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    Thoughts on Entitlement and Pricing programming bitquabit.com
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    I have an immediate viscerally negative reaction to people being called “entitled”. Sometimes it’s accurate and I get over myself, but very frequently “entitlement” is used to dismiss concerns without really addressing them, and I think this article falls squarely in the latter camp. Of all the arguments against this, cost is actually one I haven’t seen much of, so railing against it rings false at best.

    Personally, I’m opposed to the change for a single very simple reason: software licensing is bullshit. Therefore, by immediate consequence, JetBrains’s change in pricing structure to be more license-like is also bullshit. When I pay for a piece of software and have it running on my systems, for all practical intents and purposes I own it—the “license” is a ridiculous piece of legal fiction used to allow software companies to take action against software that, again, for all practical intents and purposes I own. Interfering with people’s use of their software is a violation of their most fundamental rights to it and is thus to be discouraged by all means.

    (To catch a few potential counterpoints: support and maintenance contracts, and true SaaS, are somewhat different, as the entity providing them is actually providing something and also generally incurring costs to do so that it’s reasonable for them to recoup.)

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      Interfering with people’s use of their software is a violation of their most fundamental rights

      The flip side of this is that people should not be permitted to make contracts. There is some software I wrote, on my laptop. Maybe you’d like to use it? Do you have a moral claim that you deserve to use it merely because it exists? Perhaps I, as the author, should be permitted to negotiate the conditions under which I provide my software to you. Naturally, if you don’t like the terms, and we don’t come to an agreement, you should not be forced to accept them. Is that crazy talk?

      If the answer is that I am not allowed, in any circumstance, to rent out my software, then maybe the answer is you don’t get to use it at all.

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        I would be fine with restricting these kinds of contracts. That was already done with books via the first-sale doctrine. Publishers tried to “license” books to customers rather than selling them, which was ruled unenforceable. I don’t see why software publishers should be treated differently than book publishers in that respect.

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          Well, not to worry. Soon you won’t be able to buy software at any price. You’ll only be able to rent access to it. Problem solved…

          In a few years time, I’m sure ReSharper will only be a website where you enter your github project name, and it submits a pull request. No need to corrupt your computer with impure software you don’t own.

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          People are already not permitted to make certain contracts. Contracts with illegal terms are unenforceable. In this particular case, physical goods are covered by the doctrine of first sale: once an object has been sold, the copyright holder has no more rights to dictate what is done with it. Software slipped past this doctrine somehow (by my guess, likely because it’s confusingly easy to copy and the legal profession is intensely conservative and very slow to adapt) and is far past due for correction.

          Personally, I don’t care if everyone licensing software takes their ball and goes home, because I primarily use free software that doesn’t attempt to limit my personal use of it, but I certainly recognize that this is not true or feasible for everyone.

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            The first sale doctrine doesn’t apply to lots of things, like car leases. It’s my car, except it isn’t. I can drive it how I want, except I can’t. Extending this concept to software doesn’t seem far fetched.

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              Extending this concept to software doesn’t seem far fetched.

              Unless one happens to disagree with the notion that software is even property in the first place. Although one might consider this far-fetched given current legal norms. (I’m not one of them and I would absolutely reject your analogy on those grounds.)

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          Would you be happy if, when you bought and owned a piece of software, you were not at all entitled to ongoing updates and support? That they’d be completely unbunded and available separately? Just as you own the thing and can do what you like with it, the company does not have an automatic obligation to you once the sale is complete (modulo the “product was criminally negligent” kind of thing inherent in all sales). Elsewhere in the thread @mjn made the comparison to books and I considered the case that a second printing of a book (let alone a second editon) is an independent purchase, regardless of how many typos get fixed from the first printing you bought.

          The obvious problem with this is it gives the companies perverse incentives to low quality software and documentation to ensure future sales of new editions and support. And I guess that’s why I lean towards software by subscription (after my preferred alternative of FOSS): it aligns incentives for providers and customers. Software is only rarely “done” and even if a physical artifact can be shipped and sold discretely, the ongoing improvement is vital.

          Maybe there’d be better conditions for one-and-done sales if the law changed to make “no warranty, express or implied” and “no fitness for a particular purpose” clauses unenforceable, so customers could and did start winning judgements for defective software, would companies get a lot more serious about reliability and quality. (I think is inevitable in software, but it’s probably 20-30 years out after software gets closer automating the drudgery office workers engage in.)

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          Nice rant there (I hit a lot of the same points in a comment a few minutes ago), but it keeps talking about the topic as a personal thing rather than a systemic thing. The subject of almost every sentence is “I” or a criticizing programmer.

