# Honest Products

What makes me want to pursue a particular line of work, or not? A lot of things ultimately weigh on my moral calculus, including a very powerful "need money now, don't care" switch that can override many so-called principles...

One of the dimensions is the idea that my work is directly for making an "honest product". But I don't have a full definition of this thing... Sometimes it helps to look at the product's relationship to the company. Why is it being made? Just to make a profit, or some other reason? Perhaps it's a loss leader? Perhaps it's "free"? Does the company make anything else? Get its money from other products, or from other entities that aren't even products?

I currently feel I work on an honest product. Someone wrote a book about it, even. It's not my company's bread-and-butter, but we do sell a separate license (or licenses -- the book knows better than me!) for it. The people who purchase the product make use of it in a variety of ways, but it's all for direct purpose, which I think gets closer to what I mean by "honest".

I could list some products I think are honest: video games, simulation software, modeling tools, food, books, editors, hardware... But it helps more to look at what I think isn't an honest product: adtech. And coupled with that, a lot of data analytics stuff. I don't disagree that these are products, or that a lot of money can't be made, or that fine engineering work can't be put into them. But they don't feel "honest" to me. Why?

Take a pure adtech company, not just a company developing "free" products and subsidizing them with an ad revenue source, but one engaging purely in managing ad systems. What is it they're selling? They're selling their technology to other companies in order to make their ads "perform" better. What counts as better performance? More "engagement" with the ads... which, they believe, will lead to higher sales. It's marketing.

This sort of indirection that is all of marketing is something I see as mildly dishonest. Not in an evil way, but in an uncomfortable enough way that I don't want any part in it. I block ads. I avoid ads when I can't block them. I don't ever want to work on "adtech". One of my achievements in a former team at work that I feel the stirrings of pride about was smacking down the idea of adding a tracking pixel to our outgoing email notification templates. I argued that they are unreliable, not unethical, though I also believe the second. Anyway, we didn't add them. They might have gotten added since I left, they were certainly part of other email templates.