Finding The Forest is a blog about public data. It is partly a record of my thinking on the topic, partly a platform to discuss techniques for handling data, and partly free therapy for me.



3 thoughts on “About

  1. Stephan J

    Hi there, was reading your blog and found this in your Predictive analysis piece:

    “Moreover, the model of paying for expensive, high quality web products makes no sense in 2013, when the vast majority of dominant web technologies are available to users at zero cost and with insanely high quality. There already exist for-pay social networks, and you’d have to threaten me with physical harm to get me to switch from Facebook to one of those.”
    Just wanted to ask your opinion on something this made me think of: Given your above words, do you think the model of providing software, technologies or services online for a usage price of some kind is dying off and in danger of becoming obsolete? I mean there are plenty of pay to use services out there but do you think the trend towards high quality free stuff could destroy a lot of them?

    Thanks for reading, great articles, especially the one on LinkedIn, if you could reply by email should you have the time


    1. mbildner Post author

      Glad you liked it! Short answer is no, I don’t think the idea of for-pay software is necessarily dead, just highly constrained.

      The most obvious business case is a market with highly specialized or unusually rigorous requirements. investment banking for example, or flight control systems for airplanes, anywhere where you have unusual demands on your product I can see paying for it. That and any market where the free alternatives have not yet matured to become good alternatives.

      It’s mostly consumer products and “commodity” type enterprise applications that don’t necessarily make sense to be for-pay. And sometimes the line can blur. Databases are a great example: for the last ~40 years everyone paid an arm and a leg for enterprise grade database systems (think Oracle). But it’s becoming much more feasible and even expected to use free and open source alternatives (as you may know, the two are technically different though people often think of them interchangeably, and they often go together). Now for example Postgres and MongoDB are gaining not just a user base, but high levels of legitimacy in the enterprise. As long as it’s high quality software people are becoming much more ok with open source in the enterprise. Another great example of a blurred line is one of the largest EMR companies in the world (they make the software that runs hospitals, typically) uses an expensive and niche product called Caché to power it’s software. But the underlying technology in that system is also available for free as a product called GlobalsDB (free, but I do not believe it’s open source).

      The point of all that is that for organizations that have unusual requirements (super high guarantees that the data will not be lost or corrupted, in the EMR case) it can make plenty of sense to pay for software, but that even in those cases we are often not paying for the product itself but for professional expertise or support for that product, as for cache/globals mentioned above.

      For me, I generally pay for iphone apps, because there just isn’t the same ecosystem of high quality free apps for it as there is for my computer. But consumer software delivered online (webapps) are so commonplace and so exquisitely high quality that I have no incentive to use paid ones. That goes double for the services that get more valuable with the size of their networks (like Facebook, or like LinkedIn hopes to be). If i built a social site tomorrow that was every bit as high quality in its engineering as Facebook it would be useless to you, because none of your friends would be on it.

      So I certainly don’t feel that paying for software is a dead model, but it is extremely limited, especially compared to the way it used to be. There are still niches (some pretty big ones) or use cases where it makes plenty of sense to pay for your software, but most of the products that we use most of the time don’t fall into this category.

      Hope that helps and again – thanks for reading!

  2. Pingback: I Start Hacker School Tomorrow | Finding the Forest

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