Lessons learned from Peekabooty

My friend and housemate Paul Baranowski has posted a writeup on the lessons learned from working on Peekabooty (the distributed proxy app for allowing people in countries where they censor the Web to surf it freely). It’s divided into two sections:

  • Lessons learned about managing an open source project
  • Lessons learned about programming

This “lessons learned” article will be the basis for a roadmap that will outline the future development of Peekabooty.

An additional lesson

In addition to the lessons that Paul outlined, I learned something else: sometimes a racy name will backfire on you.

Earlier this year, I was being interviewed at a high-tech placement firm somewhere in uptown Toronto. The recruiter told me that she’d looked over my resume earlier and wanted to voice some concerns.

“Peekabooty,” she said. I could almost hear the ice crystals forming as she spoke. “This might be a problem.”

My initial guess was that she was concerned that a project that once was associated with members of the Cult of the Dead Cow might pose a problem. I was prepared to offer the party line: “Yes, the original team behind the application was gathered by a prominent Cult of the Dead Cow member, but the project has long since been run solely by an individual, Paul Baranowski, who is not a member of the notorious hacker group.”

However, she blindsided me: “Why would you ever put a pornographic site on your resume? Don’t you know that it’s incredibly unprofessional?”

“I beg your pardon?” I asked, trying not to laugh. “Pornography?”

“I know it seems puritannical to you young computer guys, but many businesses are very conservative. They would frown on such…distasteful work, no matter how technically skilled you are. You really should remove it from your resume. Honestly, what were you thinking?”

“It’s not a pornographic Web site,” I said as a pulled a copy of the International Herald-Tribune with a Peekabooty article out of my portfolio, “It’s a piece of software that allows people to bypass the Web censorship mechanisms in more repressive regimes around the world.”

“It’s not pornography?”

“Not in the least.”

“But the name!”

“I know. It wasn’t my idea.”

If you think she had trouble grasping the idea that Peekabooty was not a porn Web site, you should’ve seen me try to explain that it wasn’t for a company or client, but something that Paul and I put together in our spare time.

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