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Jane Ori
Jane Ori

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A Devastating Cautionary Tale for Open Source Devs

I don't have the emotional bandwidth to editorialize this.

Here is a timeline of recent events and the lesson learned.

Skim for ☢️ to catch the highlights.

Tuesday, Jan 4th, 2022

  • Anxious all morning because I have a dentist appointment mid day
  • Went fine, but wound up feeling sick.
  • Learned about at work when a coworker shared a draft in Slack
  • Take a nap right after work to sleep off the sick, wake up with a fully plugged nose and check my socials.
  • 1 Friend Request on Discord from Adam_Ha_Yes#XXXX - no mutual servers or friends, profile didn't stand out.
  • I assume it's just a scammer that probably got kicked from one of the many Rocket League discords I'm in; happens all the time. Declined.
  • Check my email, "Adam followed [me] on CodePen!": screenshot of email notification saying Adam followed me on codepen
  • Clicked the profile to see their work too, nothing there but realized both names were Adam Screenshot of users Adam follows on CodePen with my profile as the first one followed
  • ☢️ Checked for message requests on Twitter just in case: Message from Adam_Ha_Yes on twitter: Hey Jane! I saw your work on code pen. \A\A You are awesome! Your “augmented-ui social" and "into the future" are PinchedFingersEmoji \A\A You interested in exploring a new full-time gig?? \A\A We raised $ for a web3 startup focused on creating the future DAO tooling (digital community collaboration). \A\A You would work on a small and talented team, get to be super creative every day, work remote on your own hours, and get paid well enough to afford all the fancy feast for your kitty. \A\A No pressure, happy to answer any questions / explore more :) \A\A What kind of projects do you like working on?
  • I start looking into everything they're planning. It sounds absolutely amazing, it's directly in line with my mindset, and I am completely sold. And their designer's work is BEAUTIFUL.
  • ☢️ 10:56 pm, I tell him I'm in. I tell him I like the job I have. I share an observation that the timing is actually great because my biggest task just shipped to production and the only other one on my plate is dev complete on staging. The next 6 months look like it may be busy work because they're a non-profit running on grant cycles.
  • My mind is racing, my nose is plugged and disgusting, and after several hours of tossing around awake in bed, I write in to take a sick day from work.

Wednesday, Jan 5th, 2022

  • I was in bed watching my consciousness ricochet off the boundary between awake and sleep every time I almost drift off. Completely miserable, sore throat and a headache now too, but also still very excited.

  • ☢️ He replies at 10:50 am

Dang, you just hit me with a Seth Godin piece? You are in.

This is so exciting!

You free to chat with Terry and Andros (my co-founders) this week or next?

  • For reference, the Seth Godin piece I mentioned because of how much it resonated with me when I read it and how I felt it fits the public face of their vision.
  • Around noon, I crawl out of bed and check the socials for an update (I don't sign into social media on my phone) and see his message. The message goes on and is very exciting. He links me to each of the founders on LinkedIn and asks my schedule. Screenshot of my recently added linkedin connections
  • I take 15 min to make this image to show my availability at a glance and switch the conversation over to email: Image I made showing my availability on a January calendar
  • ☢️ Before 2:30 pm, we've scheduled and confirmed a 30 min meeting for Friday around my would-be lunch. Screenshot of my confirmation email
  • I'm hyped up, still sick, finish work for the day, put on The Book of Boba Fett and paused it to make this codepen:
  • resumed watching it then went to bed imagining all night how great it would be to sleep again.

