Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: The scarcity of good code is very real

Author:David Adams
Posted:8/25/2000; 7:59:30 AM
Topic:Next survey: Are you an open source developer?
Msg #:20178 (In response to 20160)
Prev/Next:20177 / 20179

The programmer isn't in the business of pressing disks or selling bandwidth, and his compensation should not be based on the costs of these incidentals but on the value of his work.

Brett, I never said otherwise. But you have to admit that software is unique in this regard. The pricing of software is, at least, more artificial than other, physical products. If I have an original Picasso painting, there is no way to reproduce that finely crafted piece of art. Even Picasso himself could probably not recreate the piece exactly. Because of this, Picasso's art commands a very high market value. Yes, I know that the uniqueness of the piece or the real scarcity of the piece is not the only market factor, but it is an important one.

If Picasso, or anyone, could churn out exact, identical copies of his paintings at near-zero cost, the value of the work would fall, do you agree? This is the case with software. It may be just as painstakingly crafted, or moreso, than any Picasso work. But it costs essentially nothing to reproduce an exact, identical copy, whether the software is open-sourced, closed-source, or whatever. That's why software is different: it's information, not a physical product.

I think the point you are trying to make is perhaps a different one. True, to produce more good code that is different, it takes time and effort and often, great expense. But to produce one copy of a single piece of software is essentially no more or less costly than producing a million copies.

Now, I'm not trying to say that information has no value, or that programmers shouldn't be compensated for their craft. I'm a programmer myself. I know the amount of work and effort that goes into truly good code. I wasn't trying to argue for or against anything with the point about artificial scarcity. I just think it's interesting.


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