ADIAD

 

Sorry for the repost… For some reason Community Server borked the original post for readers with IE.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to work for a company with a
good value system. Sometimes you are lucky enough to work for a company that
actually sticks to their value system.

My first real job was as a network administrator/database developer for Eagle
Crest resort in Redmond, OR. The CEO of the resort drove a car with a vanity
license plate consisting of the letters ADIAD. One morning I asked Jerry just
what that license plate meant. He said: “Rod, that stands for A Deal Is A
Deal”. During my time of employment at that company that value was
executed time after time. From that experience, that little acronym has stuck
with me for the last 20+ years. I have tried to run my life and business
according to those values.

Sometimes those values work in my favor. Sometimes they
don’t. Many years ago I worked on some courseware for a company. I offered up
my price for the courseware and the company accepted it. Later on I found out
how much another instructor was paid for equivalent courseware. I was a little
miffed, but I didn’t complain. I made a better deal the next time. You see I
got what I asked for. ADIAD.

A few years later fellow Los Techies blogger and my best friend John Petersen had
a similar situation. He took a small consulting job with another developer we
know. During the consulting gig he found out how much our developer friend was
paid for the job. It was significantly more than the compensation he asked for,
and received. John and I discussed the “fairness” of this situation. During
this discussion I asked him a question: “How much did you ask for? And
were you paid that amount?” The answer was yes. I responded ADIAD, next
time you will make a better deal. While the ethics or straighforwardness of the
other developer may be called into question, ADIAD.

I am telling you this story because over the last couple of weeks something
interesting has transpired. Two companies have made decisions to turn what were
once free products into paid products. The first company I will mention is Red
Gate Software. In 2008 Red Gate took over the maintenance of a product called
Reflector. Reflector is a tool that is used by .NET developers to decompile and
peer into the source code of .NET assemblies. Until 2008 Reflector was
maintained and provided to the .NET community for free. Until last week
Reflector remained a free product. Not anymore. In a few months Red Gate will
begin charging for the product. Now this would be no big deal if not for what
Red Gate said when they took over the product.  Lutz Roeder and James
Moore (of Redgate) were interviewed by Bob Cramblitt of simple-talk.com (http://www.simple-talk.com/opinion/opinion-pieces/the-future-of-reflector-/).
In this interview James Moore of Red Gate said they would keep Reflector free
for the community.  Mr. Moore said: “I
think we can provide a level of resources that will move the tool forward in a
big way.  The first thing we are doing is continuing to offer the software
to the community for free downloading”
.

This has proven to be a real issue for the community and Red
Gate. Red Gate is an active supporter of the .NET community (In the interest of
full disclosure as a Microsoft MVP, Red Gate provides us free licenses) and
this is not a good way of dealing with the community. It’s hard to put the
horse back in the barn but it could have definitely been handled better. Red
Gate should have subscribed to the ADAID principle. They might have bitten off
more than they could handle in supporting this as a free product. But they
should have stood by their word and kept the product free. If they didn’t want
to continue investing in the product they could have open sourced it. The PR
from that alone would have been very valuable to them. Now I have no idea how
much they paid for Reflector but sometimes you make a deal that you just have
to live with.

The second case of a free product going from free to paid is Pivotal Tracker.
pivotal tracker is an online project management system. A few weeks ago Pivotal
announced that they were moving to a paid pricing model. The reaction from that
community could have not been more different. The community responded
positively to the change. But there were also criticisms of the decision that
the company responded to. There were two interesting things. Pivotal gave the
community notice giving the community another 6 months of free usage. That is
enough time for companies to seek alternatives. The second item is that pivotal
would remain free for individuals. These two items were probably what helped
that community receive the change more favorably. I am not sure what deal, or
if there ever was one, that Pivotal made with its community. But the way they
handled this was much better IMO. To provide details regarding the history of
this announcement and subsequent changes,  here are links to the original post and the
follow up:

http://pivotallabs.com/users/dan/blog/articles/1537-introducing-pivotal-tracker-pricing

http://pivotallabs.com/users/dan/blog/articles/1547-changes-to-pivotal-tracker-pricing

I am not sure how either of these cases will shake out but
each case can teach us all an important lesson. In life you are only as good as
your word.  A Deal Is A Deal.

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  • Darren

    The problem with saying “A Deal Is a Deal” is that there was no deal. Both of the examples you describe are situations where there was a legally binding contract, an agreement that was made explicit. That’s not the situation with these companies. They offered a service *for free,* and for years, and things got to the point where they could not continue and pay their costs.

