Software Subscriptions

I get the idea of software subscriptions. Back in the day, you'd buy software, get a CD (or a stack of floppies if you're that tenured), install the package and away you'd go. After a while, a new version would be available and you'd either get it as part of your original purchase or have to decide if you wanted to pop a few bucks for the new version, almost always at a discounted price.

These days, most software now costs a monthly fee to use. Stop paying that fee, and some packages lock you to the current version while some go as far as to just stop working at all. That is, you get to use the software as long as you keep paying. It's almost like renting the package.

Now, in the case of something like, say, Adobe Photoshop, I can see this model as viable. Adobe regularly pushes not only performance improvements, but refinements and new features as well. Consider what the suite used to cost, including the typical 12-18 month update cycle, and the subscription comes pretty close. Adobe provides value to the. model.

On the other hand, I'm looking at a package that automates an Internet task. For the most part, the package is very static. Now and again the producers have to make a small change to adapt to changes in third party integrations, but those are few and far between. Further, they support eight platforms and charge $29.99/month for one, and $59.99/month for all of them. Those are the options. Yet knowing how this software works, the differences are almost non-existent. The configuration considers all platforms and it's just an upload task that differentiates them. 

There is absolutely no value added in paying monthly for this software that not only doesn't change, but has very little differentiation and uses zero resources provided by the author. That is, it's not even a web service. It's a reasonably robust automation engine. That's it.

Further, this is the kind of package you'd use initially, and then would likely sit unused for months until you had another need for some automation. You'd be paying a monthly fee for no updates and just the option to have it available should you need it.

But people are conditioned now to pay a subscription, even for software that doesn't justify it. Thus, almost all software now carries a subscription model.

I believe this is where I say, "get off my lawn!" :-)

Something I've Noticed

Nothing helps build patience like waiting on trademark applications.
 
Except, perhaps, waiting on patents.

Art Predicting the Future

Have you noticed that in science fiction movies made decades ago, electric cars had a particular noise? That whining-whirring noise that everyone thought electric cars would make? And have you noticed that, sure enough, that's exactly the noise that they make now?

Maybe it's just me, but I think that's kinda cool and interesting. 

Or I'm just killing time before lunch ;)

Update on Learnings

I oversubscribed my time to see which learnings services I liked best. Here's where I've landed:
 
1. Amazon Kindle Unlimited - jettison. The selection is meh, at best, and I simply don't have time for a non-vetted book. I'll buy those I want to read and be selective.
 
2. Wondrium - reluctantly keep. Reluctantly because they have some courses that run 40-60 hours of material *each* and are stunning. I could watch here for years. So this will be my enjoyment learning, doing one unit per evening (30 minutes on average).
 
3. CuriosityStream - jettison. These are no better than the History or Discovery channel features, and many worse. Boring. Learning nothing. And they started with a decent catalog but haven't been adding to it much, at all. Also, a lot of their science was wow-wow 10 years ago, but is out of date by now.
 
4. MasterClass - keep. This gives me at least one gem per quarter. Worth the price.
 
5. Audible - keep, because it's free. Amex gives a full credit per month, at least for the next year.
 
6. Fluenz - bought and paid for. Working on Italian.
 
7. Rosetta Stone - bought and paid for, for life. This isn't my primary learning source, as it's not my way, but since I own it outright for all languages, I use it like flash cards.
 
8. A Cloud Guru - not going to renew after this year is over. My new job doesn't require that I stay up to date 100% and certified, and those areas that I do need to be there, I'll one-off and let my company pay for it.
 
9. LinkedIn Learning/Lynda - wish I still got this free, but since I don't, I can't justify paying for it, even though it has good content on hobby things like Adobe products. It is what it is.

Reinforcing My Position on Open Office

My first real software development job out of college was with Microsoft. The year was 1997, and the boom was in full swing. Enthusiasm was high, parties were epic, and it was a time we've not seen since. It was also the era of "everyone has an office," and nobody really questioned it. Indeed, the only place on campus that I can remember not being this way was a large room in which something like the "open office floorplan" was used for contractors. And I remember thinking it was counterproductive, even then.

As a developer, I liked having my own space. Shelves for my reference books (and I'm still old-school that way). Some posters on the wall to set the nerdy mood. A huge white board that was all my own. It was my space, and the mindset that went with it had a direct impact on my morale and productivity. Of course, the real benefit was the door. It was open 90% of the time. Anyone could come by, and collaboration never suffered. But I could also close it, meaning that if I wanted some "in the zone" time I could have it. I could even put a sticky on the door, letting people know that I was unavailable except in emergency.

23b075bebdcea554929b6e2b46d89221You simply can't do this with an open office plan.

Headphones are an invitation to be tapped on the shoulder. A "quick question" never is, and even when it is, pulling someone out of the zone means that quick question cost a half hour, at best. White boards are shared, so you can't keep a design up for weeks while refining it. And the chocolates on my desk seem to mysteriously disappear overnight. That one is still a mystery.

Open Office in the Age of COVID

What I've discovered, though, is that for the past 18 months, "working from home" has reinforced these beliefs and given some concrete experimental evidence to support them. So what have I discovered?

Working from home has the same issues

A private space to work provides the same benefits as an office in the building. I can close the door. I can socialize to family members that when the door is closed, I'm concentrating, and please don't interrupt unless you have to. This is generally respected in my household, with the notable exception of the cats. But cats are jerks. Working from home means I can have that private space that isn't afforded in an Open Office building. My point here being that I believe we've all experienced this, now. Has anyone, working from home, not found it better to have your own private space? Do you honestly work in the common areas all the time because the distractions are something you seek out? I doubt it.

Asynchronous Communication Works

When working from home, if someone needs you, they have to get in touch electronically. They don't get to walk over and tap you on the shoulder. Or, worse, stand there and wait for acknowledgement. But with the exception of a ringing phone (who calls unannounced these days?), all communication can be asynchronous. Emails can be read and returned in their own time box. Slack allows you to mute notifications except when urgent if you want. Even chat applications let you set your status as "busy" if you want. I wish Slack had a status called "In the Zone," but that's a feature request. I truly hope this understanding persists once we all return to the office.

Working from remote locations also works (at least for me)

I confess, I have a remote work habit that sounds ludicrous but actually functions at the highest level: I work from Las Vegas. Yes, I live in the San Francisco bay area, but, at least when the pandemic has allowed, I will often travel to Las Vegas for a week. I get a nice hotel room at my favorite center-strip resort, usally complimentary, and work from the comfortable hotel room where I have good Internet connectivity, a decent sound system, and a desk. I honestly get up at the start of the day, work without interruption, and put in a full day. My productivity is even more than at home, as there are no family members (or, as I said, cats) to interrupt, even legitimately. Meetings for the past 18 months have been on Zoom anyway, and the worst I got from those who didn't know my plans was a comment that my artificial background looked like a Vegas hotel room. In the evenings, I got good food, perhaps saw a show (nothing refreshes the mind like Penn and Teller!), and got to play some poker or roll dice. I don't really drink much, so I got up the next day refreshed and ready to go.

This may or may not work for you. You have to have the discipline to actually get the work done. For me, the enjoyment of my evenings wouldn't be there if I knew I had work piling up or people suspicious of my work ethic.

Tl;Dr

I remain of the opinion that Open Office Floor Plans are a drain on productivity and morale, and in light of 18 months of solid "work from home" data, I see no reason to change this opinion. And now I have some solid experience to back it up.

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