How Much Is It Worth?

I discovered this week that I was severely overcharged when I bought a new TV from our local branch of Comet (a national electrical retailer) some months back. According to a back of an envelope calculation, my TV was actually worth somewhere around one five thousandth of a penny.

This must be true because an investment company just bought the entire Comet chain of more than 400 stores and all of their stock for just one pound. Though they had to pay a pound extra for the sister company that does the extended guarantees. I wonder if the transfer was made through some complex international banking transaction with four-inch-thick wads of sales contracts, or if the boss of the investment company just tossed a couple of pound coins across the table and asked for a receipt.

Meanwhile, you may have read about the debacle a couple of weeks ago at the Ostwall Gallery modern art exhibition in Germany. It seems that a cleaner mistook the dirty stain on the floor under Martin Kippenberger's exhibit "When it Starts Dripping from the Ceiling" as being a dirty stain rather than part of the installation, and helpfully cleaned it up. They're saying it will cost 750,000 pounds to restore. Unfortunately the artist is dead; I hope someone remembers what it looked like.

So you can buy a whole chain of major retail stores for one pound, yet a dirty puddle costs three quarters of a million pounds. It's no wonder we have a financial crisis. Perhaps they can find a few hundred dirty puddles in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain (it shouldn't be hard this time of year) to sell off and balance their books.

But I suppose the real question is whether there is a relationship between value and cost. I reckon there's more value in a chain of major retail stores than in a weird modern art installation, but I guess that's only my opinion. Maybe I just don't appreciate the artistic merit of a few bits of wood, a plastic tray, and a dirty puddle.

So how do you measure the value of something that costs nothing? I'm talking, of course, about technical and architectural guidance of the type that our little team strives to produce. And it's not only us; there are thousands of bloggers who give their time, experience, and knowledge for free every day. Yet the total value to application designers and developers is immeasurable.

Maybe I can get the maintenance people here at Microsoft to nail some odds bits of wood together that we can sell to cover the cost of all the work we do creating our guidance. I seem to remember from my last several visits to campus (usually in February) that there's no shortage of dirty puddles...