One of these days I’ll learn to take a compliment

Today, in spite of how busy we are we got the word from our new boss Nancy that we all had to go to the monthly division meeting. (Ok, here’s where I prove how little attention I pay to the heirarchy: I don’t know if Nancy is Dave’s boss, or Mike’s boss, and I don’t know what slice of the company that meeting is really for, but let’s just call it ‘division’ for now.) I never go to these things, but first we got a message from Nancy saying she expected everybody there, and then another message from Dave saying he’d gotten the word that no matter how busy we were, we should make every effort to get there.

It was the typical boring monthly meeting – announcing all the anniversaries and stuff. But then they started handing out these enormous plaques to people who’d recently gotten patents. I’ve seen these plaques on people’s desks before, but I’ve never seen them handed out. And I’ve only ever seen them on pretty senior people’s desks. I wasn’t expecting one – my patent was awarded months and months ago, and besides I’m a lowly contractor. But I got one, and it had little tags for both of my patents. My boss, Dave, got one as well, with the same two tags.

Afterwards, Nancy told me that the whole reason she’d made the meeting mandatory was to make sure that Dave and I went, because neither of us were prone to going to these meetings.

Getting the plaque was surprising enough, but even more surprising was for the rest of the day people were coming up and congratulating me. Now, I’m not thrilled about the concept of software patents at all, so I didn’t really know what to say. At first, I was saying stuff like “Oh, it wasn’t such a big deal” or “I’m not too proud of it”. But then I thought that probably isn’t very gracious of me, and might be insulting to other people who’ve gotten patents or who want them and haven’t gotten them yet. So then I started just saying “Thanks” and leaving it at that. But still later, some fellow software developers came up to to congratulate/razz me, and I decided the best response was that it was a team effort and I feel sad that we couldn’t credit everybody on the patent. I also told one of the developers that one of the things she did, an automatic “matcher” algorithm, was definitely worth a patent and she should apply for one herself.