Too much free software?


Thanks to Amanda for pointing me at the following article on FreshMeat that describes perhaps the most significant issue in the free software movement, quality.

The barrier to entry being as low as it is (relatively), many free software providers would rather build it themselves than coordinate with other groups of like-minded individuals and make solutions that may provide a better overall experience for the user.

In the commercial world, those of us who write software for a living are bound by a responsibility to our users to make sure that the software we create has marketable attributes. Usually, the key attributes are quality (nobody pays for software that crashes), features (users want a product that does something they need to do), and integration (they don't want to have to patch together a series of 20 programs manually to do a job). Our gauge of hwo well we meet these criteria is revenue. If people buy your stuff, you're probably hitting at least 2 of the three.

In the free software world, most people develop products for fame or personal use. If a developer is looking for fame, they may have enough of an incentive to keep their nose clean that they want to make reasonable decisions to make the users happy. If they are developing software for personal use, they are more likely than not to say, "no, but thank you for your input."

Unfortunately, in either case, there is no guarantee that the right (or even popular) decision will be taken. As crude as it is, the market provides an incentive to make products that people actually find value in, and as such makes it much more likely that you will be able to find what you want or need... at a price.