Friday, Jan 7th, 2022

  • Barely slept still, burning the candle at both ends, got out of bed super early to get dolled up before work. Moderately sick but too excited to care.
  • Take a lunch break at work for the interview.
  • I've been obsessed with reshaping elements as long as I've been into web development: I was one of those people who were constantly positioning tiny images over the corners of boxes, matching the colors just so it looked like border-radius before we had border-radius. When I finally made augmented-ui in 2019, it was specifically because I wanted to make it easy to make UI from Deus Ex: Human Revolution on the web without jumping through ridiculous hoops and living with awful limitations to change small details. Even if I was the only one who loved it, it was worth every single second of research and effort because I LOVED IT. screenshot of Deus Ex: Human Revolution's UI that inspired augmented-ui screenshot of an augmented button from the augmented-ui docs mimicking the video game
  • ☢️ Needless to say, the interview went GREAT. I loved every single thing I'm hearing and my dreams literally just came true. There's no way I don't get this job.
  • ☢️ They asked about my "next two weeks" a few times but skirted around flat out asking me to quit. Made sense, I thought, there might be legal reason to avoid that but it felt very reassuring.
  • The interview was over by 11:29 am. Which is super weird but also really cool because, I thought, they don't waste time and there's no reason to take longer if everything is green lights.
  • ☢️ 11:47 am they ask for a follow up on Monday. I've totally 100% got this. One hour later we were both confirmed for my same lunch time Monday again.

Saturday, Jan 8th, 2022

Monday, Jan 10th, 2022

  • My Sunday was miserable and bed ridden because I finally let myself feel sick and I can never sleep when I'm sick so that makes everything worse.
  • Didn't crawl out of bed until it was time to start working, had to get ready for the interview, couldn't do both, decided to take another sick day (sorry, but also should have taken it off anyway)
  • went back to bed, got out at 9:30 am and got ready.
  • ☢️ Interview went amazing again. I mentioned that not having a blog felt like a downside in my potential so I resolved to join once I felt better.
  • ☢️ I loved the team, got super hyped about what they're doing again and feeling the vision reflected from each of them was amazing. I commiserated briefly with one of the founders who was also sick. They reiterate wanting to use augmented-ui. I am so doped up on hopeium I actually fell asleep seemingly from feeling so much self-assurance and inner peace.

Tuesday, Jan 11th, 2022

  • Woke up and finally felt rested even though I was still super sick.
  • Had a good, productive, day at work.
  • ☢️ 2pm I check my email and have an offer from them
  • The salary is $1,250 less a month than I was making and it didn't mention basic things like: PTO, Health/Dental/Vision Insurance, Holidays, if they provided equipment to work from, nor the anticipated start date.
  • ☢️ It had equity that started after a full year.
  • ☢️ It mentioned a distribution of their crypto token that's integral to their vision.
  • I replied "Awesome." and asked for clarification of the above missing items
  • I finished out my day at work
  • Later that evening I signed up for and started playing with the codepen embed.
  • You can read more about that night in this blog post.

Wednesday, Jan 12th, 2022

  • Not sleeping much again, disgusting profuse night sweats started
  • Good day at work again anyway
  • ☢️ 3:26 pm they replied to my clarification requests from yesterday
  • They said "Yes" to holidays and Insurance...
  • ☢️ For the start date, they replied "3... 2..." and asked "When is the earliest you would be comfortable with starting?" screenshot from their email replying to my start date
  • ☢️ They reiterated with specifics that I would be getting 300,000 of their crypto after 4 years, starting after 1 full year + yearly unlocks. The first year unlocks could eclipse my salary alone they said.
  • ☢️ I replied "Wonderful! Sold!" and told them I would put in my notice tomorrow since the CEO where I was now had a presentation this afternoon and I didn't want to mess up his vibes. I told them that put my earliest start date at January 28th (today).
  • I explained the situation with my legal name so they could send over the documents properly and noted "I live in Illinois and among other hoops to jump through, they require me to publish it in a local newspaper 2 weeks in a row what my name was and what it is now in order to legally change it. Absolutely absurd but it is what it is"
  • ☢️ Couple small details in a back and forth then the ball was in my court, I had to put in notice tomorrow.
  • @rockstarwind told me about their Innovative Idea for Holding State In CSS and I asked them if I could share the idea and their tweets as my first blog post. Blessing received! I'll write it this weekend.
  • It was more design focused, which isn't my strength/is difficult for me, so I offered to help temporarily for free if they could at least send sketches of ideas. Check them out, exciting things around the corner if you're into atmospheric art, story telling, and creativity:

Thursday, Jan 13th, 2022

  • ☢️ I do what I needed to do at work as gently and apologetic as I could because I genuinely appreciate the job I had and so many of the details about that that I can't get into right now.
  • ☢️ I sent my new employer the email letting them know:

The hard part on my side is done now; I let my company & client know my last day is Jan 27th

  • Didn't hear back and didn't get the paperwork yet. No worries, it's a brand new start up and they're focused on iteration 1.
  • Start working on a X CodePen contribution that night
  • Submit the PR just before 1:30am the 14th.

