Every once in a while I get a special treat in my mailbox — I will receive a message notifying me that someone has voluntarily paid for Jer’s Novel Writer. (My favorites are when someone with the ability to turn a nice phrase decides to haggle.) In a world of software pirates, there is another sort of person, one who pays for the things that help them for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. I think in general software companies would do a lot better if they used persuasion and value rather than coercion to reduce piracy. I also think people are more willing to pay a company that is recognizably human. I couldn’t change the way I interact with my users even if I wanted to, but I think people respond to it well. I am, quite obviously, just a guy who couldn’t find a word processor that was about writing. (In the intervening years that has changed, and there are a couple of other strong candidates as well.) I have also set up a system where I make people happy by stealing their ideas (‘paying attention to their suggestions’, I call it in official Hut correspondences).
But I digress. (You couldn’t tell it was a digression because I actually started on a course tangential to the point I set out to write. Yes, I’m that talented. But, once more, I digress.) I was enjoying a Saturday breakfast with fuego and MaK, and I began to wonder how much I’ve made so far from JersNW on an hourly basis. It’s impossible to come up with any sort of accurate assessment of how many hours I’ve put into it; there are weeks of furious development with pauses only to sleep, followed by a month without much time invested at all. I did some wild-ass guessing, though, and the numbers came out quite a bit higher than I expected. Its even possible I’ve now earned more than five cents an hour for my efforts, if you don’t count expenses like geek school and caffeinated beverages. If you count tea costs, I have a long, long way to go to break even.
Of course, that hourly rate will continue to climb, which is good, because it takes a lot of juice to run the antigravity generators that keep the Secret Laboratory complex floating in its sky city, the sun glinting off the great glass climate dome, while air cars swirl about, drifting serenely between the clouds over this quiet Prague neighborhood. Plus, anything that buys me a little more time in this life I’ve made for myself, a little more time to build a career as a writer, is welcome. Obviously, though, if it was about money I would not have left my day job. I think one of the reasons people are willing to pay for the software is that they know I’m in for something other than money. You know what that thing is? It’s fun. I enjoy working on the code, making it beautiful inside and out, and I enjoy watching the software evolve and change into something I never imagined at first. I enjoy learning new techniques and delving into new areas of the programming framework. I enjoy writing the dialog box text, and I try to make that fun, too. I think when a creator of anything is having fun, be it a movie or a spacecraft or a computer program, it shows in the product. Stodgy business software isn’t stodgy because the customers demand it be that way, rather because the creators are incapable making it any other way. Software for drones by drones.
Maybe if the big software companies got their own sky cities the resulting increase in morale would show in their products. I wonder how high this thing can go…