Geeks in Cubicles, The “Browser Wars”, Unpaid Workers are “Truly Dedicated”

The Browser Wars Rage On
While reading the latest Time Magazine about how you are the person of the year, I stumbled across some interesting stuff. In this Time Magazine article, we learn that Blake Ross is “Outfoxing Microsoft” with the Firefox web brower. Are there really any living human beings left that care about the “browser wars”? I thought it was all about content now. Oh, Well.

Near the beginning of the article, we get this jewel regarding how most software is developed:

Most software is developed exactly the way you think it is: you pay a bunch of geeks in cubicles to write it

Lovely. On the contrary when referring to some of the people that write open source software, the article quotes Blake:

[open source developers] aren’t necessarily professionals

But no worries, when it comes to the commitment level of open source developers, the article quotes Blake as follows:

It also means the people are truly dedicated because there’s no payday

Uh, OK, that’s really nifty. I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot happier with software developed by people that do it because they need to meet their financial obligations. The thought of my local 911 service running on software written by ueber-dedicated, unpaid not-necessarily-professionals makes me restless. Think about it, they might actually have to attend to their day job at some point, or is that where they are getting the best of “their ideas?”

Oh the Hypocrisy!
I used Firefox to post this blog entry. You know what I would have used of Firefox wasn’t free? IE6—I wouldn’t pay for Firefox. When I installed Firefox, there is a welcome to Firefox page that reads:

Experience the difference. Firefox is developed and supported by Mozilla, a global community working together to make the Web a better place for everyone.

I don’t think whoever wins the nonexistent browser wars can make the Web a better place for everyone. It’s not the browser, it’s the content.

What’s This Have to do with Oracle
Oracle is not open source. I’m glad there are those “geeks in cubicles” developing and maintaining the database server. I know a lot of them, and they deserve a lot of respect.


15 Responses to “Geeks in Cubicles, The “Browser Wars”, Unpaid Workers are “Truly Dedicated””

  1. 1 Doug Burns December 29, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    Well said, Kevin!

    I can appreciate the dedication of people developing software in their own time for the fun and the challenge, but the idea that people who develop software because it’s their full time job are less likely to produce quality software is faintly ludicrous. In fact, having someone to answer to means I have to solve problems – it’s not an option.

    Just because I (and others) have financial commitments and commercial responsibilities doesn’t mean I don’t care about my job just as much.

  2. 2 kevinclosson December 29, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    Yep…thanks for stopping by, Doug.

  3. 3 shrek December 30, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    well, having been both a “geek in a cube” and open source developer [we called i shareware way back then;-)] i have to admit writing software because it solved a problem i had was more fun than plugging away in a cube but not necessarly any better software.

  4. 5 Niall Litchfield December 30, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Now that is a weird idea, just weird, that people who train and are continually trained, are paid and have the quality of their work regularly examined, and if they don’t make the grade are pushed out of a job, somehow produce lower quality software than talented hobbyists.

    Can anyone imagine any comparable area of life in which this holds – folk doing DIY on their houses making a better engineered and built job than genuine professionals. Folk who read the health journals and watch the TV shows doing healthcare better than doctors?

    Don’t get me wrong – I like open-source a lot – but actually where it has succeeded (RedHat for example) it has succeeded by and large because the folk making it happen are paid and evaluated on their success – the revenue stream is different (usually support) – but the economic discipline is almost exactly the same.

  5. 6 Blake December 31, 2006 at 3:58 am


    > I can appreciate the dedication of people developing software in their own time for the fun and the challenge, but the idea that people who develop software because it’s their full time job are less likely to produce quality software is faintly ludicrous.

    I agree with you, but I never suggested that. I have the utmost respect for people who develop software as a full time (paid) job. Heck, I’m one of those people now that I’m doing a startup. Saying “you know open source developers are truly dedicated because there’s no payday” doesn’t imply “anyone who gets paid isn’t dedicated” and I certainly didn’t intend to suggest that!


  6. 7 Noons January 2, 2007 at 3:22 am

    “I wish they’d be allowed to slow down the feature hose a little and stabilize a few things (no names be the initials are C.B.O.).”

    the CBO? Kevin, I’d be happy if they stabilized the basic engine!
    The number of absolutely basic bugs I’ve been hitting of late is staggering.

    I can’t understand how the UG community hasn’t latched on to these problems and put some pressure on Oracle to get the blessed basics running OK before flights of fancy are taken!
    It says a lot for what passes for UG nowadays, at least over here: apparently their area of specialization is Powerpoint…

    Excuse me for banging on the same drum but if these are not enormous, egregious bugs, then what are?:

    1- Update table A, assuming it will be the table owned by your current designated schema, and it updates the same named table in a different schema? Pot luck which schema’s table gets updated?