          Yes, I know, we’d all like the JetBrains office to never fall down, but it’s their choice to insist on spending money to put up support columns. I choose to use support columns in their house, but not every programmer is or needs to be concerned with gravity.“ etc etc

          It’s the late capitalism thing where everything an institution does should only be responded to with petty personal responses instead of digging into systems and redesigning them (a thing programmers have some training at). Eg. if offices are noisy and loud and interrupt you all the time, the first response is always “buy headphones” not “let’s put up some walls in the office” or “let’s institute some social norms like library quiet rules”. I’m not so tinfoil-hatty that I think there’s a dimly lit room of cigar-chompers who planned this (and it’s actually more ominious that, eg. “when you’re young”) but… this is a thing late capitalism has trained into us.

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            I actually agree with you, but I also think that gets into a truly fascinating discussion of writing styles and different audiences.

            The comments that spurred me to write this blog post were all very personal, and indeed very egocentric. If I’d written this as a dispassionate essay on how JetBrains' actions make a tremendous amount of sense in the current software market, it’d have seemed like an almost emotionally alienated response, and I think it would’ve been a lot less effective.

            If I were writing for an academic journal, then yes, there’s a really fascinating economic argument to be made about how subscription pricing may be able to save for-pay software, why people are rebelling against it, how much of that might be behavioral versus structural, whether subscription-based software for writing subscription-based software will result in a bizarre bubble, and a bunch of other things. This can be approached dispassionately, with subtlety, and with finesse. I hope someone writes that article, because i’d love to read it. But I think my more personal response works better taking a similar tone to the original comments.

            I dunno; I waffle a lot on whether it’d be better if I never “stooped” to the highly personal angle that bitquabit takes a lot of the time, but I feel like it’s my personal blog, and a bit of egocentrism is fine there. There are a lot of blogs I admire that take the opposite tack, and I don’t think they’re worse off for it, but they also tend to be a lot more technically focused and less politically focused than a lot of what I write about.

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              I dunno; I waffle a lot on whether it’d be better if I never “stooped” to the highly personal angle that bitquabit takes a lot of the time, but I feel like it’s my personal blog, and a bit of egocentrism is fine there. There are a lot of blogs I admire that take the opposite tack, and I don’t think they’re worse off for it, but they also tend to be a lot more technically focused and less politically focused than a lot of what I write about.

              Nice point :)

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              Yeah - if you aren’t put off by the transhumanism that’s interwoven with it, Meditations on Moloch is a lengthy undirected ramble about how bad things happen because we mutually give each other no choice but to prop up systems that hurt everybody, and how far back the problem goes and why it can probably never be fixed.

              Not a new idea, and the “when you’re young” quote is a good example of it. Just a dramatic perspective on it that was a bit refreshing by virtue of being so surprisingly different in tone from a sober essay on economics and sociology.

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                Hah–I was actually about to link to the quote from the PD of the goddess saying to a befrought Malclypse “Well, then stop”…

                …but it’s like right there, a page down in your link. :)

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                  Yes. :)

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              Quite a few even are whining about how any self-respecting developer should be using open-source tools

              Few weasel words in the English language are more hostile, meaningless and distracting than “whining”. What a mean-minded article.

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                Flagged, short rant, nothing new.

                Worse, it’s something clearly just in flamey response to a bit of non-news. We shouldn’t support those kinds of submissions here.

                Need a rant tag, programming is misapplied here.

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                  Minor note. Assuming a US salary of $85,000 don’t forget to factor in taxes! Something like 35-40% tax overhead depending on state and various possible deductions. So for that 85k gross, the net pay may be more like 55k or so. As a result, your “Thirty minutes of income if we’re going off that earlier $85,000/year figure” would likely be more like an hour of work (assuming 8 hour days and 251 days of work in a year).

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                    If it is a work expense, you can probably deduct it thus paying for it in pre-tax dollars. If you are a business, almost certainly so.

                    I currently use pycharm quite a lot and will most likely subscribe once my current version is no longer the latest.

                    I just wish it ran less slowly on my laptop.

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                    As far as development tools go, I’m not willing to use something that isn’t libre. I can see the argument that JetBrains stuff isn’t the same kind of thing as nonfree compilers and build systems though, so maybe they would get a pass.

                    As far as seeing the development of software actually get paid for: this is a difficult topic, and I have yet to find a good solution. I am personally trying to do this weird thing where I develop a product (which is GPLv3ed, and available to anyone that wants it), which I turn into a ‘service’ for myself a la a private SaaS, which I then use to more efficiently provide a ‘service’ a la ‘the service economy’. Basically, to be more like a plumber who just happens to spend half his time researching fluid dynamics and industrial engineering, rather than a researcher who has to get funding to research… somehow. But, this approach does not seem like it would work well for a traditional product company.

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                      Also, obviously, eventually taking commissions to improve the product from people who would rather pay for improvements in money than with patches. Not planning on this being a core part of the business though, as I am not that optimistic.

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                      The very first “citation” is sloppy. The URL is for a Google search where the author manages to misspell the word salary (although this doesn’t stop Google from finding the right answer) and, worse still, cites a different number than the one in the search result (85k VS 96k).

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                        Heh. I like that software developers make $15k more than computer programmers.