Friday, May 26, 2006

Maybe I'm Too Well Paid?

I have yet to work for an employer who will buy software tools for the team when we ask for them. The beautiful side of this is that it drove me to pursue open source alternatives, which has proved to be a very good thing. One of the ways a state agency is ill-equipped to produce great software is that their byzantine purchasing process makes it very difficult to get development tools. Apparently the only place we can easily purchase from is shi. If shi doesn't carry it, then for all practical purposes, it doesn't exist for us. I guess no one has explained to the state agencies that we're entering a new golden age of independent software development. Software in boxes is so last century. I have been using a trial version of TextMate, a fabulous text editor for developers on the mac. Its entire development is the work of one nice young man from Copenhagen. This software is worth more than the asking price (around $50), and Allan deserves our money, so I approached my boss, gave him a flashy demo, and asked him if he can get it. After explaining the near-impossibility of fulfilling this request, he offered me an intriguing organizational hack: "If you pay for it with your own money, I'll reimburse you in time off." By the way, this is the officially-supported means of compensating for overtime, which when you think about it is not really a benefit ("You get to work on Saturday instead of Monday!"). At first, I was excited. A solution! I can get all the software I want! "See you in a couple of weeks boss, there's lots of stuff I wanna get." But then I started wishing I wasn't paid quite so well. If only I made minimum wage, I would get to take more than a day off in compensation for buying TextMate. As it is, though, I only get two and a half hours. Sheesh, that's only a long lunch. It's funny, ever since my son was born I have become very philosophical about time, about how I should value my time ever more highly. When faced with the chance to pay money for time, it suddenly feels like a different equation. In this particular case, it's a no-brainer, because not only do I get two and a half hours back, I get some great software! I guess the problem in general with being compensated in time, is that just like that, it's gone. There's a larger lesson here, isn't there? Time, she is a cruel mistress.

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