Subject: Re: Kent Beck's talk
From: Taran Rampersad <>
Date: Thu, 05 Aug 2004 01:41:00 -0500

Adam Turoff wrote:
// snipped some good stuff

>Eventually, the add-on tools got bundled into the core development
>environment to drive upgrades, switching vendors or even switching
>languages.  And the open source tools got better and more integrated as
>well.  And the price on programming tools dropped to the floor to the
>point as a general rule, they are all available free-of-charge, except
>in some edge cases and specialized markets.  Even Microsoft's core tools
>are free-of-charge today.
Err... I don't think Microsoft's core tools are free of charge today. I 
think you pay for the package (Microsoft Developer Studio Version++, 
MSDN Library++, etc), but I am somewhat out of the loop there.

>In the process, a tool like JUnit that could have easily fetched, say,
>$100/seat fifteen years ago, is open source today.  And there is an
>expectation that anyone would use a tool like JUnit (or Ant) today
>wouldn't pay for it if it were for sale.  They'd suffer without, use a
>different open source tool, or start writing an open source tool to
>replace it.  
The market I mentioned in my email *would* pay for it for the same 
reason that they pay for path testing software. DoD and other software 
shops often require certification of their processes, through SEI or Six 
Sigma or ISO 9001 or all of the above. This presents a problem in 
testing, because if the software testers are writing their own code to 
test the shops code, it stands to reason that the software test tools 
have to therefore develop their testing software according to a software 
process, and therefore they have to test it according to test the 
process, and then you have to write software to test the test software 
and then you have to...

The answer was, and probably still is, COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf). 
It's a high dollar market that's hidden from most people. Back in 1999, 
I saw one department at Honeywell (not even the SOFWTARE TEST 
department!) spend about $20,000 (U.S.) in licensing and support (for a 
year) on one package alone which did path testing - and that was for 2 
engineers. The Software Test department had to pay the licensing so that 
they could use it to test the software, which was a big issue with lots 
of meetings and lots of donuts. Because of the licensing, the person who 
tested the software had to have a license, and the Software Test 
department was notorious for having a higher turnover than McDonalds 
(another reason these places probably won't ever do internal development 
of their software testing tools). Few people actually wanted to be in 
Software Test, most people just wanted jobs writing software. There 
could be good synergy there too...

Now here's the kicker: The COTS software doesn't have to be certified 
ISO 9001, SEI or Six Sigma. It has to be *simply something not developed 
there*. Provide the value at a reasonable cost. Heck, the amount of 
money some DoD contractors toss at development tools alone...

>My point remains that at one point in time, Kent Beck *could* have made
>a living working on a tool like JUnit.  From what I remember about 1989,
>if he had released a product to help programmers write better software
>(on the order of ~$1B/year in productivity gains), he would have been
>able to have his "whole job" focusing on JUnit, earning enough money
>to pay the mortgage and his daughter's tuition.  
>But it's not 1989 anymore, and something is different, to the point
>where even if he is truly delivering $1B in value to the industry as a
>whole, there is no expectation that working on a tool like JUnit should
>provide him any income whatsoever.
I agree that the market has reduced - but there's still a very lucrative 
market. Some software has to be certified, and software used for 
testing... The average software company that doesn't need to certify 
their software doesn't need to pay for these tools anymore. BUT... they 
could still use these tools, and corporations that do need to certify 
have to certify their software can fund them. It means breaking away 
from writing code and actually networking into some of these companies - 
and be ready with support contracts.

There's oil in them thar hills, but it's not running down in rivers. You 
have to drill.

Taran Rampersad