Engineers of any discipline are largely an anonymous bunch. You don’t know who designed the fuel pump in your car, I’d even wager it would be extremely difficult for you find out if you wanted to. You don’t know who wrote the code for the OS X Dock or Windows Start bar or who wrote the Like button on Facebook. These people made decisions that affect you deeply every day, and you have no idea who they are.
The most interesting part of this is that those people are OK with it. If you ask them (myself included) they will tell you that it doesn’t matter, that what really matters is the quality of the work and the enjoyment you had doing it. Unfortunately, I think we’re wrong.
I can’t seem to come up with a good framework for who figuring out who wants credit, never mind who deserves it. If you so much as make a photocopy during the production of a movie, you’re probably in the credits with some high-faluten title like “First deputy assistant duplication specialist”. Music credits are tied to royalties and managed very closely. Most authors wouldn’t think about publishing something anonymously, nor would artists or sculptors. Artists always sign their work.
This is not even strictly a software issue. Video games list credits, often in the box and at the end of the game, and they even have a IMDB-like site. Nor is it an “arts & entertainment” issue, any credible scientific paper will cite other works and acknowledge contributions. Patents have names on them, even when assigned to a company.
A few software packages have listed credits. If I remember correctly, Microsoft did it on old versions of Word and Excel, and Adobe had it on old versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. I’m curious why those were removed, or at least hidden. “The Social Network” had something about Saverin being removed and re-added to “masthead” of Facebook (although I don’t know what or where that is).
So it would seem that we might be in the minority here, perhaps due to convention rather than any specific reason. And if there’s one thing that bugs an engineer, it’s deviating from standards with no good reason.
So let’s do it.
Why do it?
- Pride in your work – Sure there is some pride in doing a good job anonymously, but wouldn’t be just a little more motivated or happy now that your name is on it?
- Being a stakeholder – We’ve all done projects we didn’t believe in, and consoled ourselves with the fact that “it’s not my project”. Well, now it is.
- Reputation – We’ve got our resumes, but credits will verify them.
- Honesty/Transparency – There is no good reason to withhold this information, so it should be out there.
- All that money they spent on school – Show your parents your name on a website and watch them smile.
So who’s get listed?
I think the short answer here is, everyone. Movies do it, why not websites? It could be just a big list of names, or something more detailed with contributions, dates, whatever makes sense. Let’s just start throwing some names up there, and let the de facto standards evolve on their own.
If you know of any major sites that do this well, put it in the comments. Similarly, if you can think of a good reason why this shouldn’t happen, I’d love hear about it.