Friday, 2007-11-30; 01:48:00

Guy in the Hat yesterday wrote about the infamous Rixstep that has been making waves in the Mac community. And while I can't say that I like to particularly agree with Rixstep or disagree with Guy in the Hat, I have to say that Rixstep is practically spot on with his analysis of MacHeist. Guy in the Hat, however, disagrees:

MacHeist didn’t break the law, and no matter how much they offend Gus, they aren’t giving developers any less money than they agreed to. It’s that simple. Anyone who says different is insulting the intelligence of the participating developers and the Mac community at large. If MacHeist was so terrible to the developers or its promotional schemes were so unscrupulous, it wouldn’t be around because it would have no applications and no members. But it does.

This is one of the oldest logical fallacies in the book: appeal to common practice. Just because the developers agreed to go along with MacHeist's terms, and just because so many people bought the bundle from MacHeist, that doesn't make the whole ordeal right or fair. If I have to "insult" developers or the Mac community to point that out, then so be it.

Millions of people across the country buy gas for much higher prices than we've ever seen. (Some parts of the country have gas that costs upwards of $4/gallon.) And the oil companies reap billions of dollars every week. Sure, people know how much they're paying for the gas, but does that mean that it's right for the oil companies to rape consumers and the Earth for obscene profits? Or how about pharmaceutical companies, that charge up the wazoo for birth control pills, possibly forcing people to use less-reliable, less-costly methods of contraception? Does it make it right just because consumers know that the price of those pills is going to double sometime next year?

Or to take it from the opposite perspective, is it right for movie studios to retain the copyright of a work which someone else created, and then give them 4 pennies for every $20 DVD that they sell? The content creators went into that deal with their eyes wide open. Does that make it right?

Rixstep rightly points to John Gruber's article last year on MacHeist. Remember, the developers who participated in MacHeist were offered a flat fee for participating. But it was the organizers of MacHeist who reaped insane profits off of the whole deal. As revenue for MacHeist kept rolling in, MacHeist kept getting the extra money, not the developers. MacHeist blasted past the $400,000 revenue checkpoint, and the organizers' share of the profits was upwards of 70% at that point. MacHeist ultimately garnered about $640,000 in revenue, according to Gruber, which would mean an 85% share of the profit for the organizers. Each developer? On average, a measly 1.5%.

I don't know about anybody else, but that strikes me as extremely sleazy. And that's exactly the point. The Mac community may know how much they're paying for the bundle of software, but do they know how much tech support they communally foist on the developers once MacHeist is over? Do they know how much money is going to MacHeist and how much money is going to the developers? Or perhaps it's not ignorance that is the problem with the Mac community, but something else — are they just trying to score a couple of shareware apps at highly discounted prices, because they can't be bothered to spend the few extra dollars to actually support the developers who created those apps? Are Mac users — *gasp* — actually cheap bastards just like everybody else?

One of the great things about the Mac community is zero tolerance. If even a small piece of software has malware in it, it will instantly be branded with a scarlet M, and you'll be sure to hear about it across many weblogs in the Mac community. This is similar to our complaints with our precious operating system: people howl and complain about the most specific frickin' things which most casual Mac users couldn't care less about. We all come off as whiners because OMG THE FINDER MENU BAR IS TRANSLUCENT!!!11one1!!eleven1111 or because iTunes' window can be resized a couple pixels underneath the Dock OMG THE SKY IS FALLING!11!!

But it's this spirit of not being satisfied — ever — and not tolerating sucky things that makes the Mac community so great, and why there are so many ridiculously cool pieces of third party software around.

So why should the Mac community tolerate a campaign that gives pennies on the dollar to each participating developer? Why should we support people who pull lame PR stunts to promote this campaign, leaving behind hosting companies with undeserved, tarnished reputations? Why should we perpetuate the fear of some hacker taking down Mac-oriented weblogs just because he thinks we're a bunch of smug assholes? What possible good does MacHeist do for the Mac community?

And that's the crux of the problem. We as a Mac community are giving MacHeist a pass: to use the good will of a few developers and to ostensibly support charity, when what we're actually doing is just funneling money into the hands of the MacHeist organizers.

No thanks, I'll pass this time, too.

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