Will Code for Food

Jan 27 2009

Just for the record, I love open source. Like most good programmers I have a bit of a lazy streak. If someone has already coded what I need, or at least close to what I need, I will use it. I don't want to reinvent the wheel.

The other nice thing about open source is, well, you get the source. Being a hands on type of programmer I get suspicious of "black box" solutions. I always suspect there is some programming bug lurking in there waiting to rise up and bite me. When my program isn't working is it because I did something wrong or am I hitting one of those nasty bugs in a vendor's package? I have done my share of "alpha testing" of a vendor's supposedly "production" code. Of course the burden of proof is always on you. Create your simple test case showing the bug and wait on the tech support hotline listening to Kenny G for hours only to end up talking to someone who just joined the company a week ago. I would much rather have all the code in front of me to dive in and fix whatever problem arises.

Ok, so now you are probably thinking "What's the problem"? The basic issue is that Open Source projects are also free. Believe me I love free. I am addicted to free. And therein lies the problem. There is so much Open Source code out there - and a lot of it really good quality, that people think all code should be free. The idea that I may want to charge for my time programming puts me into the greedy money grubbing capatilist ranks of Bill Gates. To see an extreme example of this sentiment, watch the movie "Antitrust" where an evil Tim Robbins resorts to murder to protect his investment in code. The message from the movie is "all code should be free"! So instead, many programmers decide to give away their code and add a "donate" button in hopes someone will realize the time and effort they put into developing the code and will compensate them for their time. Forget the fact you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

This article is more of an expression of my frustration at how devalued programming skills have become. I guess this may be payback for the years of excessive fees paid to average or below average consultants. I have no great solution to this issue. I see some open soure projects have been adopting different approaches like "free for the basic functionality and then pay for either services or additional functionality". Time will tell approach works best. 



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