Software as art
Sunday, April 24, 2016 by Dave Winer

Yesterday I posed this question on Twitter.

Are there any developers in Silicon Valley, having made their FU Money are making new tech for fun, w/o trying to find "business model?"

After I wrote it down, I wondered what took me so long to get there. 

My story...

I started as an independent developer in Silicon Valley in 1979. At the time, the idea of doing software development on your own was unheard-of. Until I met up with other people doing the same thing. I was pretty close to broke when I got there. And I stayed more or less broke until I merged my angel-backed startup with a VC-backed one that was on the path to going public. It did. I got my FU money. That was 1989. Ten years chasing both art and money at the same time.

So then I had a decision to make. Was I in it for the business or was I in it for fun? I had been wanting to get rich. My idea of myself was I'd live a creative life, with the independence that comes with success. I had attained success. So I stopped trying to be a company, and went back to what I did for fun -- making software.

I eventually left the Valley in 2003 because no one else was doing what I was doing. The only point in being there, because it is not an interesting place to me, was if there were other people to collaborate with. So I left seeking other places to try collaborative development for fun. ;-)

I actually do know one other person that's doing this -- Ward Cunningham, the guy who got wikis started. We pretty much belong to the same school of software development. Woz, if he were still developing, probably would be there too. 

I finally had the idea yesterday to ask openly if anyone else had the same idea, that software could be something you do for fun, and if the money followed great, if not, that's okay too.

If you're wondering if this makes sense, look at the life of Prince and imagine that people could make software that way. It could be art. When I started many years ago it was thought a weird idea that software could be art. For a while it wasn't. I think today it's back to being a weird idea. 

BTW, what started this thread was a question of whether the HBO show Silicon Valley was an accurate depiction of what goes on there. I said it was, if you looked at it from the point of view of a VC or reporter. But it does miss what it's like to create the technology. I think that story could be told as well.