Linked by Eugenia Loli on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 16:46 UTC
Editorial "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." Read the editorial at NewsForge.
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Well
by Tyr on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 17:03 UTC

To continue the analogy : most musicians might not make it, but there's always plenty of work if you're willing to write jingles for comercials. Companies will always need programmers for in-house stuff and adapting open source or propriatary software. No need to panic.

Write a unique program
by Steffo on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 17:41 UTC

Well that's an effect of the free market.
Lots of musicians --> lots of music --> low price.
Lots of programmers --> lots of code --> cheap programs.

And there are lots of programmers... And the number increases as high-level languages get popular and make coding even more simple (and bloated..;-)

Programmers may just have to work harder to provide additional value to their customers. Good marketing, offer security patches, upgrades, support. Or just write a program that is profoundly different from other existing programs. (NOT a text-editor, THAT's a tough market ;-)

Offer something that is unique and needed if you want to succed at the free market. Then you'll get paid.

Well, easier said than done, I suppose ;-)

Re: well
by cheezwog on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 17:58 UTC

And to stretch the analogy a little further... ;)
It's also notable that the most popular music in the world is not of the best quality.

Some commercial concerns are destroying the quality of popular music by restricting choice to a few low quality acts that are created just to sell, and ripping off customers. The same could be said about some commercial software companies...

That's right...
by Anonymous on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 18:15 UTC

Because embedded linux has come a long way, and you're coming out with the newest latest and greatest PDA, all you have to do is download the kernel, compile it, throw on some free software, and BOOM...instant product, right? Only took you a weekend to set up the system. Well, off to shipping it goes!

Sorry, it's not that simple. Who's going to port your free kernel to your new hardware? Who's going to maintain it and fix bugs and address issues in a timely manner? Who's going to modify Abiword to run on your handheld, as well as give it a look that's consistent with the rest of your apps? Who's going to make improvements to the code?

There will always be paid programmers, as there will always be work that needs doing in any company, no matter how based they are in free software. Anyone who's worked in software before knows that there's ALWAYS room for improvement (this applies to most other areas of life as well). Free software simply ensures that your improvements benefit everyone, just as everyone's improvements benefit you. It removes the duplication of effort that's so prominent in commercial software. Why write 10 different word processors for 10 different platforms that ALL do the same thing? Instead, use what's already there. You have your word processor. Go pay your employees to do something original and innovative instead of busywork like re-inventing wheels that have been kicking around the market place for decades.

dig it.
by m. andrew todd, i on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 18:22 UTC

i am *living* that article. thank you, eugenia, for once again proving that a day without osnews.com is like a day without linux. outstanding. you always find the good stuff. ;)

The trick ...
by The Pessimist on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 18:23 UTC

... is to keep being a low-level/hardware developer. I personnaly like it better, and not very interseted by java, c#.

Maybe I'm naive, but I suspect my assembly and device drivers developement skills to protect my job for a *long* time.

Shrink-wrapped
by Darius on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 18:30 UTC

I can see how the OSS model works great for custom-written programs, but a shrink-wrapped app? Assuming you want to write a shrink-wrapped app, how the hell are you supposed to make money doing that when everybody and their grandma has access to the source code?
And doing some shrink-wrapped apps could be really expensive to produce, so who wants to do that for free?

RE: Shrink-wrapped
by psycosis on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 18:35 UTC

> I can see how the OSS model works great for custom-written programs, but a shrink-wrapped app? Assuming you want to write a shrink-wrapped app, how the hell are you supposed to make money doing that when everybody and their grandma has access to the source code?
And doing some shrink-wrapped apps could be really expensive to produce, so who wants to do that for free?

This is why OSS will not reach the average user. They don't have any idealitic views of free-software. They want software that works.

Shrink-wrapped .... more thoughts ....
by Darius on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 18:55 UTC

Ok, let's say I wanted to write a shrink-wrapped app that could measure the distance between somebody's ass cheeks, and then sell it for $10 a pop.
Now, assuming that I had 100 buyers for the app, that would earn me a profit of $1,000. So, how exactly could I do this using the open source model and still make the same profit? As I see it, I have these options:

1. I can write the program and sell it for $1,000 to the first buyer, who could then give it away for free. But as I see, $10 is a helluva lot cheaper than $1,000, so how bad do you want the source code? Is it worth $990?
2. I can sell it for $10 giving away the source code to whoever wants it, and hope like hell that nobody will recompile it and give it away for free.
3. I can hope that somebody will ask me to write a custom version of the app that would change the unit of measurement, and then I could charge them through the nose for it.