    2- Store a LOB in an ASSM tablespace, update it repeatedly and watch a 1555 error appear and not go away. Try to read the LOB out after restarting on a dedicated instance and it STILL shows the 1555 error?

    3- Compress an index in an ASSM ts and it corrupts after a few updates?

    I may be the only one suffering from these problems but how come they are documented and just do NOT get fixed until some ungodly future date and release?
    What happens if I just cannot update out of 9ir2 because of 3rd party constraints?
    What use is it to me that it is fixed in – which isn’t yet released across all ports?

    But the Powerpoint show must go on…

  7. 8 Kevinclosson January 3, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Blake. I joined my current company, PolyServe, back in 2001 when it was a startup. You’ll find working for startups quite interesting. I wish you well, even if I disagree with the current hype over open source software.

  8. 9 Ben Prusinski January 6, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    I agree. I have had much pain and suffering as a paid DBA at companies because we implemented bleeding edge versions of Oracle such as 10.1 (10g) with java stored procedures and it broke production systems. To make long story short, management wanted to sue Oracle and fire me due to production failures from new version of Oracle software. I even have the Metalink TAR to prove it! SO.. I wish Oracle would pay more attention to quality over features and stabilize their damn software.

  9. 10 Doug Burns January 10, 2007 at 12:46 pm


    Sorry for the delay – I only just noticed your comment.

    I’m sorry that I unfairly attributed an entire argument to you. I still stand by my argument, but it wasn’t aimed at you specifically and I should have made that clearer.

    In fact, I do admire people who commit their own time to produce software, I just don’t believe it makes that software inherently better.



  10. 11 Robert Treat January 11, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    >Can anyone imagine any comparable area of life in which this holds – >folk doing DIY on their houses making a better engineered and built >job >than genuine professionals.

    This happens *all the time*. The mechanic who tricks out his own car. The carpenter who works on his own home in his spare time. The chef who cooks dinner for personal guests.

    What people seem to overlook is that a lot of the people who do open source development are professional programmers who prefer to have an outlet for thier talents that isn’t dictated by timelines that force them to cut corners or sales campaigns that force them to add bloated features.

    My experience is that being passionate about the work you do is a far more important factor in the quality of work you do than how much you get paid to do it.

  11. 13 joel garry January 12, 2007 at 12:21 am


    That’s exactly why I’m against production systems being bleeding edge, short of a specific necessary functionality that requires them to be bleeding edge. Let someone else bleed, I say! But that also means Noons is right, basic functionality is paramount, especially security. Listen up, Oracle! Fix 9 and let it have a long life. Same with 10. This “fixed in 11” stuff doesn’t sit well at all with some of us.

    That doesn’t mean a DBA needn’t be up on the latest features. It does mean a DBA should treat them with a critical eye. It does mean Oracle has a responsibility to make sure things work. It does mean management has a responsibility to understand that software has bugs, and the technical workers can only find some of them in testing, they can’t test near as much as Oracle should. It does mean screaming “sue!” doesn’t really get much done (and I say that as one who has spent nearly half of a quarter-century career in places either embroiled in or cleaning up from software lawsuits).

    The next big worldview change in the software industry ought to be making software that will last for the ages. Just because it seems physically easy to upgrade and fix software, doesn’t mean it is always a good idea.

  12. 14 Sheeri January 14, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    What about geeks in cubicles who are paid to develop open source applications?

    Are Google applications good because their source is closed? Or because they’re free? (I’m guessing the latter, if one had to pay even half of Microsoft Office’s fee to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets, nobody would ever use them)

    Please understand there is a large difference between open source written in someone’s free time and open source written because they are paid to do so.

    But also understand that a good project is a good project, whether or not people are getting paid to do so. Why not project out into the real world? Are volunteer fire departments worse than paid fire departments? Is it about money or the source being open?

    There are not a lot of examples of paid open source, but here’s one. Think about MP3’s. The “source” is open — you can freely copy a file — but you pay to get it. It’s a bad model — why would anyone pay for something they could just get for free?

    Why would anyone buy a book that’s available on Project Gutenberg? Books are open source.

    Anyway, the point was, open source!=no paid developers. And it’s still not fair to say that paid development is better or worse than unpaid development, since there are plenty of disgruntled paid workers doing half-assed work just to get that paycheck.

  13. 15 Chris August 11, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Agree totally!! I will take opensource code over the garbage that is put out by Microsoft anyway. Mozilla is the only browser I ever use, and the last time I ran the most up to date and “secure” IE…you would not believe all the spyware that got through two spyware blockers I was running.

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