Friday, Jan 14th, 2022

  • Put in a full day work at maximum effort despite being sick so I can leave my client in the best possible situation given the short notice. (they're wonderful people, a non-profit helping countless others, very proud to have contributed to their work)
  • ☢️ 8:52pm I get a reply from the new place to yesterday's news that I quit.

I wanted to give you a heads up that I tried to get your official offer in paper before the weekend, but won't have it from legal until Monday (sorry).

  • ☢️ That's okay, a little concerning because I'm not employee #1 so how is it not as simple as replacing names and numbers? Oh well, trust the timing of the universe.

Saturday, Jan 15th, 2022

  • Write my first blog post (which has over 3,500 views today!)
  • Rest and allow the sick to do whatever it needs to do, hoping it will go away.
  • Suspecting it's COVID, try finding and buying tests to check but they're sold out everywhere near here.

Monday, Jan 17th, 2022

  • Another good, productive day at work even though STILL SICK.
  • Didn't hear from the new employer
  • Wrote and published my 2nd blog post, mostly for practice, about the codepen liquid tag contribution that was just partially approved

Tuesday, Jan 18th, 2022

  • Sick, tired, productive
  • Submit the final changes requested to the contribution after work
  • ☢️ 5:21 PM I send them an email asking for an update on the paperwork, now very concerned but also they're probably all burning the candle at both ends just like me.
  • ☢️ 10:36 PM they reply that they've sent the final revision to their lawyers for approval.
  • ☢️ (I didn't remember this detail, it appears they're very much involved with the details and it's not all on the lawyers for what's about to unfold) Screenshot of my email and their reply in regards to the delayed paperwork
  • ☢️ I respond, leaning into my benefit of the doubt and focusing on my excitement despite my growing concern. Screenshot of my reply, "Just excited, wish I could start today"

Wednesday, Jan 19th, 2022

  • sick, tired, productive
  • ☢️ 9:13 AM I get a reply, "Hahah trust me, we do too. ... EXCITING." Screenshot of their reply
  • ☢️ (Seeing this again, with today's clarity, made my stomach drop)
  • ☢️ 6:56 PM, finally get the offer letter. They messed up my legal name. I let them know, they fixed it and sent it my way at 7:40 PM.
  • Watched Book of Boba Fett and made another codepen that night
  • ☢️☢️ The offer letter also came with a Confidential Information and Inventions Assignment Agreement (CIIAA) which is something I haven't seen before.
  • ☢️ 11:52 PM I send over two concerns after reading as much of the lengthy document as I could. It's all in legalese so it's incredibly challenging to parse. Like an analog programming language designed to be exploited.
  • ☢️ I say "This is going to take quite some time to read digest and clarify" and target Sunday as my expected completion date.
  • ☢️ My biggest concern was that it seemed like there was a loop hole that would assign my IP to them if it was used at work, though it wasn't at all clear and it was almost midnight.
  • ☢️ I continued: "1) My projects, including augmented-ui, whether used directly at work or not, will continue to be developed, improved, and may even be rewritten or recreated, potentially in new languages and frameworks, on my own time (and on my own equipment). Use cases I encounter at work will very likely influence the direction I take with both planned and currently unimagined features that will be developed (on my own time/equipment) and often released Open Source, most often with the existing 'BSD 2-Clause "Simplified" License'."
  • My second concern was in the offer letter about some weirdly overreaching requirement to ask for permission before consulting anyone without stipulating if it applies only on work hours. I pointed out it didn't imply or specify paid work so even answering questions on social media technically violates it.

Thursday, Jan 20th, 2022

  • Now more sick than I have been, likely made worse by the anxiety setting in.
  • ☢️ I join their discord community call to meet some of the others, they seem great and were eager to say I was starting the 28th.
  • ☢️ 6:39 PM I send them a 3rd item, the distribution of crypto they offered initially was not in the official offer letter at all.
  • ☢️ 7:10 PM they respond to my concerns:
  • ☢️ Point one: "That's okay and we totally support employees with side projects (that's kind of our thing)." - that wasn't the level of care I had hoped would go into understanding my concern and the email sentiment doesn't change the legally binding doc.
  • Point two: "We can remove that part of the clause John."
  • Point three: "Have we done token distribution in the initial document for other employees? If not, what document is that in?"

