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“We pay how much for that?”

Do you ever wonder why people are willing to pay money for something that could be had for free? Alternately, do you ever wonder why the things we pay for are often of such poor quality? Prof. Hacker believes that one should never pay for a service when either or both of these two criteria are met:

  1. The service is of poor quality compared to what one might hack for oneself.
  2. One is perfectly capable of doing the same thing—legally!—for free.

Herewith, I post the first in an occasional series of short blog posts under the heading “We pay how much for that?”

Recently, Inside Higher Ed’s Ben Elsen reported the following:

The growth of the note sharing industry has certainly attracted its fair share of small time entrepreneurs looking to cash in on a growing trend in higher education. But it has also attracted heavy hitters in academe like McGraw-Hill, which started GradeGuru as a home-grown project. Sawtell said that the Web site was spawned from McGraw-Hill’s own research into study habits, in which students were asked to videotape themselves while they were studying. The video responses often featured two students in the frame, suggesting that collaboration was more prominent than the researchers had anticipated. So, they set to work developing Grade Guru to bring the age-old practice of sharing notes into the 21st century.

Prof. Hacker cannot help but suspect that only those who are ignorant of, or fearful of, or inept at using such simple and free tools as GoogleDocs or the basic version of PB Works would actually pay money for a commercial service that essentially does the same thing.

What are your thoughts on the subject, dear reader?

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