Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

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17 Replies - 2162 Views - Last Post: 14 November 2013 - 10:18 AM

#1 Ace26  Icon User is offline

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Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 02:05 AM

I saw this very interesting discussion here and decided to share it in this forum.

So what's your take on this?

This post has been edited by Ace26: 13 November 2013 - 05:35 AM

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Replies To: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

#2 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 05:08 AM

Link that works. ( you have two http and quotes )

Well, I read DIC on the clock...

As a programmer, you are expected to stay current with the technologies you're working with. It's your job. Self study of any kind is part of that.

Of course, I'd love to have time to read a book at work, but actual projects will always come first. In between projects, sure. I've yet to see that, but it could happen.

I stay current at work with small gulps of internet and the rare training class. If you're a programmer, learning about programming is not strictly an on the clock activity.
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#3 Ace26  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 05:52 AM

Sorry about the faulty link. Thanks baavgai for pointing that out.

I think reading certain (programming related)articles online on the clock won't hurt nobody. Yes they pay you for your time on their work so reading a programming book with full blown study the intent during work hours is really unethical.

That said, if one is just perusing through for reference sake, I don't see nothing wrong.
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#4 DarenR  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 06:01 AM

I read DIc and browse the interwebs all day long while getting paid-- oh yeah I also read books for programming.
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#5 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 06:06 AM

I research on-the-clock if it is directly related to the task at hand.
General learning and staying up to date in my tradecraft takes place off the clock.
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#6 lordofduct  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 08:32 AM

Is it ethical? To a degree, I think in the end that really depends on who your employer is.

I certainly do it, I also surf the web on the job as well when I need a breather. At the same time I don't let it get out of hand. I'm not sitting around learning new stuff completely unrelated to my job, I wouldn't practice Lisp or something in the office... we'll never need it.

I think I'm closely in agreement with tlhIn'toq on this.
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#7 astonecipher  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 09:01 AM

I keep a small library of reference books at my desk and am always using them. I had a director tell me he didnt want me working on anything else until I go s system automated for the department, my nose was in the books for a couple hours figuring out exactly how to do it without loosing the data being transferred
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#8 rgfirefly24  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 09:13 AM

I keep reference books related to my job at my desk and will read them on occasion when it is directly related to the work i'm doing. Also, if I've been asked to provide a demo for a new language/software/API/etc I will use work time to read up on them. Anything else is done off the clock.
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#9 mojo666  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 10:02 AM

If you are a consultant or something that pays by the hour, I would say absolutely not. If you are salaried and getting paid to get stuff done, then as long as it doesn't interfere with that "getting stuff done" part then it should be ok.
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#10 DarenR  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 11:06 AM

View Postmojo666, on 13 November 2013 - 01:02 PM, said:

If you are a consultant or something that pays by the hour, I would say absolutely not. If you are salaried and getting paid to get stuff done, then as long as it doesn't interfere with that "getting stuff done" part then it should be ok.



so then when you get stuck on something you shouldnt read on how to pass the block?
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#11 mojo666  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 11:32 AM

I'm not sure what you are asking. I am reading the question like this.

Quote

so then when you get stuck on something you shouldn't research on the clock?


Correct. When consultants get stuck on something they are supposed to know (meaning they are stuck on something that is supposed to be part of the expertise they were hired for), the customer tends to be upset when they are charged a couple extra hours for research. Go ahead and do your research, but don't expect to be paid for it. If you want to be paid for it, verify with the customer first. Generally, when doing research you are off the clock.

This post has been edited by mojo666: 13 November 2013 - 11:32 AM

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#12 DarenR  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 01:00 PM

View Postmojo666, on 13 November 2013 - 02:32 PM, said:

I'm not sure what you are asking. I am reading the question like this.

Quote

so then when you get stuck on something you shouldn't research on the clock?


Correct. When consultants get stuck on something they are supposed to know (meaning they are stuck on something that is supposed to be part of the expertise they were hired for), the customer tends to be upset when they are charged a couple extra hours for research. Go ahead and do your research, but don't expect to be paid for it. If you want to be paid for it, verify with the customer first. Generally, when doing research you are off the clock.



i disagree because no one can know everything about every language...if you are an expert of something and you are asked to fix a clients' item but you realize that it is not in the scope of your expertise because the client itself didnt know the issue than it is on the client to pay for you to figure it out by doing research..

example:

client brings in a ferrari to a ferrari shop and asks to have it fixed
ferrari shop agrees and than upon further review of said car find out said ferrari
was actually a ferrari with an astin martin engine. Who should have to pay for the ferrari shop to do research on the astin martin engine? I can almost guarranty they will charge you for the research they have to do to fix the car.
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#13 mojo666  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 01:52 PM

Quote

Who should have to pay for the ferrari shop to do research on the astin martin engine?


