Subject: Re: How accurate is Metcalfe's law? (Was: Ximian software)
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: 07 Jan 2002 16:46:48 +0900

>>>>> "Ian" == Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:

    Ian> You misdescribed the point I was trying to make, no doubt
    Ian> because I did not describe it clearly myself.

I don't think so.  You observed that some software seems to be priced
far higher than the cost of producing it, in terms of developer time.
The distortion has little to do with licensing; to use your example,
what is the difference in licensing between Windows and BEA Weblogic?

Also, in that example, you might want to look at the total (direct)
revenues from the product over the life of the product, and compare to
development and maintenance costs over the life-cycle.  Weblogic has
to be priced a lot higher per unit than Windows to amortize those
costs.  You also have to add in non-development costs, and risk

    Ian> Nobody who wants to write a new word processor or a new
    Ian> spreadsheet or a new version of Windows has to work around
    Ian> any IP.

True, but anybody who doesn't give a hoot about _writing_ one, but
does want to _sell_ one, does have to work around IP.  They can't sell
Windows or Word without dealing with Microsoft's IP.

    Ian> However, I'm a programmer, and I don't believe that software
    Ian> [creation amounts to "accidental" discovery of obscure
    Ian> ideas].  Although there are a few exceptions, most good ideas
    Ian> in software are obvious

    >> Fred Brooks says that's wishful thinking.  Programmers have
    >> very strong incentives believe that; I'm not surprised you do.
    >> By the same token, I have to say that on this I trust the
    >> managers more than I do the engineers.

    Ian> Why do programmers have a strong incentive to believe that?
    Ian> I would think that programmers would have an incentive to
    Ian> believe the reverse: that they were very clever in their
    Ian> ideas.  I've certainly known several programmers who thought
    Ian> just that.

Right.  Those guys also believe they could reproduce any given
software product as fast as they can type, don't they?  I have heard
many programmers trash-talk others in the light of the other
programmers' nearly complete solutions.  I have heard many programmers
say "oh, we don't need to worry about that issue now; if there's a bug
we'll fix it."  I've rarely heard a programmer talk about how
irreplaceably clever some _other_ programmer (or the architect) was.

Just because hubris is hypocritical doesn't mean that it isn't hubris.

    Ian> Can you point me to where Fred Brooks said that was wishful
    Ian> thinking?

This is the whole point of "No Silver Bullet," as I see it.

"Accidents" in implementation and testing according to Brooks are not
usually responsible for schedule slippages, etc; it's the "essential"
difficulty of design (ie, coming up with good ideas, and more central,
the good meta-ideas that link the good ideas) that is so costly.

    Ian> I'll add that most managers I've worked with tend to make the
    Ian> mistake that programmers can do anything which can be
    Ian> described.

This isn't surprising, either.

    Ian> I was challenging your statement: [licensing] is not the only
    Ian> way [to link developer compensation to user value].

Oh, I see.  I hardly think it's responsive to my point though.  I
assumed that software would be delivered to users (whether in-house or
through the market).  You're saying "we can compensate developers by
withholding the product from the market entirely"!

Note that the "ASP solution" nearly completely cuts the link to the
"user value" that is the raison d'etre of this list: the value to
other developers.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
              Don't ask how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.