Monday, October 08, 2007

The value of information

Fellow developers have jokingly labeled me a book addict, and I can see where they are coming from. I think if it wasn't for the negative connotations attached to being an "addict" of anything, I would accept the moniker.

Every 3 months I get withdrawal since I haven't bought a book in 3 months! So I go trawling Amazon looking for my next purchase.

There are currently a total of 10 books on my shelf here on my desk. Looking at them I mentally total up how much money is sitting there, at an average of $30 a book, that makes for about R2500 in total!

But every cent is worth it.

So what about the contention that there is already enough information available for free on the net. People that say that are patently not aware of how different "pay per view" information is. It is just soooo much better, and for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that with information that you buy, the better the quality, the more people will buy. Since free information is by definition, freely available, quality is not put at a premium because the author does not stand to gain from producing quality information.

That's not to say it's all bad. Both the spring online reference and the hibernate
online reference are very good. But as their name suggests they are more of the reference type of document. Bought information, as long as it's pitched at the right level, is usually a lot more comprehensive in it's treatment of the subject matter such that even for newbies it's comprehensible then free information.

Furthermore, because I have gained so much value from the books that I've bought, when it comes to hiring decisions people should take very seriously the candidate's attitude to books and such like.

Without the books I have on my shelf, I'd be nowhere near where I am today, and while I don't have a book on a particular subject, I feel there's a hole that must be filled.

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The major advantage Open Source has...

Open source software has been around a long time and it has traditionally played second fiddle to closed source software. The differentiation here is betweeen software that is free where you get the source and can make modifications to it and software that is not free, you have to buy it and you don't have access to the source.

Because open source software is freely available and thus does not require money being spent to acquire, what tends to happen in a development shop is that developers recognise a need they have and immediately go trawling around looking for an open source solution to meet that need. If they find one, even if it does not do all of what they want, the download it and use it. the key issue here is that there is no need for approval for the use of this kind of software because the software is free. Clearly it is fulfilling a need otherwise it would not have been sought in the first place.

It empowers the developers to find and use the tools they require.

If a tool is closed source, then you always have to weigh up the value it might add over the cost to purchase. It also needs to go through an approval process which might be fairly onerous, and then the final decision is often made by a non developer. Does it add enough value to warrant the cost. Personally, companies need to be a lot more eager to spend money on closed source tools because they've probably saved money because they're using some open source tools, Eclipse and NetBeans for example. What is more, as someone here pointed out, getting $20 cleared is just as difficult as getting $1000 cleared. So the cost is really not the issue. It is the _fact_ the money is required.

So come on open source, build us developers, more tools so we can use them.

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