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Author Topic: The programmer as (starving) artist  (Read 5548 times)
app103
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« on: February 21, 2010, 08:05:03 AM »

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Discussions about code as poetry and how code and art differ from each other are not new, but the growing popularity of free software among both developers and users may make software developers more like artists than they have been in the past in one very important respect: A majority of programmers may end up writing code without getting paid directly for their work. Perhaps, before long, "starving programmer" will be as familiar a phrase as "starving artist" is today.

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Eóin
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2010, 09:23:55 AM »

The author seems to be under the delusion that programming compares to the likes of painting, poetry music. If anything it's closer to crafts like say carpentry, electronics, plumbing, etc...

This is a bit harsh but his commentary reads as someone making predictions of an ecosystem they only observe but aren't a part of. A number of the commenter's seem to have drawn that same conclusion.
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zridling
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2010, 10:57:22 AM »

Yea, but even in the "practical arts" of carpentry, electronics, and plumbing, you have millions of handymen and do-it-yourselfers working on myriad projects for home, friends, and community. The key is: with more and more free code available every year, why would I pay someone to "reinvent the same wheel" over and over? Stand on their shoulders and build something more, something better.
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wraith808
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2010, 12:48:15 PM »

Well, the reason that you can't stand on someone's shoulders to build something better is because of the closed ecosystem of most for-profit programming shops.
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2010, 01:08:36 PM »

why would I pay someone to "reinvent the same wheel" over and over?
Because that's the only way you'll ever get a better wheel with a rubber tire instead of just the same old stone disk with a hole in it.
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Eóin
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2010, 01:20:39 PM »

The key is: with more and more free code available every year, why would I pay someone to "reinvent the same wheel" over and over? Stand on their shoulders and build something more, something better.

Exactly true, but that doesn't affect the opportunity for work, it increases the quality if you still have skilled programmers to fit those pieces together.

The article seems to suggests that free software and programmers in general are shooting themselves in the foot by making their craft ever more accessible. But there is no evidence offered to support that statement, it's just random musing.
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2010, 08:37:46 PM »

Quote
Discussions about code as poetry... programmers may end up writing code without getting paid directly for their work.
Probably depends on how much is ode.
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Chris
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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2010, 06:12:27 AM »

why would I pay someone to "reinvent the same wheel" over and over?
Because that's the only way you'll ever get a better wheel with a rubber tire instead of just the same old stone disk with a hole in it.

Unless, of course, somebody has previously obtained a patent for a "round object which rotates on a central axis" in which case you're stuck with the old wheel until the patent holder decides to put a rubber tire on it.
 Wink


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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2010, 06:40:05 AM »

why would I pay someone to "reinvent the same wheel" over and over?
Because that's the only way you'll ever get a better wheel with a rubber tire instead of just the same old stone disk with a hole in it.


Unless, of course, somebody has previously obtained a patent for a "round object which rotates on a central axis" in which case you're stuck with the old wheel until the patent holder decides to put a rubber tire on it.
 Wink
(Ah, yes, Progress hobbled by lawyers & red tape) Now there's a sadly acurate analogy for a lot of what's happening these days...
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mouser
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2010, 07:24:30 AM »

Some good points.

What I always worry about in such cases is the scenario where you have the public willing to pay $X for something (whether it be music, art, software), and have a line of middlemen working furiously to make sure the bulk of that money goes to them instead of the creator.

I worry that this means that the total cost of Open Source software isn't zero, but that the money spent on it goes entirely to middle men companies and support hotline companies, and none goes to the coders.

Same thing with music -- I want to make sure we don't end up with a situation where people are willing to pay $X a month for unlimited downloads, but that 99% of that goes to the internet service provider and 1% to the artist.

I just want to make sure we figure out ways for the content creators to get their fare of share of financial support, in the cases where that is important to them, without forcing the content creators to engage in day to day battles against giant corporations.
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CoderOmega
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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2010, 08:12:58 AM »

Unless, of course, somebody has previously obtained a patent for a "round object which rotates on a central axis" in which case you're stuck with the old wheel until the patent holder decides to put a rubber tire on it.
 Wink

Lol you don't know how true this was for me since my app is actually a round object rotating around a center axis.  Grin Grin Grin

@mouser
That's exactly what I think. If I make a free app, I try to use free tools to help me distribute, advertise or do anything else I need.
And when I want to sell it, obviously it's for me to benefit otherwise what the point of working on it at all in the first place.

But from what I read, most of the time it's not true. I read for games, distributors takes between 60 to 90%.  Cry
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mouser
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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2010, 08:38:21 AM »

i think when i make a post like this i have to remember to post the second half of my thoughts regarding the people who do the business end of things.

i have learned, repeatedly, that i do not have a taste for business.  that probably shows when i talk about "middle men".

but the flip side of this is that i also believe that ideas themselves are almost never very valuable.  unless you have the determination and will power and energy and smarts to get things done and finished, and tested, and polished, and idea is rarely any use.

and there is a lot of work and stress and struggle that goes into taking something from an idea into a successful commercial project or business.

so please when you hear me talking about how i think the content creators need to get a fair share, know that i put a very high value on the work required to make something a successful business -- i don't think that's a trivial part of the puzzle.  so i'm all for teams that split up the work evenly in terms of creative art type work vs the business end of things.  for me it always comes down to fair division of labor in terms of how many hours people put in and how much risk they are taking.

i'm not against different people making money by playing different roles -- i'm just against one person "exploiting" the work of another, trying to grab as big a share of the profits as they can based on the vagaries of an infrastructure that tends to consolidate wealth.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 10:25:53 AM by mouser » Logged
steeladept
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« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2010, 09:57:15 AM »

So what sounds fair then?  20% for the initial product, 30-50% for maintenance and support, and 30-50% for advertising, sales, and business?  Just thinking out loud.  This seems about right to my non-programming thoughts (maybe a little low for the business part given the cost and variances of it - probably a little high for the maintenance and support).  Business is expensive, and they will only do what makes money.  Maybe something like 20%/20-30%/50-60%.  Of course that is what it sounds like a lot of structures are like - well relatively fair structures anyway.  There are the ones where the business end is the big block bully and will force you to take it or leave it when they "graciously" offer 5% on your work and you must include maintenance and support for it.

