Developers, You Need to Stop Being so Stingy

I was listening to Episode 16 of the Entreprogrammers podcast this morning and one of their conversations really got to me.

They were talking about how developers expect to get everything for free, and I think this really is true, even for me.

Deep down I think this is because we are all creators at heart. Whether you’re working on an open-source project, working for a big company, or just writing some code in your spare time, what we are really doing is creating something for someone else to use.

Since we are creating something for someone else, we feel like the tools we use to “provide the world with our greatness” should be free. Let us make the world a better place, right?

But the thing is, someone has to be making tools for us to use to create, and we have to support them in order for our lives to be easier. In fact, these people probably feel the same way. They’re spending their time creating something for someone else to use.

In the end, we all want to get paid. I’ve got a day job to make money, and I like to work on side-projects (hopefully to make money).

And one more note to mention is that your employer likes productivity. If they can spend $20 or even a few hundred dollars to save you time, they are actually making money if it increases your productivity. So don’t be afraid to ask your boss or IT department to buy something for you, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to if you explain the pros and how much time it can save you.

So, here’s my challenge:

Spend some money today.

Pick one or two of the things that really help you, and contribute some monetary investment into them, even if it’s only $10 or $20. Let me know who you supported and why in the comments below.

Here’s what I bought today:

Bought Nathan Barry’s book Authority – $99

I’ve been reading Nathan Barry’s blog for a long time, and it’s what finally got me off my ass to begin writing this blog and I’m thinking of writing a book. That’s $99 well spent in my opinion, plus the book has some really great advice that I think is going to help me along my journey.

Had my employer buy the Sublime Text SFTP Plugin – $20

I’ve been using this plugin for 3 years. I was still on the free trial and get a popup window asking me to buy about every 5 file saves. Not only is that annoying, but if I haven’t gotten $20 worth of value out of this in 3 years, I would have deleted it by now. This plugin drastically improves my productivity at work, so I talked to my IT manager and had them buy me a license.

Reached out to Derick Bailey to send him a monetary thank you – $20

I’ve been listening to Derick Bailey on the Entreprogrammers podcast and recently completed his email course on utilizing Javascripts “this” keyword. There was definitely some valuable information in here. He offers a screencast subscription that teaches Javascript called WatchMeCode that you can buy, but I just wanted to thank him for his free email course, so I reached out asking if I can just send him $20.

I finally paid for Adobe Creative Cloud – $49/month

Let’s be real for a minute. I’m pretty sure that the Adobe software suite is probably one of the most stolen pieces of software in history. In fact, I was admittedly on that bandwagon. After all I’m a developer, and I probably don’t use the suite as much as designers. However, there is no doubt in my mind that this software is amazing, and I’ve started to use it more and more. So I bit the bullet and signed up for their full product line at $49/month.

Total: $188

Now, I probably went a little overboard for one day, but you get the point. These are all people or software that have contributed to my personal development as a programmer.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and spend some money to show someone you support them or their product.

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  • Grumpy Programmer

    As a programmer, I support this, but as a user, my problem with it is that virtually all software is terrible. I can look at the applications I’ve purchased on my computer here, and I’m disappointed with every one of them. This one has a bunch of bugs that make it unusable, and the developer has been unable to fix them for over a year. That one has a UI that looked good in screenshots but is totally unusable, and the developer keeps adding new features (and bugs) without fixing the crap that’s already there. This other one took a week on the phone with tech support just to get the installer to stop crashing. There’s another one I kind of liked but I can’t use it any more because they never updated it to work with a recent version of the OS.

    Free software is usually clunky, but I don’t regret the money I spent on it, because it was usually $0, and I can fix the problems myself. It’s kind of like how I’d never spend good money on a bad car, but if somebody offered me a “fixer-upper” for free, I might go for it. (It’s not a great analogy, I realize: even a bad car you can fix yourself. A bad proprietary program generally can’t be fixed by the user at all.)

    Spending money on software is troublesome for another reason: I feel invested in it. If it turns out to be total crap, I try to keep making it work, because I don’t want that money to have been spent in vain, even though that’s an irrational decision. Often I find myself having spent money *and* time on something that didn’t work at all. When it’s free, at least it’s easy to say “Well, this is junk” and move on right away.

    I’m trying to remember the last software I paid for that I didn’t totally regret a month later, from 99 cent mobile apps up to $500+ professional software, and I can think of only 2 programs I’ve ever purchased that meet this criteria. (One cost about $50, I think, and the other was $25. If I had to pick a third least-hated app, it would be a $4 one. There is no correlation, AFAICT, between price and quality. As a consumer, that’s disappointing, because it means I can’t just spend more money and get better software, but as a developer, it’s also expected, because software doesn’t really have an inherent price, and we’re usually just guessing what “the market will bear”.) So when I’m looking at software, I consider there’s a 90-something-percent chance that I’ll just regret it later. Then I see the café across the street selling lattes and realize that I’ve almost never had a bad latte there, so there’s a 90-something-percent chance I’ll really enjoy spending my money there instead. It’d be great if spending my money in the right places could somehow (in an Adam Smith way) convince more programmers to make software that was reliable and well-designed instead of flashy, but I see no evidence that I can, even in a small way.

    Now, if there were a way I could throw my money at fixing specific bugs, or improving specific issues, I would pay in a heartbeat! If I could take the first buggy program I mentioned, for example, and give them $10 to fix the bugs I ran into, so that I could use it, I absolutely would. Unfortunately there’s really no way to do this with proprietary software. They’re not interested in an extra $10 from me. They only care about getting the 90% cases right, so they can sell another 10,000 copies to new users at $50 a head. With free software it’s usually easy enough to just fix it myself rather than paying someone else.