@Shrink-wrapped
by Anonymous on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 19:37 UTC

Wouldn't worry too much, Darius. The "supported" versions of OSS are coming. And they are standardizing around software that is LGPL or MozillaPL. OSS proponents claim that Linux can't fork, but they are only right to an extent. When (not if) IBM or HP decides to only support their *own* version of Linux as it develops apps on top of GNOME (for example) then there has been an effective "fork." Immediately there is a market for standard libraries, etc. (which will be a relief anyway from the chaos that reigns now).

There _will_ be shrink-wrapped as long as we live. Higher level maybe (Java, or wxWindows), but definitely present. The fad will wear off as the business models develop. Most of the OSS on freshmeat is indeed very "fresh" (meaning, no threat). You're basically back to "build it or buy it", only there is a crazy notion in some fringe circles that a half-baked starting place from freshmeat isn't "building it yourself". When the shakeout is complete there will be still a need for the "bought" because the half-baked OSS stuff will not cut it.

lots of programmers...
by Mike on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 19:37 UTC

But are there really a lot of good programmers? I see a lot of apps coming out of the much heralded OSS community from nothing more than code monkeys and hacks. The few big Linux distros that I've looked at come littered with MANY applications that are of alpha or beta (I'm being generous) quality. I guess as long as it compiles without producing an error, it's good enough to slap on disk three of the latest mandrake release. I love Linux, but I'd rather have one or two truely great applications of any particular category than a hundred pieces of crap written by thousands of people around the world who don't follow the same coding styles or techniques to ensure a quality product. Of course this isn't the rule, but quantity usually isn't better than quality and choice for the sake of choice when your choices suck isn't something to brag about.

Re: Darius
by Hi on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 21:13 UTC

1. I can write the program and sell it for $1,000 to the first buyer, who could then give it away for free. But as I see, $10 is a helluva lot cheaper than $1,000, so how bad do you want the source code? Is it worth $990?
2. I can sell it for $10 giving away the source code to whoever wants it, and hope like hell that nobody will recompile it and give it away for free.
3. I can hope that somebody will ask me to write a custom version of the app that would change the unit of measurement, and then I could charge them through the nose for it.

4. Promise the source code after 1 year to paying customers. The software becomes free after you have made your money.

RE: cheezwog
by BR on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 21:38 UTC

I believe one of the stories last night was on a composer who wrote a lot of music for those famous acts. So maybe we should blame her instead of the acts.

Anyway the way things are going "artist" and "programmer" isn't going to be the only things starving.

The Greatest Art
by Tom on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 22:12 UTC

I'm not a great programer or even an average one. But, I would have been had I the talent. For me programming is the art of the mind or at least the art of logic (I know that is some sort of contradiction but ...). I think it is the greatest medium to express yourself in. I both envy and honor the great programmers. Bless them.

HTML is easy
by Scorched Earth on Tue 2nd Dec 2003 23:29 UTC

I always had this same thought with web programming. If you call creating a web site programming. Back when it was just HTML, anybody that wanted to learn how could just look at the source code through the web browser. After awhile it seem like everyone had a web site. Most of it wasn't well designed but the sites just kept springing up. Software came out so you could produce web pages like regular text documents. The HTML code generated by these programs were quite bad in most cases. Some software still generates bad HTML code today. With software generating HTML code, who needs experts? More time passed and Javascript, PHP, Java, XML, database backends, and ASP arrived. Now the casual HTML coder was lost unless they put the effort in to learn these new technologies. You can still use just HTML but you will not get a job creating web pages unless you know the newer technologies. So now the expert is back in the game. Now professional web sites need a graphics designer, a programmer, and a content manager. These professions may be done by one person but that person needs the skills.

In software programming, will there always be a need for experts even if the average person can use software to generate software? Will technologies always spring up that need programmers?

Low wage countries will always win
by Anonymous on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 00:23 UTC

The point that isn't being here is that someone in a low wage country can always undercut. $2000 a year is nothing in the US but it is a reasonable income in Russia. Non westerners can code just as well but they can do it for 1/10th the cost.

