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Cost versus Value

Originally appeared in Logorrhea.

I love being a programmer. There’s just something about taking an idea, and pulling together a bunch of formless elements into something cogent, useful, and – hopefully – beautiful. It’s the same process of creation that attracts me to writing – though I am a far less talented writer than I am a coder.

But even as much as I love creating software, and working with people on their ideas for applications and products, there is a side to the developer life that I find tedious, and entirely off-putting: having to continually explain cost versus value; usually, winding up on the losing side of the conversation, if only because I’ve thrown up my hands in exasperation, or maybe have just rolled my eyes as far back into my head as they would go.

When we think that paying more than $0.99 for an application is too expensive, something is wrong. When we want an enterprise-grade, responsive website, with all the bells and whistles – for $500something is wrong.

As consumers, we’ve been conditioned to conflate cost with value. I blame the Internet, and the tsunami that is the consumerization of technology. “Free” applications and services have lulled us into a false sense of frictionless commerce, believing that we now live in a time of economic magic, and scale has made everything cost nothing. In fact, all scale has really done is to destroy our conception of value that we definitely should be recognizing, in exchange for making us the actual product being sold. Amazon, Facebook, and Google: I’m looking at you.

It’s not just development that has had cost versus value turned on its head: cab rides, shopping, education, and most notably music, have been and are disrupted to the point of unrecognizability.

It’s incumbent upon us, as consumers, as citizens, and as people – to recognize that the creative process has an intrinsic value; that education has an intrinsic value; that our passions have an intrinsic value – that goes beyond a race to the bottom, where the only metric that is important is a price tag.

Where we know the cost of everything.

But the value of nothing.

Go, and be you.

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