Experience, Information Technology

“Priced Right” Developers Will Put You Out of Business

Northern Tool shopping cart
Norther Tool shopping cart

It seems the world is devolving into Keller MBAs and fake-reality television stars. Bottom feeding Keller MBAs have infiltrated every company it seems. They have the following main mantras

  1. Any job which can be done by two people can be done by one at half the cost.
  2. Do more with less.
  3. “Priced right” is the only qualification that matters.

Even if they have a diploma from a different school, if they utter even one of these mantras out loud, they got the exact same worthless education one gets from Keller. Sadly, Keller MBAs seem to have even infiltrated Norther Tool.

The Spherical Cow

Spherical Cow image
Spherical Cow

I’ve written two books on Java.

A free one which is part of the XbaseJ project. (If any of you see it being sold on lulu.com or any other worthless POD site, please contact me ASAP! Twice someone put that title up there for sale and I had to fight with lulu.com to get it taken down.)

A not free one written so Java programmers could learn a bit about JNI and people who only knew Java could experience working on a real operating system like VMS.

Java is what you use when you either have no other choice or are bottom feeding on price. Corporations choose Java because they are bottom feeding. Individuals choose Java because they either don’t know any better are aren’t getting paid for the work.

I recently had this conversation with a Sperhical Cow in the comp.os.vms Usenet newsgroup. I have worked at places where people bragged about only paying off-shore Java developers $10/day. (That’s right, day.) I have also written Java when I was going to be donating code to a community. In the case of the free book I was donating the code to various farm and trucking organizations so their members could track and manage fuel surcharges.

It was supposed to be a temporary solution until surcharges went away in another year (they are still here). It also had to run on just about everything, old MAC computers (old enough to actually be a MAC so multiple processor changes ago), Windows 98, ME, XP, not to mention OS/2.

There was no way in Hell I was providing support for free. I knew the market this was going into.

Those dang computer things.

What’s a backup?

Right click, what’s that?

Everything sold retail in the past decade came bundled with some form of “Office” suite. Lotus SmartSuite, WordPerfect Office, Microsoft Office, etc. All of them had built in tools to use/fix XBASE files. Yes, I could have written something really cool using some Java specific database which “might” have worked on all those platforms, but a DBF file using one of the common XBASE formats ensured support would be one email asking which office suite they had then they could be sent a canned email (or pointed to a link if it became a problem) about how to use that suite to fix the file.

So, DBF library which didn’t have to be either purchased or licensed (not getting paid to do this, remember?). Probably need to develop with a quite old version of Java to ensure broadest target platform acceptance. That lead me to the XBASEJ library. It only had a few “expert friendly” example programs for a “tutorial.” I took notes digging my way through and fixing a few bugs in the library. When my application was done I turned those notes into a book.

The Insight

The spherical cow believed I should have used a recent pure Java relational database “because they are easier on the developer.” College professors should never be let out of a University.

The Java on OpenVMS book was written in 2006 and the XbaseJ book in 2010. Part of the incentive for releasing the XbaseJ book to the project was to contribute more to the OpenSource world. The larger part was a hopeless attempt to bring more young developers to VMS even though it was and still is in a death spiral. I think you can all see just how ludicrous it is to talk about using a Java only relational database which happens to be working good in 2019 in a 2010 app where the database either wasn’t a gleam in the eye or was buggy as Hell.

Initial sales of the Java on VMS book tended to calendar lag XbaseJ downloads.

xbasej download stats

I never bothered to dig into what the conversion rate was because there are so many places people pull the stuff down from. Despite the PDF being a free part of XbaseJ

1.9K views on Scribd
722 reads of xbasej book on free-ebooks
Some of the spherical cow’s academic cohorts even built classes around it yes, classes plural.
987 views on this slideshare site

getfreeebooks isn’t polite enough to post download rate nor does it tell me who “John” the poster was.

Another site hosting the book without showing reads/downloads

neither does OpenLibrary.org

217 on Wattpad

ScribD used to be a good indicator, but not anymore.
Logic book 50 page preview has 20 views on ScribD but over 2K downloads on Free-Ebooks

122 views of 51 page Java on VMS preview

32K views of 42 page preview “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars

It appears ScribD periodically resets counters. There was a time when “Infinite Exposure” had north of 14K. Maybe the reset happened when ScribD changed hands? Maybe ScribD never changed hands and that is just a story circulating among authors?

So, when all of these kids find themselves needing information on JNI they can scour the Internet for “free” information which is many times wrong or they can look to a book by an author they are familiar with. I used to even point them to Death Row Cluster for a free account. That’s gone now. Maybe some find this page?

Maybe they just read the book trying to figure out what they can steal for the current project?

Some of the people buying it are people writing Java on some other platform and really liked “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars” and want to find out a bit about this OpenVMS system talked about in it.

Btw. Thanks again to whoever sent the image of their Tabpole (ALPHABOOK 1) which is the computer on the cover. If you find yourself in the states, I do owe you a drunk. My making it to the U.K. seems to get farther away every year.

The Reality

The reality is you don’t choose Java to build a robust high performance system. You choose Java when you are trying to toss something extremely low cost out the door. Companies choose Java when they are looking to pay developers $10/day.

“Priced right” is the only qualification that matters.

Just how many tens of millions of dollars have your “priced right” developers cost the business? Ah, the world will never know because you always leave that line off the spreadsheet.

Well, we know one sale they cost Northern Tool. Probably thousands of others as well.

Norther Tool Java error image
Java error coming back from PayPal

I can’t believe that was a one-off. What I can believe is a worthless AGILE development environment (there are none worthwhile) hurled a hand polished turd into production before leaving for the weekend.

I mean nobody who uses tools for personal projects ever works on said personal project on a Saturday. They would never find a bolt rusted in place in too tight of a space for grinder or torch necessitating use of a hammer bit prior to the much more painful step of right angle drilling the thing out.

Probably really was “just my order” that didn’t come back from PayPal correctly, right?