I've said this for a while...
by The Lone OSer on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 02:10 UTC

And people wonder why large corporates are looking off-shore for coders (i.e India) to try and keep costs way down, with free software becoming the thorn in the side of companies trying to make bread and butter, don't expect this situation to change quickly. The reality is, unless something is done here, more and more companies will go in to liquidation, which means less R&D in the commercial sector, which means less R&D in the hardware sector (to a degree, the software industry governs the hardware industry/market).. Truely, there is a point where free is indeed a bad thing.

re: I've said this for a while...
by Pete on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 02:33 UTC

"And people wonder why large corporates are looking off-shore for coders"

This is a standard technique of multinational corps for years.
There also used to be a clothing manufacturing industry
in the developed world. No longer.

If you demand products that are made locally, your money stays near your community. That probably flies in the face
of the internet and globalization but if companies can't sell products made *somewhere else*, those companies
will start to make them *here*.

Of course this all pre-supposes a willingness of people to
forego hardware, and software that are shrink wrapped using
child labour and anti-competitive wage practices.

Interesting...
by ChocolateCheeseCake on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 02:52 UTC

What I was thinking around 2 years ago was a software development co-operative which was jointly funded by a large number of companies. We have OSDL which is supported by IBM, SUN, HP/Compaq, NTT Docamo and numerous others.

What I suggest is to expand this concept much further out to the application world. For example, OpenOffice.org could be developed but rather than the businesses pay for it, they fund the development of these applications in the directions they want.

The net result is we have a non-profit organisation employing thousands of programmers whose sole purpose is to develop software for the people who fund them, whether it be an operating system or an application.

The days of Oracle, IBM and Microsoft ripping off customers would come to an end. Can Oracle truely justify charge the amount they do for a database? if there was a competitor which was free of charge and feature compatible in every way, would a business decide to continue donating a few grand each year to the OSDL lab knowing that the feature they want will be included or simply sit in hope that their requests are listened to.

Re: Interesting...
by The Lone OSer on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 03:07 UTC

>The net result is we have a non-profit organisation >employing thousands of programmers whose sole purpose is >to develop software for the people who fund them, whether >it be an operating system or an application.

And where would the companies get their money from to fund all these programmers?, if all the large corporates started funding all these programs that were released for free, where would they eventually make money?, their cashflow would soon dry up and we would be left with large defunct companies, free software no longer supported because all the developers are layed off, and an industry in complete chaos... Hmm, actually, the idea sounds quite good... places would end up having to ditch their computers and go back to pen & paper and hire more staff again to do all the tasks that computers used to do in the world.. actually I love it, lets get rid of IT.

Custom coding
by Good Grief on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 05:38 UTC

It is often said that 90% of programmers write custom code -- this argument often crops up during "OSS will kill the programming profession" discussions. While it seems to make sense, I've yet to find a source for this assertion. Could someone enlighten me?

Being uncharacteristically friendly,
GG

RE: Shrink-wrapped
by House of Mirrors on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 06:14 UTC

"This is why OSS will not reach the average user. They don't have any idealitic views of free-software. They want software that works."

Nonsense. This is simply underestimating the power of the word "Free". Most of the world is made up of cheapskates, not yuppies. People who cheat on taxes, clip coupons religiously, welch on bets, etc. As OSS becomes simpler and simpler to use, more people will turn their backs on proprietary software. People are tired of paying these outlandish prices for software.

Re: lots of programmers...
by House of Mirrors on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 06:23 UTC

"The few big Linux distros that I've looked at come littered with MANY applications that are of alpha or beta (I'm being generous) quality."

BS. There are many commercial, closed source pieces of software on the shelf that are crap, and they'll still charge you top dollar for them only so that you can get it home and have it crash on you. Gates will proudly proclaim that it's third party software that crashes, not Windows, but no matter who's fault it is, the end result is the same time and time again: "Would you like to send an error report to Microsoft?"

Re: Re: lots of programmers...
by Mike on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 07:06 UTC

You're right. There is crappy software everywhere. Todays faster computers have been able to disguise and make up for shoddy programming and inefficient code. As far as Windows is concerned though, I've never once heard somebody cite the fact that it comes with a bonus CD full of half-baked programs (it doesn't) as one of its great strengths over other OSs (see your average Linux distribution).

