Subject: Re: Kent Beck's talk
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 04 Aug 2004 19:11:56 -0400

Adam Turoff <> writes:

> Hm.  If Kent were looking for developer-as-artist, the talk would have
> been over before it began.  He sounded like he backed into that model
> because paying employees to work on open source makes no economic sense
> (in his estimation).

And yet there are several companies that do it, including four
companies for which I have worked, two of which are still in business.
Are they idiots?  Or have they just figured out niches where it makes

> Kent said on more than one occasion that he was looking for a "whole
> job" that would let him be a "whole person".

Yes, well, aren't we all.  I've heard that thought countless times
over the years.  Just think of how many people you know for whom a job
is just something they do to earn money for their real life.  When I
was younger I used to tell people "work is not a productive use of my
time," and I was initially startled by how many people quite seriously
agreed with me.  I think it is a basic problem with capitalism and/or
modern society that so many people are unable to find a "whole job."
(Or, I dunno, maybe the problem is that most people are just naturally

If there is a solution to the general problem, I don't think that free
software is a significant part of it, except perhaps for a very small
percentage of the population.  The FSB list is indeed about finding
such a job, or such a life, for those people who like free software,
but let's not imagine that this issue is restricted to the software

> The most important point I got from the talk was that something is
> _fundementally_ wrong here.  It could be reality, our model of reality,
> or Kent's grip on reality.

I think it's reality.

> Personally, I think Kent is on to something.
> Fifteen years ago, if you built a better lint, programmers would be
> happy to pay an hour's wages for the tool, enough so that you could make
> a living and work on it full time for years to come.  

That does not accord with my recollection of life fifteen years ago.
I agree that people would pay an hour's wages for a tool, but you
would up getting enough for a week, or maybe a month.  Practically
nobody outside Microsoft could work full time for years selling tools.