Sunday, Jan 23rd, 2022

  • I stay up and grind through reading the CIIAA
  • (No idea if I'm legally allowed to share this document, so I won't)
  • ☢️ 1:11 am (Monday) I finally send a reply: "The CIIAA, as far as I can manage to parse the language, is not excluding my background IP from being assigned as Company IP once it's been used to your benefit." and I go on to point to the specific section and specific sub points that exclude one thing but skip excluding background IP. It smells like a bug.
  • The CIIAA also seemingly requires I grant them a non-exclusive license to use my background IP indefinitely if we use it in the product. That's completely unnecessary because it's licensed under the BSD 2-Clause "Simplified" License which is super permissive. But I didn't bring this point up because there's more important concerns.

Monday, Jan 24th, 2022

  • 4:26 pm I get a reply "Got it - discussed with Andrew and John so they should have more information soon!"

Wednesday, Jan 26th, 2022

  • Starting to feel much better / less sick
  • I express my concern with a lawyer through a friend, who suggested not to sign it without sitting down with a lawyer in person.

Thursday, Jan 27th, 2022

  • Woke up feeling 80% and saw I got a reply at 12:40 AM
  • ☢️ It's from their lawyers this time:

I’ve put responses to your questions/concerns below, and the CIIAA and Offer Letter are attached for reference.

  • Okay, so they're not changing it.
  • ☢️ The email goes on to list everything that I had successfully managed to figure out in plain English.
  • ☢️☢️ Including a 2nd double down on the problem.

The Company needs to be aware of what is not being assigned so that it knows what will and won’t be integrated into its product, and so that you can avoid incidentally assigning/licensing IP to the Company.

  • ☢️☢️ Literally it contradicts the earlier points in the email the same way it did in the original legalese but doubles down by saying if they don't own it, they won't use it.
  • And can we talk about how disgusting, anti-collaborative, and offensive this is: In order to avoid my Background IP from being assigned to them "incidentally", it cannot be used in the product.
  • ☢️ They also say "... the Company cannot revise the definition “Employee Background IP’ or otherwise modify the terms of the CIIAA"
  • They note: "these are industry standard terms and all of the terms carefully work together"
  • Noted.
  • I get contact information for an IP Lawyer and an Employment Lawyer that went to law school with another friend from work.
  • I don't reply and get on with my last day at work, trying to get one last useful feature shipped to go out on a win.
  • ☢️ 1:09 PM, Adam sends me a follow up email that begins: "Hey Jane, Lawyer speak is pretty complicated." and offers a link to schedule a call on his calendar.
  • I schedule a call at 5:30 without replying.
  • ☢️ 5:30 comes and I state as calmly as I can where the plain English contradiction is. He's very personable and easy to like but I remained firm until he acknowledged it.
  • ☢️☢️☢️ He reiterates "We can't use it if we don't own it." and I blurted out "You're using React, aren't you?"
  • ☢️☢️☢️ Silence
  • ☢️☢️ As firmly and kindly as I can, I stress how unacceptable it is what they're doing, and how this behavior and unwillingness to back down is completely against the public vision they're selling the world on.
  • ☢️ I keep almost laughing at the absurdity of it trying to stay level headed and he says, twice, "We won't use it then." which seemingly confirms their intention.
  • I kept pressing and explained that if this were happening in public, people would see this as a bad faith employment offer that seemingly is meant to steal my background IP. "Which of course can't possibly be true" yada yada yada
  • ☢️ Anyway, after continued pressure and he finally caved and agreed that the contradiction and IP re-assignment doesn't make sense. I exclaimed "Finally! Thank you!" but it felt like he knew I caught them so I let the conversation continue.
  • He addresses the crypto being excluded, saying it's "an intention to offer" and "may end up being more like a bonus" because they have to be very careful around it. "Okay, that's reasonable, makes sense. Thank you."
  • ☢️ Call ended just before 6 PM.
  • ☢️ 8:23 PM, Adam emails me:

Hey Jane,

Our lawyers said they're willing to reverse elements of the document!

