I was reading a post by Phil Haack about Recognition Compensation which was somewhat in reference to recent news over MVP renewals. I feel there’s no further comments required on all the rewards and compensations surrounding this and other programs. This post is not about that, but about something he mentioned, something I’ve come across quite often:
The other reason folks want an MVP is to have access to the professional tools. Most companies will easily shell out the money for this, but if you’re a hobbyist or open source developer, it’s a lot of money to shell out.
First of all, let me make it very clear that this has nothing to do with OSS. Let me also state that at JetBrains we fully support Open Source Development, and we do this in many ways. Some of our tools are fully Open Source, others have OSS Community Editions. We also provide free licenses to OSS projects of pretty much all of our tools, as well as collaborate with the folks at Codebetter to offer free Continuous Integration and Issue Tracking software for all Open Source Projects (in fact, TeamCity and YouTrack are even provided for free for smaller teams). In addition to this, many of us at JetBrains spend quite a bit of our time working on OSS projects.
These are policies that I identify myself with and that’s why I’m very happy to be part of such a great company. Having said that, let’s move on…
Hobbies cost money
Collin’s Dictionary defines Hobby as:
In our context, it’s an activity pursued in spare time for pleasure or relaxation.
It’s what people do to switch off. It’s what they do to get away from their daily job. It’s what they do to relax. Stamp Collecting, Photography, Painting, Knitting, Astronomy, Playing a Guitar are examples of hobbies.
Many of these hobbies cost money. Some of these are one-time investments, others have ongoing costs. Photography requires a good camera. Painting requires a constant stock-up. Things which would seem like an upfront only investment also turn out not to be. You buy yourself an electric guitar. Once you learn to play it half-decent, you want a better sounding amp. Next you need a few pedals and ultimately want a better guitar.
how is development as a hobby different?
My main hobby (after stumbling with a guitar) is learning new programming languages, frameworks and stepping outside of my comfort zone. It might be sad that I have little interests outside of my profession, but I find it somewhat fortunate because it means that I love what I do so much that if I weren’t doing it, I’d be doing it, if that makes sense.
I’m also fortunate that my hobby contributes to my career. Of course, I don’t get to play my guitar as much as I’d like to, but I do get to learn new ways of doing things that broaden my horizons. As such, I invest in my hobby, be it with books, software tools, hardware and whatever else I need. And I don’t look at it as a ROI because that’s not what a hobby is about. It’s not about how much bang you get for your buck.
Whatever the hobby, be it playing a guitar or collecting stamps, people have little problem with spending money on it. Yet why do we draw the line when it comes to software?
I do this as a hobby, why should I pay?
Is it because software is not tangible?
We see this outside of developer and hobbyist circles too. People will spend thousands of euros on a MacBook Pro, but then look for free password keepers instead of paying $70 to buy 1Password. They’ll use free alternatives even if they’re half as good as a paid one. And of course, in countries like Spain, where we’re ranked as second highest in software piracy in Europe, it’s just downloaded off of some torrent site.
We, developers, of all people, the ones that charge money to write or aid in writing end-user software, should be the first to know that the value of software is not measured by how much it weights or what it feels like. If we understand that, why do we suddenly feel that working on something as a hobby doesn’t deserve monetary investment?