Sunday, November 26, 2006

Open Source Programmer's Insurance

Slashdot rejected my question submission, so I'll write about it in my blog and see if anyone is interested in answering it.

I have insurance, but I want exactly the RIGHT insurance. My insurance agent says that what I have may very well cover what I do, but is hunting high and low for insurance that will explicitly rather than implicitly cover both the design AND the programming portions of my business without making me broke. All she's finding are either policies with specific exclusions for web programming, or policies that are exceptionally expensive.

The problem is that every programmer is being lumped together. That means that programmers working on the stock exchange big bucks applications with billions of dollars in transactions a day at risk are being lumped in with smalltime web programming outfits like mine. I'm a programmer on the PmWiki project, and I create custom plug-ins for PmWiki for clients before contributing what I can back to the project, or accept bounties for plug-ins made directly available to the general public. I've also made alterations to other plug-ins for other open-source projects, and I'm creating an open source project or three of my own.

Now, I am not belittling the risks to my customers. I know that their business is everything to them, and that's why I'm looking for insurance. But I don't play with the big boys and my customers are not forking over the big bucks to cover the overhead I would have to pass along to my customers to cover the big insurance policies.

If I'm installing ZenCart, and ZenCart has a bug, am I covered? I never touched the back-end of the program, but of course every application -- open source or otherwise -- has inherent bugs and risks. I trust open source because the bugs are squished in a timely manner and I don't have to pay for upgrades. Would all those policies with programming exclusions cover this?

When a policy excludes programming, I see there being a really fuzzy line between "web design" and "web programming". Certainly there's a point at which something is very clearly web programming, but is it programming if I create a script that processes a webform to email the results to my client? Is it programming if I'm creating JavaScript DHTML DOM alterations? What about when I'm working on a design for a Smarty template? There's pseudocode and even PHP code in there, but it's all about the design.

In any case, what I want to know from my fellow collaborators in the world is:

What, if anything, do you do about insurance for your web application or programming company?

Do you have any suggestions for underwriters for open source programmers?

If you aren't insured, have you even considered being insured?

[tags]insurance,programming,open source,custom programming,web application programming,expenses,design,legal,money,slashdot[/tags]

1 comment:

  1. I never gave any thought to insurance. I simply release liability since I did not write the program. I comfort customers wuth knowing that I am available for support.