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Sun, 21 Jan 2007

Hireling priests

In my religion (Quakerism), we have no hired professional priests. The problem with hired priests is that their job gets mutated from one of helping the flock struggle with the burden of discerning Gods will, into one of keeping their job. The fire gets lost.

I think that Nokia has a similar problem with the 770. When you have a large full-time staff, they lose their fire. And yet, what else is Nokia to do? If they are going to build hardware, it needs software, and they surely cannot rely on the goodness of strangers for their software, can they? And that is exactly what they are already doing, by using the Linux kernel.

So lets explore this fantasy, wherein Nokia builds hardware and the rest of us write the software. I am firmly of the opinion that open source solves some problems poorly. The work that Tigert does (art and design) is not done well by the ordinary developer. If left to their own devices, they will also neglect usability.

There is definitely room for a paid staff. But I think that if you want to write the best software, most of it has to be written by the people who will be using it. Of course, that leaves Nokia with a chicken and egg problem. With a new product like the 770, how do they have users without any initial software?

Like all open source projects, you need to prime the pump. That is best done through contractors. Pay them to write the initial build, and then get out of the way. If the spec that they build to is fux0red in the usual way that most software designs are, it will get fixed. But in the meantime, users will at least have something which is minimally usable.

Nokia can get developer attention just as they did -- through subsidised hardware. They would also have gotten developers involved sooner, just as the OLPC has done. If you are building a really cool product, people will be lining up for early hardware. And, if they do not, then maybe the product is not as wonderful as initially conceived?

Nokia will probably not take this advice, but if they do not, I fear that they will continue to publish software that sucks.

posted at: 20:08 | path: /770 | permanent link to this entry


UPDATE: followup at Deflation 2.

I keep seeing this fear of deflation everywhere. I don't know where it comes from. Deflation is the natural consequence of free trade with a fixed amount of currency. Consider this: If you have eggs to sell, and want to buy plums, let's sake that you'll take an even trade. A dozen plums for a dozen eggs. Of course, you want the plums more than the eggs, so once you get the dozen plums, you would only be willing to give up 11 plums to get back the dozen eggs.

Now imagine that your country uses plums as money. You're willing to pay 12 plums for a dozen eggs. You like those plums, so you'll only pay 11 for the dozen eggs. The plums are the same, and so are the eggs. What's the difference? Why have the plums deflated? The answer is that the trade has pleased you. You are wealthier, so you value your money more.

As long as the number of plums is fixed, this process will go on forever. Plums will become more and more valuable, as each trade makes people more content. If you see deflation as a reflection of increasing contentment, then you, like me, will wonder why people don't like deflation.

posted at: 08:05 | path: /economics | permanent link to this entry

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