Can you please let me know what articles you specifically want to take out of the agreement.

Warm regards,

Help me, please.

  1. I no longer have a job or income, and my insurance is gone Feb 1st.
  2. Were the delays immediately after informing them I put in my 2 weeks notice in-part trying to add duress?
  3. If a legal discovery phase were to happen, could it obtain the other employee's agreements? Pure speculation: I suspect none of them included a CIIAA.
  4. I also suspect that they're likely to try to silence this; Copy it everywhere you want
  5. Did they really think a multi-million dollar company could steal a cyberpunk library from an individual creator without a fight?
  6. I could use a distraction too. How's your 2022 going?

Lesson learned

Don't give notice to your current employer before all of the new agreements/documents are signed.

TL;DR, Reductionist Parody Summary

"We want to use your work and hire you to implement it!"
"Go ahead and quit so you can start as soon as possible!"
"Sorry for the delay, working with lawyers. lulz"
"If we use your IP, we own it."

Top comments (36)

liviufromendtest profile image
Liviu Lupei

Sorry to hear about your situation.

That's one of the reasons why I never quit a job before I have a signed contract with the new employer.

Good luck with the job hunt!
I'm sure you'll find a great one really fast.

eljayadobe profile image

Virtual hugs. What an ordeal.

When I got my current job, HR strongly emphasized over-and-over that I should not put in my notice until I had the offer letter. Weeks went by. I called them, and was told not to worry. And more weeks. I called them, and was told not to worry. And more weeks. I called them, and was told not to worry. And finally got the offer letter.

Then I put in my notice, and (as is standard practice in these parts) gave my former employer two weeks. Plus I also factored in another two week decompression time, so I could reset my brain.

Very stressful 3 months though, for me. All turned out well in the end.

Your experience sounds like a rocky rollercoaster relationship. From dizzying heights to crushing plummet and crash. Dreadful.

eljayadobe profile image

Addendum, my former employer was awesome. I had no issue or heartburn (or heartache) with my previous employer. They're good people, with a good product, and incredibly awesome motives.

jexperton profile image
Jonathan Experton

Really sorry for you. Don't worry tech job market is red hot and passionate people are always in great demand. I'm sure you'll find a nice place.

Since you look open to equity, I recommend you to read Gergely Orosz's post about equity so you can spot a bad offer during your job search.

Hope your nose is fine now.

janeori profile image
Jane Ori

I'm going to read every word of this in the morning, thank you for sharing!
And thank you for the support, I appreciate it :)

janeori profile image
Jane Ori

Thank you all for the support. Truly.

afif profile image
Temani Afif

@inhuofficial Can you spread this into the 4C community?

Let's make some noise!

grahamthedev profile image

Shared it there 👍

sherrydays profile image
Sherry Day

Thank you for sharing. I am sure it is going to help someone. You seem very talented and hard working. You'll make it through this.

cliffordfajardo profile image
Clifford Fajardo • Edited

Man, I've been in a similar situation trying to assess start up offers in the past - its can be stressful!
My recommendation for anyone new to this (who may stumble upon this is), leverage the community to help you 🙏

1) website OR their phone app (I'm not affiliated, happy user for years)

  • people will happily answer questions related to job offers, startup equity, negotiation's, whether a situation is fishy & what follow up questions to ask. 2)

Wishing you the best Jane, you got this!

rockhold profile image
Brandon Rockhold

Thank you for sharing this story and your lesson learned. It sounds like a terrible experience and I'm sorry you went through it. I hope you are feeling 100% soon. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that this post would end with you losing ownership of your work. I'm glad that's not the case and I hope this company is somehow held accountable for this sleazy behavior. Good luck in getting things resolved and with whatever your next role ends up being!

blindfish3 profile image
Ben Calder

Don't give notice to your current employer before all of the new agreements/documents are signed.

^ this

If you left your previous employer on good terms it wouldn't hurt to contact them, explain the situation, and see whether you could figure something out. The worst thing that can happen is they say no...

