For some reason, I’ve never had any desire at all to edit Wikipedia. Nerdy value-creation skills are undervalued as it is. Why should I do it for free?
Even nerdier than editing Wikipedia is working for free on Linux or some other open source project. I find it even more mystifying that people want to do that for free.
Mr. Blue a few days ago:
We want the 9-5 people. They’re not the ones killing the job sector. We are. We’re the ones who keep coming up with “free alternatives” to the stuff that people should pay for. We’re the ones that allow Mark Zuckerberg to create a bajillion dollar company, employing virtually nobody, because we’ll make the widgets that make Facebook cool. We’re the productive ones that let the IT companies reduce their staff without taking productivity hits. If more of us were like them, there’d be more jobs to go around.
So let’s kill the “geek culture”. Let’s force the women in. Let’s make it so that we want to leave at the end of an 8-hour day. Bring on the apathy that dominates virtually every other field out there. Let’s spend more time making sure that everyone feels welcome and less time getting shit done. The shit we get done just makes more of us redundant. The wisepeople have spoken (utilizing the technology that we built). They apparently know something we don’t about what’s important.
But many startups today have crossed over the line into freestrapping. Pay isn’t “low”, it’s “no”. Operations aren’t lean, they are free. Revenues aren’t small, they don’t exist. That’s right — no revenue and no overhead that can be strictly assigned to the business. Workers work virtually so there’s no office. Or maybe they spend hours at the local coffee shop mooching Internet access. They work for free, sustaining themselves some other way. Maybe they work part-time, have a working spouse, still collect unemployment or have “walk-away” money from their last gig. There are no materials in the strictest sense since they are creating a web-based or mobile application. Even their tools are free. Can you say open source? Or maybe they are using a “free 30 day trial” of a development tool. (Ah, so that’s why the agile development scrums are so short!) They are creating something from nothing. (And, yes, guilty as charged. That’s how we did it. There were a few out-of-pocket expenses but so far nothing that seriously cut into my coffee habit.)
If you are an experienced bootstrapper, this all sounds familiar, right? You are used to making nothing or next to nothing. The difference, and the trouble lies in the lack of revenue or prospects for revenue and the use of free raw materials and tools. The expectation of free has become so pervasive that we are harming our economy’s ability to grow. How can we make a living if we give everything away for free? And why should we expect anyone to pay for what we produce when we don’t pay for the tools we use?