Is it hypocritical of me? April 10, 2008
I am a software developer, but I will not buy most of the software that I use. Don't worry, I don't steal it. But I find that there's tons of software out there that's "free" but also good. I'm not talking about "Lite" versions of software, or "Shareware" trial versions that you can hack to never have to register / buy... I'm talking about FREE SOFTWARE that the authors wrote out of the kindness of their heart (and a huge curiosity and desperate search for knowledge) that they put on websites somewhere, put the code out there, and said "Here. Enjoy."
I know I couldn't have a job right now if all software was free. But custom development is another story. If someone needs an online scheduling system, then I (we) will write them one. I'm sure they could find one online and tweak it, but that's usually a shot in the dark. There's also somewhat of a difference between working out of curiosity and working to put food on the table. I've done an online scheduling system, it wouldn't be fun or illuminating since I've already done it.
The thing with software is that if you're making it for fun or out of curiosity, the cost of reproducing it today is so cheap. The same thing everyone's figuring out about music and movies. You produce it once, and everyone in the world can have a copy if you can get it to them. It's kind of crappy that we all still have to pay $0.99 per song at most places we can get digital music. Some software, however, can cost millions of dollars to produce, and these should charge hefty sums. But if you're just doing it out of curiosity and to learn something new, putting it on the web, even just code in html or something, gives that knowledge to everyone who happens to come across it. Then they can be inspired to try something new with it, and if they learn something out of it, they would share it with you since you sparked their interest and gave them that initial knowledge to light that fire under their bums.
Software today is generally in good shape this way. There are sites dedicated to sharing code (sourceforge.net to name one). There are sites set up to provide legal assistance to those looking to open source their code in a way that if someone uses it, they can't sue them if it goes bad. These licenses generally also state that if the next person makes changes, (s)he's free to either send the changes back to the original author to improve that software, or put his or her changes up on their own website and pass it on to people under the same license (free and open source). You don't see this type of stuff in business, only in SCIENCE. Science is the pursuit of knowledge. That's what it's all about baby.