Sadly this cautionary tale also confirms all my current preconceptions about "Web 3.0" and those leading the charge on the next gold rush: immoral, get rich quick types who have no concerns about who or what gets trampled in the process.

Good luck!

pierrewahlberg profile image
Pierre Vahlberg

I really admire you for reading and pursuing understanding the CIIAA, many I know would not and would likely get shredded if a disagrement arose. Its really unfortunate about the notice but you sound smart and I doubt you will have an issue finding a job in this business! Best of luck 🙏

klausdonnert profile image
Klaus Donnert

One of the guys I work with got a bad faith offer and quit. Two weeks after he quit, he called our boss and explained the situation and asked if he could come back. Boss said yes.

feng_xie_297f6d9ed28c6e0a profile image
Feng Xie

Sorry to hear your situation Jane. I think they are playing a game with you, who apparently own an IP that they have a very strong desire to take, and they hope they can get it for free by hiring you - which might be a economical decision for them (I.e. ‘cheaper’) or makes better legal sense (I.e. ‘safer’). I’m not as an awesome as you, so I never owned an IP, and that’s why I have not had any reply from my potential employer telling me they have to get their lawyers involved to finalize my offer. It’s just money, equity, take it or leave it, plain simple So the fact they are having so much back and forth with you and their lawyer meaning they are customizing what should be standard hiring practice - to obtain more than what they deserve from a simple employment relationship. This company seems fishy and does not deserve your time. And the equity with their token looks riskier than say the equity offers from other startup or public companies. It’s just standard offer which is not more attractive than any other offer which you can get from this red hot market. Their CEO seems nice but it’s his job to be nice to all top talents he wants to hire. And seems he didn’t do anything meaningful for YOU and he didn’t really put himself in your situation. And your guess is right for #2 - pretty sure they are doing this to add duress. Hope you feel better soon and find a better opportunity than this one. You deserve better.

feng_xie_297f6d9ed28c6e0a profile image
Feng Xie

And yeah like everyone else in this thread said - in the future don’t quit until you have a signed offer in hand. Insurance running out is tough, but there are options like COBRA (google it) or going back to your current employer. Or just start looking right away. Good luck!

kylerconway profile image
Kyle R. Conway

I'll just note separately that I also had some conversations with a company about mostly part-time design work and they wanted an overbroad signed CIIAA as well. Needless to say, we did not end up working together. I got the impression this was unreasonable lawyers with boilerplate rather than bad intent from the lovely people I would have been working with, but coming from an art background into tech, with a large appreciation for permissive licenses in tech and art (e.g. Creative Commons) I find it strange that these are described as "standard" for the industry (and I hope they aren't).

If anyone wants to compile a list of this CIIAA language to share and break down what it means I think that would be a service to the workers in this space. (and yes, I confirmed the overbroadness with an IP lawyer... things like, unless I specifically list every piece of art I've ever created I transfer ownership to the company).

Sorry this happened to you. Your work looks amazing, your ability to tell a story (while stressed and sick) is impressive, and I have no doubt you'll soon be employed.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing!

0vortex profile image
TED Vortex (Teodor Eugen Duțulescu)

I remember messaging you on twitter ~2 years ago when you just released augmented-ui. Didn't want to ghost you, never got around to building what I proposed because essentially the same thing happened to me ... never got around to a stable job since and my only comfort is contributing to open source projects.

One community that was especially welcoming and helped me cope with everything happening in my life was open-sauced - met a lot of great people and other communities there, made friends that made me feel that all this struggle was worth it. Can't promise anything but I can introduce you to some people if we reconnect on discord, polywork or even linkedin.

Fingers crossed, never stop fighting!

janeori profile image
Jane Ori

Just found the DM; I still think that's a great idea :)

That seems like a great path to get started with OS contributions! I've had people ask for advice in that direction and never really knew how to answer; I'll keep this link handy for the future. Thank you!

Feel free to reach out on twitter any time! I prefer the async communication there and I try to keep discord connections at a minimum because they ping me real time. :)

rajvirsingh1313 profile image
Rajvir Singh

Damn, I feel sorry for you. It would hurt anyone who would have gone through a situation like this.