No one. The shop should inform the customer that it is not a standard engine that they know how to repair and the customer should find someone who knows how to fix it. If the shop wants to learn about different engines so they can serve a wider variety of customers then they can do so on their own dime, but it is very bizarre to ask one customer to pay for that knowledge, particularly when you consider that the next customer could come in with the same issue and the shop says "Lucky you, the previous guy had the same problem so you don't have to pay any extra for research!" They could also be dishonest and say "We gotta do some research" and then charge you for nothing. You obtain knowledge so you can provide services. Obtaining knowledge is not itself a service.
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#14 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 13 November 2013 - 10:21 PM

Except your client doesn't have the faintest idea what's really under the hood of that car, and they're not going to let you have a look until you're signed on with them in most cases. A clients code is a black box, and expecting to know everything about ANYTHING is folly, especially in programming. It's not nearly as black and white as you want to make it out to be.

To me, it's far less ethical to put duct tape on the motor because you're under some notion that you can't consult a manual on hour to find out how it actually works. In fact, you should probably be fired for that type of thing.
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#15 depricated  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it ethical to read programming books on the clock?

Posted 14 November 2013 - 07:37 AM

View Postmojo666, on 13 November 2013 - 11:32 AM, said:

I'm not sure what you are asking. I am reading the question like this.

Quote

so then when you get stuck on something you shouldn't research on the clock?


Correct. When consultants get stuck on something they are supposed to know (meaning they are stuck on something that is supposed to be part of the expertise they were hired for), the customer tends to be upset when they are charged a couple extra hours for research. Go ahead and do your research, but don't expect to be paid for it. If you want to be paid for it, verify with the customer first. Generally, when doing research you are off the clock.

This is interesting and I want to touch on it. It actually highlights an intriguing aspect that I think is being overlooked: in what employment context?

I recently did some contract work as a Drupal Expert. I went in to a company's HQ, sat down with their CEO and dev team, analyzed their Drupal 5 configuration, and helped draft up a roadmap to upgrade them to Drupal 7. I explained what benefits this would provide them. When I did this I drew up an estimated budget of my time. Included in that budget was a good 8 hours to study their setup and compare it against D7. That kind of research should most certainly be on the clock. However, researching just Drupal core, yea, if I don't already know it I shouldn't be billing myself out as a Drupal Expert.

That said, for a contractor, yes it would be unethical to research the job while on it. The primary point where this is wrong, though, is that it means that you're selling yourself for a knowledge you don't have. I'm very honest about what I can do. Another company wanted to bring me in to help them determine if Drupal 7 would be more profitable for them than Django. In that case I spoke with the VP who wanted me to come inm, and I explained that what she was asking for isn't my skillset and I'd be happy to come in for a couple hours to be on hand for any questions, but this sounded more like a business analyst type of request. I understand the nuts and bolts, but business impact isn't my thing.

That is to say: reading to learn while getting paid is, in and of itself, not unethical. It's the knowledge expectation you set with your employer that's called into question when you do contract work.

So we've determined that in situation 1 - Contractor - it is symptomatic of unethical behaviour.

Now lets look at Situation 2. Contract-to-Hire or Hourly Full-Time Employee. (from here on just FTE)

I'm of the opinion that you should never exaggerate your skill on a resume. I know plenty of people out there think it's all about cramming as many skillsets onto a resume as possible, regardless of whether you can perform them or not, because "it's about getting past HR." Unfortunately, I'm of the mind that this is where the expectation is being set. If I say I know C#, I better know C#. If I say I know VB.NET, I'd better know VB.NET.

So if you're reading to catch up on ability you lied about, yes it's unethical. However, I'm also of the opinion that a programmer is never done learning. We're like Teachers in that regard. So long as we're not neglecting our job duties, reading for self-improvement during downtime is an excellent way to improve our value proposition as individual employees. I've read several books, such as Clean Code, during downtime at work.

So in Situation 2, for an FTE there is nothing ethically wrong.


Situation 3: Salaried employees.

Being salaried is a complete change in lifestyle. I never realized how drastically. You don't really think in terms of work hours, except when you need to be in the office. Your projects need to be done, deadlines need to be met, but like above you'll have plenty of downtime to brush up and improve your skills.
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