Always the need for somebody!
by mabhatter on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 07:13 UTC

Programming is like accounting...you always need somebody to look at YOUR situation. Sure you can buy an accounting package off the shelf, but you still need a pro to set you up if your serious about making money...same with programming. Why worry about the big software companies anyway...All MS and the like are selling is YOUR REPLACEMENT anyway. That's how they justify their high prices...by taking YOUR job. And now they want to export their paid workers too. MS has an equally large base of "free" software too. They don't have to pay anybody to keep stamping the same windows discs for the next 5 years either...The ONLY difference is that Bill Gates has got a lot of money from doing it when it was still "new & shiny" now it's not, and the money is going to go down accordingly. But just like garbage men, somebody will always be needed right now to pick up quick tasks. Like other posters have said, most small company programmers don't do ONLY programming anyway. They usually handle all the IT and some other department [engineering, supervision, etc] so in effect their wages are already "subsidized".

RE: The Lone OSer (IP: ---.globe.net.nz) - Posted on 2003-12-03 03:07:01
by ChocolateCheeseCake on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 09:18 UTC

"The net result is we have a non-profit organisation employing thousands of programmers whose sole purpose is to develop software for the people who fund them, whether it be an operating system or an application."

And where would the companies get their money from to fund all these programmers?, if all the large corporates started funding all these programs that were released for free, where would they eventually make money?, their cashflow would soon dry up and we would be left with large defunct companies, free software no longer supported because all the developers are layed off, and an industry in complete chaos... Hmm, actually, the idea sounds quite good... places would end up having to ditch their computers and go back to pen & paper and hire more staff again to do all the tasks that computers used to do in the world.. actually I love it, lets get rid of IT.


If you actually took 5minutes to think, most companies around the world USE IT. They have no interest in how or why it works. It is like a truck, serves a purpose.

If most people don't make a living off IT orientated industries, why should 85% of the market be held to ranson by 15% of the market demanding huge sums of money for software.

If I was a biscuit factory, how am I going to be affected by the IT world not making huge profits and instead concentrating on developing software for the customer? If a corporative is funded by every large business around the world, this co-operative would be just like any other organisation but instead of producing products for hype, they are making products for the customers who fund them.

@psycosis
by ThanatosNL on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 11:09 UTC

To be fair, it's not access to the source code itself that prevents people from being able to make money off of GPL'ed software. It's the fact that anyone has the legal right to turn around and redistribute the source code that prevents you from making money off of the software itself.

RE: Interesting
by Scorched Earth on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 16:38 UTC

Interesting idea. This is how I view the cooperative model.

The cooperative model would work for general software like word processors, email software, common software libraries, and software that average consumers might want. Companies such as pharmaceuticals, automotive, food services, and other non-software related could fund the cooperatives. Even Universities could provide funding.

The will still be a need for programmers in specialized areas. Custom business software, embedded systems, research, and possibly the computer gaming industry.

Then there will be the programmers in the cooperatives. They probably won't make as much money as the specialized fields but they will be paid.

Another field is teaching. Some programmers make excellent teachers.

The software that the cooperatives produce would be competing with OSS. Where the cooperatives would produce one product in a category, OSS would provide alternatives in the category.

Businesses that produce only general software will either have to switch to a cooperative model or find a new avenue to pursue.


Code & Art
by MaB on Wed 3rd Dec 2003 17:02 UTC

(sorry for grammar...french one here...)

There is music which is NOT art
There is paintings which are NOT art
There is movies which are NOT art

There is math which is art
There is software which is art

What is art to me ?
The ability to communicate new/different ideas/concept/forms/... and share/confronte your personnal view of the world

So to me, software is art if it only express "someone's way".

You can be a middle-age indian sitar player only interessted in earning is life by playing for the rich (the commercial developper).
Or, the opposite, be a free-jazz player trying to give music something else, something more, something you want to add (the oss developper).
As there is place for both musician in life, there is place for both developpers.

It'll be a problem when there will only be on of them left.

Then we'll lost the diversity. Which is life.

Programming and creating art ARE NOT comparable ...
by ssme on Sun 7th Dec 2003 04:44 UTC

... because any crap/thing can be art - depending on marketing or pure luck being in the correct place at correct time.

On the other hand - a code can be a program only if it runs without ...er... major errors, to start with.

regards