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Economics of Scripting

The Hidden Side of Script Block Development
Script builders are forever optimists. When they hear statements like this, it's like a red cape to an angry bull.
It would be nice if the app did this simple task.
We hear these words and our synapses begin to spark. Soon after the request sinks in we fly into action with every belief that indeed, it's going to be as simple as the user described and it will undoubtedly and magically emerge from our fingers before we can type - this is a complete and utter distraction that I should have ignored.
Every human on this planet is able to sing pitch-perfect just like Brittany Spears - in their mind. Likewise, developers have no trouble envisioning and writing an entire BUG-FREE program cerebrally and seemingly in seconds.
Your butt hasn't even touched the chair and you're already writing the first lines of code, anxious and eager to see your foregone [requirements] conclusion transformed into an elegant solution and quickly published to demonstrate just how competent you are. And as bright, confident, and talented as most software developers are, we have great difficulty discerning the often pixelated contrast that exists between vision and reality.
The hidden side of scripting and software engineering is a classical . We rarely forecast or track time, effort, complexity, or value. And we tend to believe that a well-designed script needn't factor in support costs for anything we build because (a) what we have in mind will need no support, and (b) that's not the fun part. And we tend to assume there are no costs in our mad dash to whip up this solution because it's just some zeros and ones, and it's going to be near effortless.
Sometimes it's painful to look deeply into the mirror.
I've tracked the development of all my Script Block projects; those I've built for my clients as well as the ones I built for learning purposes and shared with the community. The results might surprise you. And should you get the sensation that these metrics don't apply to you because ー well ー Bill is old; Bill is slow, just file that under your slightly larger blind-spot.
Here's the data...
Predicted vs Actual Effort
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Created with Highcharts 9.3.1Script NamePredicted Effort (hrs)Actual Effort (hrs)Actual SupportAnswer Me ThisField TweakerScript Block Bench...Outlier DetectionForecasting & Mach...Airborne Search (P...0123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930313233343536373839404142434445464748495051525354555657585960616263646566676869707172
The Raw Data
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As you can readily see, the yellow bars (actual) are far bigger than the blue ones (predicted). This is not good. Ideally, you want the opposite, but at minimum, it underscores the true cost of doing anything with script. It may be fun and it might be your hobby or a learning journey for a new career. However, without question, the data suggests that it may not be economically what it seems or what you may have expected.
The True Value of Scripts
This data gives us an eye-opening insight into the true value of scripts. And while many of us in the community have day jobs building scripts, it doesn't mitigate the effort and costs associated with engaging, helping others and writing scripts that often lift new and existing Airtable users to greater levels of satisfaction.
This is a cost that all script authors bear on behalf of their own brand and stature in the community. My assertion is that it's...
Non-trivial
Generally greater than expected
Has far greater value than you might imagine
With this realization, my scripts will now come with a value indicator; a rough guess of what these script would cost if commissioned under a consulting project.
Luckily for me (and you), this computation comes effortlessly from a guy (Vlad Nevzorov) more than 10 years ago.
Let’s assume that the cost of man-hour is $100 and in average an employee works 1850 hours per year. Then the cost of a single line of a code will be between $12.33 and $18.50.
Discounting for such things as work-for-hire agreements which would dictate exclusive script ownership and the obligation to fully test, document, and support the creation, a reasonable value is likely 1/10th of this rate - about a buck-twenty-five to maybe a buck-eighty-five.
But...
We also need to discount for the nature of Script Blocks; they are narrow, highly focused micro-apps designed to work in a very focused context and typically for a specific table or table collection. All factors considered, I think a line of functioning Airtable script is worth about...
$0.99
Certainly, there are many circumstances and process attributes to consider that might lead you to a value-based metric. Imagine a 200-line script block that saves your team 20 hours per day and the team's time is valued at $100/hour. Over a one-year time-frame, you'd save about a half-million dollars on a script valued at just $200.
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