Yesterday, I went to work. I did several hours of troubleshooting and repair on a complex piece of equipment. As part of that, I spent probably 3 hours in total just staring at tiny little connector pins on a backplane, pointing a flashlight at them and trying to get a good view of them through the reflections to see if any were bent.
I got paid for doing that – did I mention that? I did. I could have actually not done any work yesterday, just sat at my desk and watched Hulu, and I would have gotten paid too. It would have been wrong and counterproductive, but I could have gotten paid for it.
Sometimes I think people who complain that software developers charge for their products are people who go to work and get paid every day regardless of what they do. And I think those same people aren’t quite intelligent enough to understand the difference between their situation and that of independent software developers.
Atebits released a new version of their Tweetie twitter iPhone app called Tweetie 2. Everyone generally agrees that it’s a huge improvement over the original, and no doubt it took months of hard work. For those months of hard work, the developer has decided that he’s charging $3. And because of the audacity of this move, people are angry.
The thing is, those angry people are stupid. I don’t know how else to put it. Presumably these same people have children to feed, or at least some form of financial responsibility. Those come with just showing up and breathing in and out. So I’m pretty sure they have some form of employment and rely on that income to pay their bills and pay for their webhost so they can write blog posts about how wrong it is in a capitalist society for someone to charge $3 for software. In other words, they probably would not be eager to do their work without compensation. Yet that’s exactly what they are asking the developers of Tweetie 2 to do.
Software development takes time. It takes effort. And independent software developers rely on themselves and whatever software they sell to buy their families food, put their kids through school, and somehow afford medical insurance for same said dependents. Anyone price health insurance lately? I work for a Monolith 3000 sized company, and even they are bitching about the cost of health insurance. So I’m pretty sure to individuals and small companies, it’s a fairly burdensome expense all by itself.
Cocoa developers have traditionally developed software out of love for the platform (Mac and now iPhone) and for the applications themselves. If we want these guys to survive and to continue writing software that is often higher quality and with a better user experience than software developed by the large software companies, then maybe we should think about paying them $3 for months of their time spent writing something that we enjoy using.
I wouldn’t work for free. At least not at whatever job is supposed to earn me a living. And indie Mac and iPhone developers shouldn’t have to either.