June 5, 2009

Pay the Writer!

Thanks to Max Boot at Commentary for pointing me to this fun rant from a cranky old favorite.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 5, 2009 7:33 PM

Comments

Reminds me of the late Wolfgang Grajonca/Bill Graham, one of rock and roll's original pit bulls, lecturing Italian kids who thought "music should be free, man." Bill described (colorfully) what a roadie's life, and the roadie's family's life was like.

Escaping Nazi Germany as a kid and having family members die in the camps put his life in perspective.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at June 5, 2009 10:05 PM

Bill's name for his home was Masada.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at June 5, 2009 10:18 PM

I do like Harlan. Very good writer, and damn passionate about his work and getting paid for it. Good for him.

As noted in Wikipedia: "His friend Isaac Asimov noted that, "Harlan uses his gifts for colorful and variegated invective on those who irritate him — intrusive fans, obdurate editors, callous publishers, offensive strangers."

Harlan does provide a colorful interview -though you often get more than you bargained for.

Posted by: Ron Snyder Author Profile Page at June 6, 2009 5:40 AM

Now see? That's how you do a rant!

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at June 6, 2009 9:42 AM

Oh, the irony of putting this rant on YouTube. Given the topic of the rant, why doesn't he respond with a DMCA takedown notice?

Memo to Mr. Ellison: What I charge for my work is my choice, not yours. And there is no requirement that benefits derived therefrom must be monetary.

For you to dictate such terms on my work is every bit as asinine as someone else demanding that your work be free.

Posted by: gus3 Author Profile Page at June 6, 2009 3:13 PM

He's actually right, Gus3. I've seen it in my industry (software development) for quite a while. I started almost 20 years ago, and back then there were a lot of people who made "shareware" or "freeware" and uploaded it to various BBSes and online services. The idea with freeware was that it wasn't something people would be willing to pay for so you would just give it away. The idea with shareware was that it wasn't as good as commercial products but it at least got the job done, so you'd give people a "trial" version and nag them to pay you a nominal fee for it. As far as I know, no freeware programmer ever got a job that way. Also, as far as I know, no shareware programmer ever got rich that way. Or even made a decent living, either.

And then in the late 1990s it was all about the dot coms, many of them who started up as open source projects of one sort or another. The few that became popular were taken public and the "founders" made a killing, while everyone else who made the product a success got taken for a ride. Including the early adopters, when the product became something other than what it was when they decided they liked it so much, because all of a sudden profitability was an issue.

The whole idea of giving away source code for free, under any guise, is misguided. It takes an incredible amount of effort to create a decent software product, and even more effort to support it once it is out there. A few college students can't pull it off. And if they do get lucky enough to get somebody to invest in their efforts, the first thing they are going to do is hire some actual employees (who expect to actually get payed a salary) to help them get it up to snuff.

At this point I feel like I should tell a little story without too much detail because I don't want to get sued. About 15 years ago I was working at a company that did various kinds of things (like special effects) for the entertainment industry. I had occasion to code some file converters because everyone on the technical side (our side) was using PCs and everyone on the creative side(customer side) was using Apple. I had to do it myself because these conversion types were not supported by either Windows or Mac, and there weren't any third party utilities available. One of these file types was VERY popular, on both platforms. So being the nice guy that I am, I broke that one (and only that one) out into a little stand-alone file converter utility and uploaded it to a couple of the big online services. A few days later I got contacted by a certain director of multimedia development at a certain software development giant whose name starts with M and he said he though my utility was cool and he wanted to include it on a developer CD. Yeah, sure, no problem I tell him. Six months later Windows supports this file conversion directly, via downloadable driver. Coincidence? Maybe. But that file format had been in use on both platforms for over 10 years and nobody had ever bothered to do it, before.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at June 7, 2009 2:45 AM

"As far as I know, no freeware programmer ever got a job that way. Also, as far as I know, no shareware programmer ever got rich that way. Or even made a decent living, either."

Again, that's assuming that the only payoff is monetary. How many people are willing to take a job that's more satisfying, mentally and emotionally, for a smaller paycheck?

"The whole idea of giving away source code for free, under any guise, is misguided. It takes an incredible amount of effort to create a decent software product, and even more effort to support it once it is out there."

Giving the source away for "free" (both freely and gratis) is precisely what makes the creation and support efforts easier, especially when the starting money resources are thin.

Posted by: gus3 Author Profile Page at June 7, 2009 4:58 AM

I apologize for using this thread for irrelevant post and I do not intend to start irrelevant discussion, but I think it is worth mentioning none the less.

It would appear that Anbar Awakening started in Pakistan too. Bin Laden types might get pushed out of the country relatively soon. Where will they go next?

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at June 7, 2009 8:10 AM

This is great stuff. They should make it into a PSA and run it on TV--profanity and all. After they pay Harlan for it, of course!

Posted by: Steve Mohan Author Profile Page at June 8, 2009 6:46 AM

Leo -

I would guess that we still need a little bit of time to see how this all works out. There have been elements of the population in some of the Pakistani provinces that fought against the Taliban before now. But those groups never felt that they had the support needed from the government (in one case, iirc, the high government official in one of the neighboring provinces even interfered in favor of the Taliban). In Iraq, the US made sure that the Iraqis involved in the Anbar Awakening felt that the US had their backs and would provide the support needed. We'll need to wait and see whether or not the Pakistani government can provide similar support for its own citizens.

Posted by: junior Author Profile Page at June 8, 2009 2:00 PM

OK, let's wait and hope for the best.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at June 8, 2009 2:59 PM
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