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I will be looking for a job after a long break, so I need all the help I can get.

Problem is, my best point in a portofolio is an unusual application, using quite unusual algorithms, that may seem simple at a glance for anyone who didn't have to design and implement them. The natural thing to do would be to describe the design and implementation details, so that any developer would be able to assess how much skill and determination it took to finish the project.

But, I intent to polish the application some more and sell it. I don't want clones to appear anytime soon. The barrier to entry currently is high, but if I were to be giving hints about my implementation, then it's no longer the case.

I don't believe in the honesty of recruiting developers. I have experience going to interviews and in some cases it seems like the main point of an interview was to gain information about our pipeline, used technologies and custom solutions, as opposed to hiring me :)

EDIT: Not telling what the application does, or not providing a link to it won't even get me a call back for an interview. I won't be applying to companies which could be selling solution similar to mine. I'm rather worried about giving advice to individual developers on how to make a clone, without going through some dead corners and lengthy research.

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Have you considered only applying at companies about which your attitude is not "You'll probably steal the project I intend to secretly develop while employed by you"? –  Larry OBrien Mar 3 '12 at 20:36
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3 Answers

You should consider that if you are applying for a job it might not be a good idea (depending on the employer) to revel that you will be spending time selling a product of your own.

Are the companies to which you are applying making similar products to the one you are working on? If so, then it would be just as likely for them to think you are the one fishing for information.

If you are hired by a company in the same market to which you wish to sell your product you may be headed for real legal trouble.

It is customary in the US for a developer who is offered a position to disclose any commercial side products he may involved in, specially to avoid future disputes over intellectual property. That's a good practice that protects both parties from misunderstanding.

If the interviewer is in a different market they wouldn't be interested in the details of your personal project anyway. I doubt if a general discussion of your project would really revel anything so special that they would try and replicate it after you left. But I could be wrong about that.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. If you feel the details of your personal project are too sensitive to revel, then don't revel them.

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If its a technical interviewer that you're talking to, you could hold back on the overall idea/big picture and go straight to the nitty-gritties of the application, describing what you feel were specific/unusual implementation challenges and the methods/ideas that you contributed for overcoming these. Describing certain generic optimizations and design decisions in the "unusual" algorithms (without revealing them) should help.

If it is more of a non-technical interview, then I guess you'd have to fall back on analogies and similar-but-not-quite-the-same-problem examples to explain this project of yours. Again, you could concentrate on the 3-4 most challenging aspects or modules that make up your program without having to reveal much of the actual design.

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I've been once in a similar situation.

Since you're decided to keep your idea as secrete, you are then determined to not be recognized as a good inventor.

But the technical challenge under the idea can be explain by imaginating a similar situation that put the technic in place.

So you can say to the recruiter that you cannot talk about the real purpose, but it is similar to this or that when trying to do this or that. And it needs this or that problem to be solved.

For example if you had invented Facebook and you did not want to revel the concept, the you would say : I've worked on a project that I cannot reveal the purpose but it is similar to a world wild massive directory. This project needed to have lot of people connected together, a huge database that is not relational, a simple design and ....

"a world wild massive directory" is a bad description of the Facebook concept, nevertheless this help to compare the technicals points.

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