Up until a few years back, I was barely a foodie. Having grown up in India, I was not exposed to many cuisines (other than the awesome Indian cuisine ofcourse!). As I started traveling to different countries, I started exploring several cuisines. Japanese and Vietnamese soon became my favorites. While exploring some great restaurants with friends, I was initially surprised by how expensive some of them seemed. The food was undeniably great but the prices just seemed exorbitant. It's the same ingredients anyway! How could these places be so expensive?
For a while, I failed to see the craftsmanship and the level of preparation involved in crafting a great meal. You are barely paying for the ingredients. You are paying a little bit for the great ambience. What you are really paying for is for someone really talented to hand craft a great meal for you. Someone that is not cooking a buffet for two hundred people that night but cooking eight, may be ten great meals that evening. This blog post discusses why fine dining restaurants are expensive and has this to say about cooking a Beet Salad
Beet salad called for boiling the yellow and red beets separately to avoid staining, then cooling, peeling, and cutting them into 3/4″ cubes. As hard as I tried, I don’t think I got a single perfect cube.
Paying for great software is the same. Building great software is time consuming and expensive. Infrastructure costs (like servers) are barely a fraction of the cost of making web software. The biggest component is the people cost. Talented people who are spending a significant amount of time obsessing over the little details that make a software really great. Often times, the best software comes not from giant corporations that can deeply discount the software or give away subscriptions for free but from small software companies. Three, five or ten people companies where every team member is passionate about software craftsmanship. 37Signals, Balsamiq and Github are the obvious examples but there are many many more. These are the companies that stick around for long, build great software and constantly keep improving the user experience - just like a master chef.
A great software costs more than the cost of s3 storage, cost of delivering emails via mailgun and ec2 compute hours. Just like a fine meal is more than the cost of 6 ingredients!
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