The philosophy behind The Responsible Dev

What is The Responsible Dev?

Lately it’s becoming increasingly common to see software companies popping up with questionable practices. Whether it’s the company culture, the product itself, the behaviour of the founders and employees, software and tech in general is being used to take advantage of sections of society and even entire populations.

That is what I want to address with The Responsible Dev. Here you’ll read about responsible and ethical software engineering practices, how you can build software that doesn't make your users the product, dark patterns and designing/building for humans. 

Why am I doing this?

Well, it's something that I've been thinking about for a while now. As a software engineer, I believe that technology and software should help people. And in a lot of cases it does and we'll continue to see startups building new technologies that make a positive impact in the world. 

With the advent of the personal computer and the internet, numerous companies have been started to build products. We use a lot of them on a daily basis. Our livelihood and even our lives depend on it. 

But what if the app you're using decides to share data with another company? We walk around with device(s) that runs our lives. Do you know what sort of data it collects about you? Do you know who can access it? Do you know how it's being used?

The systems that take advantage of our data, our lives and livelihoods are built by engineers. Sure, a lot of these decisions are out of control. Uber engineers built an amazing platform but it's being used to take advantage of their own drivers. Facebook engineers built the platform that harvested the personal data of millions of users, data that wasn't even properly protected. 

As developers we have a responsibility to our fellow humans. We can choose to write software that doesn't bring harm to others. You can make the choice of not to make the users your product. 

Who am I?

Hi! I’m Ilango. I’m a builder of web things, usually user interfaces. I have a full time job as a Senior Software Engineer and I work on side projects in my free time. I’ve launched two of them — DotConfig and MyStoicJournal (a no-code app). I’m currently working on EasyAuth.

Every 2 weeks I’ll send out an essay on responsible and ethical software engineering. I don’t claim to be an expert in this subject. In fact, I have no clue what I’m doing. What I do know is this: I want to build software that makes a positive impact without trading off on my principles and values for monetary or other gains. I want to inspire developers and makers to do this. I want to tip the scales in favour of building thoughtful things by being mindful of how it’ll be used in the wild. I want to help software engineers to come up with well thought out systems and help them implement it for their product, company and culture.

I do hope you take away something useful from this work. If it does, please drop in a note. If you’re interested in this subject, have feedback or anything else, feel free to DM me on Twitter. If you like any of the essays, I would humbly request you to share this newsletter.

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