BTW:  This is not knocking what you say or think - this is a genuine question of what people honestly think is fair for each general part of the equation.  Maybe I am oversimplifying the equation.  That is okay.  Please correct me with your thoughts on what is right and what the right percentages should work out to too. 
« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 09:58:50 AM by steeladept » Logged
wraith808
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« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2010, 10:18:06 AM »

Personally, I think that any product, successful or otherwise, is a unique combination of the sum of its parts.  In some cases, that equation is more heavily driven by the technology end, others by the business end, and others by the maintenance and support.  I don't see that any simple equation will work for every situation.  I think that's the basic reason that understandable frustration builds up on all sides of the equation- the symptoms of the problem being lack of understanding/appreciation of the function of the other elements since they are all so subjective to the situation, and most people in one 'silo' don't really want to know about the other parts of the business.  At least, that's what I've seen, and know that I'm guilty of.
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40hz
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« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2010, 02:08:46 PM »

What I always worry about in such cases is the scenario where you have the public willing to pay $X for something (whether it be music, art, software), and have a line of middlemen working furiously to make sure the bulk of that money goes to them instead of the creator.

I think that's more the normal state of affairs in commerce. And that's been the case with almost everything (music, art, technology) since ancient times when the first tribe of farmers woke up one morning and found themselves surrounded by their more warlike, non-farming neighbors.

I'm not sure if there's any way around this dilemma other than for the "creatives" to get actively involved in running businesses and/or partnering with people they can trust.

Unfortunately, it's hard to know whom to trust. The record seems to show that many programmers (who became businessmen) were just as adept at exploiting their fellow programmers as anybody else.

Rather sad when you think about it.

« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 06:02:08 PM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2010, 02:21:58 PM »

A small company usually cannot compete with a big company. But many small companies on a cooperative can compete and even beat the large companies.

As an example. Lets say you have a small supermarket. How do you compete with Waltmart? You cannot buy the volume necessary to get the same prices as Waltmart gets from its providers. You just don't have the negotiation power with your suppliers.

Now imagine that a 100 supermarkets form a cooperative for the sake of buying goods. As the volume is much bigger, their negotiation power increases. Thus they can get goods at a lower price, making them able to compete with Waltmart.

The same goes for small software development companies. Their products are too small in volume to get a good deal. Thus the profit gets gobbled up by a middle man. (Electronic Arts, Microsoft, etc..)

But if enough small companies team together in form of a cooperative that takes care of the business part of the development. They can go directly to the retailers and thus get a better deal. Retailers, as any company, wants profit. One piece of software will not bring a business relation. But a whole line of software is software they can sell and continue selling all year long.

Notice I say cooperative and not corporation. On a cooperative, everyone has a vote on what's going on. On a corporation, the one that has most money is the one that decides. Thus, the others are irrelevant.
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wraith808
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« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2010, 03:03:06 PM »

Truthfully, it's better not to compete.  Run your business on its own merits rather than trying to compete with the larger chain.  As long as you don't have to go *above* retail, and keep your expectations of your business potential in check and base your long term business plan on that, you have a chance to succeed even in a market with overlarge competitors.  I've seen it work before, and I've seen companies get screwed by trying to compete outside of their weight.
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40hz
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« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2010, 11:51:35 AM »

Going back for a moment to my earlier dismal observation about coders abusing coders, here's a recent TechCruch guest article by Redfin CEO Glen Kelman that addresses a closely related issue:

Quote
When we split the atom, Einstein remarked that everything changed but our way of thinking. You could make the same argument about acquisitions and option pools.

As Mark Suster recently noted, employees will never see a big payday at most startups unless the company shoots for the moon. This is probably why investors’ case for a company to sell early focuses exclusively on the founder: in most early-stage acquisitions, the liquidation preferences and deal-sweeteners only work for investors and founders.

Back when some companies sold at $50 million and others went public at $250 million, we could all agree that this was just how the cookie crumbled. But now that we live in a world where early-stage acquisitions are the only outcome to which most startups aspire, we have to re-allocate this smaller cookie.

The elephant in the room is that that founders and CEOs take almost all of it for themselves. I’ve looked at three or four deals recently as an adviser; in every case, the founder or CEO was taking more than half the company for himself, and leaving 10% for everyone else. Why aren’t we surprised when three months later that company can’t hire enough engineers?

http://techcrunch.com/201...eing-such-cheap-bastards/


Note: I might disagree slightly with the last sentence in the quote above. I don't know what the technical pool is like where Glenn works; but around where I live, the job market is tight enough that I now know several talented individuals who have accepted fairly 'raw' employment deals just to keep a paycheck coming in.  And it doesn't look like this situation will be changing any time soon.

 tellme


« Last Edit: February 26, 2010, 12:09:29 PM by 40hz » Logged

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