore you, but that's when the next step comes in. Don't do business with them. Don't buy their products, don't advertise with them, and make a point of doing business with their competitors. If you already weren't doing business from them, don't kid yourself… you're not going to have an effect and you're wasting your time. Finally, if/when they do behaviors you appreciate, reward them. Buy their products, applaud them publicly, and demonstrate your appreciation. It's that simple.

Now personally, I believe the actual reason for his decision is completely off base for a few simple reasons. First, disassociating yourself with PHP because Zend is the major company supporting it which was founded in Israel and led predominantly by Israelis and Israel happened to kill some UN observers while going after terrorists seems a bit far fetched. Yes, the deaths were horrible, but the last time I checked, Zend was not building or selling weapons or providing soldiers, so I have yet to figure out how they would be responsible.

The other half of the equation… according to the words of one of the observers himself:

“What I can tell you is this,” he wrote in an e-mail to CTV dated July 18. “We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing.

“The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity.”

Those words, particularly the last sentence, are not-so-veiled language indicating Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets near the post, said MacKenzie.

“What that means is, in plain English, 'We've got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces),” he said.

It's a tactic MacKenzie, who was the first UN commander in Sarajevo during the Bosnia civil war, said he's seen in past international missions: aside from UN posts, fighters would set up near hospitals, mosques and orphanages.

It's also one he would likely use if he was a “belligerent” and not a Canadian soldier, he said.

“The most important thing in combat these days, funnily enough, is not to win the firefight but to win the information battle and the PR battle,” he said.

…is there anything else to say?