37signals lingo: cheap/expensive Matt 25 May 2006

26 comments Latest by Bitter

37signals is always looking for the cheap way out. (Talking software here, not picking up the tab for dinner or whatever.) We want operations/actions that are cheap. We don’t want our servers to “pay” unless they must. We want design changes that are quick and inexpensive. “Is that a nice idea?” isn’t as important as “Is that worth the cost?” Some of our chatter about cheap/expensive:

expensive

cheap

We think being cheap — or thrifty or value-conscious if that makes it sound better — is a virtue. Not only does it keep costs down, it keeps things lean. It keeps code light. It prevents waste. It forces you to focus on essentials. It makes change easier. Viva value.

26 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Scott M 25 May 06

Good insight. One comment: do not confuse the cheap/expensive spectrum with value. Seeking changes that are “quick and inexpensive” and seeking changes that are “worth the cost” are not the same thing. Would you agree that something can be “worth the cost” yet the cost not be “quick and inexpensive”?

Alexandre Simard 25 May 06

Doesn’t this constant concern about “expensive” computation lead to premature optimization?

ML 25 May 06

Would you agree that something can be “worth the cost” yet the cost not be “quick and inexpensive”?

Sure Scott. We just try to find a cheap solution (or reframe the problem) first.

Anonymous Coward 25 May 06

More people should be like this in not only software development, but life in general. Just like I try to buy the bargain brands, don’t go out when I can fix something cheaper and healthier at home and won’t get women who are over $30 an hour, I won’t develop something that takes too long for an end user to download that it becomes worthless or implement something that takes days to develop for very little worthwhile functionality.

George 25 May 06

@37signals

To help us gauge what is a good price to pay for certain expenses (dedicated server etc…), could you give us an idea of what your costs are.

Thanks in advance
George

Gayle 25 May 06

“…I try to buy the bargain brands, don’t go out when I can fix something cheaper and healthier at home and won’t get women who are over $30 an hour…”

Ok, a little milk just came out of my nose.

Brandon 25 May 06

George, they’re hosted at Tilted and have mentioned before that they only run a few servers, so that should give you some idea of what their costs are for dedicateds.

They’ve mentioned before what they pay though - I seem to remember it being around $10,000/month total for all their servers.

Maybe I was just dreaming though, there’s really no telling with me ;)

Anonymous Bastard 25 May 06

@Annonymous Coward:

“…won’t get women who are over $30 an hour…”

Keep in mind that cheap decisions now can lead to big expenses later… Antibiotics are not cheap, AC…

Anonymous Bastard 25 May 06

@Anonymous Coward:

Unless you think STD’s are value added features…

George 25 May 06

@Brandon

Thanks for the information. I would assume then that 37signals uses Tilted “complex hosting” options (which is very nice).

http://tilted.com/complex_hosting.html

Maybe something like “Configuration 2” is what they use.

I really like this “complex hosting” option. How many other web hosting firms offer load balancing etc…?

Bruno 25 May 06

I am against using the word cheap when referring to anything other than something low in quality, badly mad, cheaply done/created.

I think a more appropriate word to use instead is inexpensive, the exact contrary of expensive, the antonym.

joe 25 May 06

I once had a client tell me to “never say cheap.” “Cheap implies lack of quality… Say Less Expensive. -That means less costly.”

Chad 25 May 06

This whole discussion about “cheap” reminded me of a presentation by DHH in Canada.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/planetargon/127984254/

37signals at their finest.

The moral, “talk is _cheap_ too”

Jack 25 May 06

Job board is reporting only 95 job positions when earlier today it was over 100.

What the deal? Has it been 30 days already?

JF 25 May 06

Jack, today is the 30 day anniversary of the job board launch, yes. Jobs stay up for 30 days and then go away.

Jack 25 May 06

@Jason

Congrats then :) It looks like everyone is enjoying the Job Board. Great idea.

Bob 25 May 06

Tilited is kind of a rip off…you can get cheaper dedicated servers with better configurations from 1and1.com.

JF 25 May 06

Bob, there’s always cheaper, there’s always better, there’s always worse, there’s always an alternative. And there’s more to hosting than just the price.

Anyhow, there are plenty of fine hosts out there. Choose the one you like best.

ceejayoz 25 May 06

Having tested 1and1.com when they offered a free account to me, their support leaves much to be desired. Perhaps that’s because they knew I was a free user, but one would think they’d try to get paying customers out of the deal, not lose potential ones.

Cheaper and better configurations aren’t always the best overall.

Bill P 25 May 06

Web hosting is a perfect example of cheaper/expensive.

I’ll side with Jason over Bob on hosting. I have been told many times that Textdrive is “expensive,” but 2 years and multiple hosted domains later, I sleep like a a baby.

I try to make sure my decisions (and cost benefit analysis) take into account the cost of trouble that -> probably will

Bill P 25 May 06

(darn HTML tags. My mistake)

Web hosting is a perfect example of cheaper/expensive.

I’ll side with Jason over Bob on hosting. I have been told many times that Textdrive is “expensive,” but 2 years and multiple hosted domains later, I sleep like a a baby.

I try to make sure my decisions (and cost benefit analysis) take into account the cost of trouble that probably will occur if I go with a strictly low-quality product or service.

Scott M 25 May 06

So are most folks here looking for cheap/inexpensive or looking for value when it comes to software development?

Jon 25 May 06

I can’t believe someone just compared a general-solution/cheap/little-to-no-service company like 1and1 to a specialized-solution/all-about-the-service/fully-managed hosting company like Tilted.

I suppose you’re the same person who thinks 37signals can be hosted on Godaddy’s $7.95 a month virtual hosting plans that offer 500GB bandwidth a month (or whatever insanely high number they offer now).

filmnut 25 May 06

Allow me to be painfully obvious… The more money you save, the more money your customers save (via lower prices). Lower prices equals undying customer loyalty. This is why Walmart works, because lower costs are a serious competitive advantage. The important thing to remember is that long-term savings is king. What’s less expensive in the short run isn’t always less expensive long term. That’s the tight rope you have to walk.

Clair 26 May 06

Looking for ways to cut the cost but not to lower the quality is good. It is not always easy to do it but if it has to be done, it will be done.

Shorter and smarter code, less cruft. - I keep on hearing that from my friends who are into software development.

When it comes to saving because of the weight you put on other considerations - I think it’s perfectly logical.

Bitter 26 May 06

Yes. Performance matters. You’re clever. RLY.

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