Economics of humane software

I would like to hear your opinions on the matter of software economics in the age of humane software.

  • How should software be distributed?
  • How should software be priced? Should it be sold at all?
  • How source code should be treated? Is open-source distribution a requisite for humane software?
  • How should humane software companies be organized? Is it desirable or not to have huge companies and monopolies?
  • How should politics and law relate to humane software?
  • Where the liability of humane software companies starts and where it ends?
  • How inclusiveness should be approached by humane software companies?

There is a multitude of questions like this in my head, I just exposed some and hope they are enough to start a deep dialogue about the subject.

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Here’s some preliminary evidence in favor of the commercial viability at all for humane software!

It seems viable, but I wonder whether or not those who shell out $500 now for Roam will regret it. Could it be likely that cheaper alternatives will come about in a relatively short time from now?

(Edit: closed-end statement -> open-ended question)

Great ongoing question. Check out this Twitter thread by Andy Matuschak for some neat ways of thinking about this

I’m not super academic about things in general so a lot of the thinking around tools for thought goes over my head. But here are my thoughts and observations making Kinopio.club.

Kinopio is commercial a spatial visual thinking tool that I’ve been working on for almost 2 years but so far, is growing but is far from economically sustainable.

How should software be distributed?

We really only have two options these days, as a local application with access to the filesystem or as a web app with the potential to run on any device.

How should software be priced? Should it be sold at all?

Pricing is a dark art and there’s lots to know about pricing theory, but all of it is extremely contextual so no silver bullets.

Software has financial value because our work and skills have value. My experience is that people prefer to pay for software they put important thoughts into because it sets up positive, transparent motivations between customer and seller.

How source code should be treated? Is open-source distribution a requisite for humane software?

I don’t think open source code is a pre-requisite for OSS. Lots of non-coders use software too. What matters most, imo, is transparency of decision-making and business operations.

How should humane software companies be organized? Is it desirable or not to have huge companies and monopolies?

There are good and bad large companies, but large companies have big challenges:

  • developers and designers are farther removed from customers,
  • it’s harder to know who does what, giving more room for asshole-y or group-think decision making

I think companies should be as large as they need to be to deliver a great product – and no larger. Many CEOs I’ve known use number of employees, or office space size as a vanity metric to pump themselves up.

How should politics and law relate to humane software?
Where the liability of humane software companies starts and where it ends?

Privacy laws like GDPR definitely apply. In general I believe that regulation should encourage competition, and not cement the position of current market leaders.

How inclusiveness should be approached by humane software companies?

Rather than approach inclusivity as purely altruism, companies should recognize that diversity is an asset that leads to better decision making.

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