    If the .Net community got together and tried to sue Red Gate, the case would be thrown out of court. Why? Because in a (mostly) free country, you have the right to change your mind. You have the right to do one thing today, and then change your entire life the next. In other words, our associations are voluntary, and they require ALL parties to consent. If one side decides to back out, it doesn’t matter how much the other side wants.

    Its very easy for the .Net community to cry, “But you said it would be free,” but the relationship between us and Red Gate with regards to Reflector was a one-sided deal. We got the results of their employees work (and their money) for free. Sometimes that model works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this situation it obviously didn’t. Does anybody really expect Red Gate to pay the high costs of maintenance and updates forever in exchange for… null?

    I don’t work for Red Gate or the other company, and I don’t even use the products in question (I do use SQL Compare, though). However, I am a .Net developer, and I’ve really been shocked at the collective, self-righteous whine that has come out of our community. I thought we were the community that understood that “free” isn’t always really free, that good tools are worth money, and that people aren’t free. My goodness, how many of us give away our work in the same way we expect Red Gate to?

  • Michelle

    I do not have an issue with Red Gate charging for the new version of Reflector especially if they are adding features. I do have an issue with the time bombing of the current version. That action is what I consider breaking the deal with the community.

  • Alexander DiMauro

    @Michelle – exactly! I agree 100%. If then need to charge to stay in business, so be it. But, ‘time bombing’ the current version? That’s pretty bad…

    Of course, for those of us who already pay for ReSharper, they’ve been hinting at adding a ‘Reflector’ into the next version. It’s not free, either, but if you’re already paying for ReSharper, it’s at least one less thing to buy.

  • http://www.lostechies.com/members/rodman/default.aspx Rod Paddock

    Darren
    Thanks for you reply. Not all things that people say are under contract, or legally binding contracts. And for what it is worth contracts are really only as good as the people standing behind them. If you ever get to the point where you need to sue over a contract then you have already lost.

    We now live in an era where people are often not held to account for the things that they say. Need an example: Check out anyone in Congress and see if they have kept their word or not.

    Red Gate did say they would keep the product free. Was it binding in any way ? Who knows? It would be costly to attempt to keep them to their word. Yes it is in their rights to change their mind. Does that make it right? Depends on your POV.

    As for people working on and giving away code in the .NET community you need to take a closer look: Let’s name a few:
    nHibernate, StructureMap, nUnit, nAnt, DotNetNuke.

    Now take a look at some other communities that give away free thing:

    GitHub (OSS projects are free), Linix, PHP, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Firefox, WebKit, Mono…

    As you see there is a model of giving away good and highly complex tools for free.

    The real problem with Reflector and what Red Gate did is the lack of alternatives. But lucky for the community there are some alternatives in the works.

    Sometimes the best way to make a change like this is to consult the community for advise. When you make a commitment to community it is wise to advise them before making decisions like this.

  • http://kyle.baley.org Kyle Baley

    I can understand the outrage to some extent but I don’t think they are doing anything underhanded. Maybe Mr. Moore said something more concrete in the interview but from the quote you cite, nothing in there says they’ll offer it free in perpetuity, just that they’re doing it now. Which was over two years ago.

    For what it does, I believe the tool is easily worth $35. I consider myself lucky that it was free for so long.

  • Curt

    Rod, This was a very refreshing article to read. Because of you, I was also introduced to Jerry Andres and the personal value of ADIAD. To this day, this value is displayed by many people who have come and gone from that organization, people like you. At the end of the day, all we really have is our integrity and our word. Thanks for sharing this!

  • http://hsteinhilber.blogspot.com Harry Steinhilber

    I agree that Red Gate fully has the right to charge for their new versions of Reflector. In fact I am surprised it didn’t come about before. My chief complaint is that they are leaving the time bomb intact (and yes, I know that Lutz put it there to begin with) so that users of older versions are forced to buy the new one. If they want to go the route of making Reflector a paid product, great, but put out a v6.x without the time bomb. Eventually people will either upgrade or find alternatives since they will need it for new language features anyway.

  • http://www.cauthon.com Darren

    Rod,

    My father used to have a rule: His kids don’t pay for gas when they come to visit him. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason I’d visit him, but he said that was the deal so there’d be none of the “Oh, Dad, it’s ok, I’m fine with money…” at the end of a visit. He said this would *always* be our arrangement.

