Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Value Of My Knowledge Is Knowing Where to Hit It

It sometimes amazes me the sheer chutzpah of some people. I receive a number of emails every week from developers asking me to help them solve their coding problem, or send them a snippet of code that carries out some function.
It is as if they expect me to do this for free, my most common response to these emails is 'Do you have a budget for this?" Mostly I dont get any more email from that person again.
Now it is one thing when it is some student trying to finish his project, it is even more amazing when it is an employee of a large well known software company (and yes there is more than one company I am thinking of here). It seems that because at some time I did some consulting for a company or that I once built some software they bought I am now a resource for free knowledge.
It gets beyond the point of astounding when their managers followup from the 'budget' question with something like 'this will only take you 2 minutes'
I think it would be interesting to work out what 2 minutes of my time might be worth:
30 years of 'playing' with computers is a lot of experience, I know I have blink response to some aspects of developing software. I know when something is right or wrong. I can smell it. that is a rare skill and worth a big number.
The experience of running software companies and creating software startups is worth some pretty large numbers.
The fact I do not need your 'work' only adds to an already large running total.

It reminds me of the old story about a railroad expert being summoned because a brand-new diesel locomotive would not start, no matter what the engineer did. After a short time studying the situation, the expert gave the locomotive a light tap with a hammer. It started right up. When the railroad received the expert's bill for $1,000, they asked him to itemize it. The reply came:
Hitting the locomotive with hammer: $10
Knowing where to hit it: $990

How much is your knowledge worth?
Are you increasing the value of your knowledge on a regular basis?


Gabriel Gonzalez said...

I strongly agree with you! :D

Wilecoyote said...

You know Dr N... The absurd thing is that you start to rethink who your "Friends" really are. Every time you see them they start trotting out some computer problem they are having, to which now my standard response is "Oh what a shame... tell you what call me Monday to make an appointment." Some of those "Friends" I never hear from again.

I had a mechanic "Friend" describe such a problem to me, so I put a solution to him in terms he could understand. I asked, what would a complete engine rebuild for a series 8 BMW cost? I then said, well when you have that give me a call.

What is frustrating is that something that you can give an answer to in 2 minutes can often realise a saving or earning of millions of dollars over time to the person asking the question, and they still expect an answer for free. They dont understand that a 2 minute solution is based on 20 years of what came before. You have a substantial investment in your knowlege base, and it is an asset which has no tangible value until you are lost from project where your value was not realised. (even if that was free of charge to a friend)

Even worse, if you do give an answer and they act upon it and subsequently suffer some loss, you are liable and they can sue you. So if they get you drunk and you say something, try to remember what the hell you said, or dont get drunk, or shut up when you are.

Bottom line, I liken the nerds of today to the cowboys of old...
you can hire a young one whos slick and fast, but its a fair bet that an older one will be a better investment as he knows how to survive a gun fight. Personally, I wear a white stetson and pack a six gun just in case they dont pay the bill.

carol said...

Totally agree. I am a lawyer and I get the same kind of thing all the time, total strangers calling with a "really quick question" that is no longer important once they learn they have to pay a consultation fee; or people who are outraged at having to pay more than $10 "just for writing a letter!"