Good Software

I saw a tweet this morning that caught me off-guard.
It doesn't strike me as consistent with the type of thing AgileFortune usually tweets. My initial reaction was to reply via twitter, but didn't feel I could express my thoughts well in 140 characters or less.

What is "good"?

And by extension what is "good" software? Good has many meanings. To be morally excellent or virtuous, to be satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree, to be proper or fit, well-behaved, beneficent, or honorable. These are all definitions of good.

Morals and Software?

One might argue that moral excellence, beneficence, or honorableness are not relevant to measures of "good" in software. I disagree. They are as relevant to software as they are to medical care, banking, manufacturing, and any other human endeavor. Dishonorable businesses that are morally questionable and do harm to others are not "good" businesses. Sex trafficking is not "good" business. Exploitation of others is not "good" business. Profits alone do not make a business "good". Businesses do not exist to make money, or rather they should not. Businesses should exist to provide an offering of value to others. Money is a means of measuring the value provided to others. With that money, we can continue to provide and improve our offering, should we choose.

Money is to a business as food is to a human. We do not live to eat; we eat to live. We do not run a business to make money, we make money to run a business. Greed and gluttony are entirely different matters; neither of which is healthy or "good".

Other aspect of "goodness"

Let's set aside the moral and social aspects for a moment. This leaves us with satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree, proper or fit, and well-behaved. Distilling it down to these elements, one could assert that if software makes money it is "good", for it behaves well enough for people to use it for some given purpose that results in profit to the software creator, be this in subscriptions, transaction fees, exchange for goods or service, or ad revenue.

Reliable? Must be good enough. It makes money. And nothing else matters.
Maintainable? What difference does that make? It makes money. And nothing else matters.
Secure? Bah! It makes money. And nothing else matters.
Scalable? Who cares? It makes money. And nothing else matters.

Let's look at this measure of success in another endeavor. An electrician whose installations fail on occasion (reliable), makes junctions inaccessible and does not follow industry standards (maintainable), and fails to adhere to safety standards (secure), but gets paid for the job has provided a "good" service. Because nothing other than money matters.

Good and Money are not the same

As a software developer; a professional software developer, your measure of "good" needs to include factors far beyond revenue generation. Open Source software is often quite good and makes no money. Commercial software is often poor and makes a lot of money. "Good" and "Money" are not the same. Software that makes money is not automatically good.