    Some years ago, my father suddenly got sick, and now he has to live in an assisted living center. He’s still capable of paying for my gas, but now when I visit I pay my own way.

    Let me ask you this: Should I tell my father ADIAD? Should I rub it in his face that he made a commitment, and demand that he keep his word and hand over $20 every time I see him? And should he feel guilty that he can’t meet his commitment?

    Or should we both understand that sometimes situations change, and people have to adjust?

    Now I know — this is a personal situation, and you wouldn’t/shouldn’t feel comfortable addressing it. The thing to keep in mind, though, is the fact that this Reflector situation is “personal” for a specific set of people. Red Gate isn’t a website and a random collection of software products that spontaneously appeared, it’s a company run by many *individuals.* People who work a regular work day, then go home to dinner with their familes. They cash their Red Gate paychecks for *money,* which that has to exist and come from somewhere.

    If Reflector is not making enough money, someone has to make up the difference in some way. The difference is *real*, and it has to be fixed. If they continue to burn money, their company won’t survive. If they fire workers, they won’t have the product they need to continue to survive, and they’ll have to make personal decisions with individuals that they know and enjoy. What do they do?

    Well, Rod says “A Deal is a Deal.” Because of some article posting years ago where they said they wanted to keep a free version (without promising or making any real commitment), the company should continue burning money. How do they continue operating a business engaged in activity that loses money? Doesn’t matter, ADIAD. Should they fire some of their associates or reduce the investment in the product? Sure, whatever, because ADIAD. The deal is, the .Net community continues to get Reflector free, no matter what happens, and that’s that.

    Look, it’s fine to want Reflector to be free, and it may be proper to criticize Red Gate for its actions that led to this situation. However, I believe that you and some others in the .Net community have taken this way too far. You are attacking their integrity. You’re making this an issue of morality, but an out-of-context morality where you drop the fact that Red Gate is an organization of *people* who are trying to adjust as things change. Due to the fact that you are a .Net developer, you are owed a download link off of redgate.com, and anything that affects that is WRONG.

    The rhetoric against Red Gate really needs to be tempered. It has gone too far.

  • http://www.cauthon.com Darren

    Hi Rod,

    One more thing:

    I am very aware of open-source projects in the .Net, and how people give up their time to work on them. Heck, I have some pet .Net OSS projects that I contribute to.

    That’s not what I’m talking about. Many OSS projects get “free” contributions from others, but many of those contributions are made outside-of-work. People have their regular 40 hour-a-week jobs that pay them a salary, and then when they go home they write code that they are not paid for.

    But what happens when the 40 hours jumps to 60, 80, or more? Or if our family life gets busy for a while? The OSS contributions usually stop. We’re willing to give up some of our free time, but not our jobs, paychecks, and lives.

    The difference between our free OSS work and Red Gate is, Reflector is not free. It costs X thousands of dollars a year, real money that Red Gate has to find. They can’t be like us and just take a break working on Reflector

    So, no, I think that most .Net developers aren’t willing to give up their work in the same way they expect Red Gate to.

  • http://www.lostechies.com/members/rodman/default.aspx Rod Paddock

    Darren,
    Thanks for the follow up reply and for your contributions to OSS and the .NET community.

    I will make one minor comment about your father. What you are doing is called integrity and honor. As Forest Gump would say: “That’s all I have to day about that.”

    From my POV I could really give a shit if RedGate charges or not. I do and will continue to recommend their great products.

    But what I will say is that the way they approached handling this was 100% ass backwards. At the end of the CEO’s video he said they have been agonizing over this for 6 months. Maybe the better approach would be to solicit feedback from the community that they greatly affected here.

    They could have told the community: “Keeping this product current and alive is costing us more than we anticipated. We would like to start charging. What do ya think.”

    By doing this they would have turned made the decision the communities and not one handed down from the great corporation in the sky.

    They could have also added something like free for students, OSS developers, etc. Like the GitHub model.

    Like I said in my post. This could have been handled better. Now it’s just spilled milk.

    To be fair to RedGate, sometimes the deal does change. My original deals with my clients change over time. I don’t charge the same amount that I did 10+ years ago, but when the deal does change it doesn’t happen by fiat it happens by two parties reaching a new deal.

  • Tobias Tadysiak

    If you are looking for a free alternative you may want to check Planthat: http://www.planth.at