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25 Jan 2008

by Noel

SPIN-Farming, Franchising, and the Future of Software Frameworks

Ever thought about buying a franchise? Like the idea of running
your own business but don’t want the risk of trying it all
alone? How about farming? Attracted by the notion of
growing all your own food, and connecting with nature? How
about both — franchised farming? Sounds unlikely, but
that’s essentially what SPIN farming is.

The core of SPIN farming is, well, farming, but not on
the scale that most people associate with modern farming
techniques. SPIN farmers typically work plots less
than an acre in area, and achieve good returns by
concentrating on the most profitable crops, and utilising
crop rotation to increase yield. The best
description I’ve found is<a
though it isn’t very detailed.

In itself the farming techniques aren’t that radical. I
remember learning in high school that crop rotation was one
of the key innovations of the agrarian revoluation, and that
was some time ago (both high school, and the agrarian
revolution). What is novel is the way the SPIN farming
business is run, and that’s what causes me to call it a
franchise. Contained in the guide books (the<a
href=””>complete set can
all be purchased online) is everything you’d expect from a
good franchise: a business plan, marketing advice, and a
detailed day-to-day workflow. In standardising the product
and creating a reproducible process it really isn’t any
different from McDonalds. Now SPIN farming isn’t a true
franchise — you don’t buy the right to use the name,
and there isn’t any ongoing fee. And there’s no equivalent
University either. At least not yet. It is still an interesting business
model and one that I think has great potential, though
perhaps not for the financial gain of the founders.

The franchise idea, believe it or not, has great
relevance to computing. What is<a
over configuration if not the computing equivalent of
the franchise’s reproducable process? Perhaps by regarding
frameworks as franchises we can shift the emphasis from
technical development to supporting the developer in every
way they need to succeed. This seems to me a better goal
for both framework developers and users.

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