Gina’s on the Warren program.

Perhaps I’d better explain that one. It isn’t actually the Warren program, we just call it that. It’s actually the Apex Fitness program. It’s just that the guy we work with at our local gym is called Warren. As people are wont to, we prefer the personal touch to the corporate branding. Hence, the Warren program.

Anyway, I’ve just finished my 12-week tune-up, and Gina’s in the middle of hers. We’re always astonished by how easy it is to lose weight and get in shape by following the Warren plan. Gina was commenting on this last night, and said something that reminded me of IT (as most things do). She has been thinking about this study from the National Institute on Aging and worrying that our children will have lower life expectancies than we do.

(There’s a scary chart on page 2 showing our increasing caloric consumption.)

“Americans don’t need to be fat.” Gina said. “But there are whole industries devoted to making them fat and keeping them fat.” She then went on to catalog those industries, and point out how it was more profitable for them to make sure we over-eat — and profit growth would require ever more obesity.

This is the part where I’m thinking: isn’t the packaged food industry just like the packaged software industry? (Yes, Gina hears everything through physical filters, and I hear everything through software filters.) Well, the average family spent $76.39 buying 31.8 pounds of salty snacks. We consumed around 6.2 million pounds of confectionery at a cost of around $13.5 billion. Clearly, snacks run over $2 / pound. But, apples, say, run around 30 cents a pound. Or, as in this article, 13.6 million pounds of peaches at $4.5 million would indicate that 30 cents / pound is a pretty good estimate for fresh fruit.

And, of course, fruit is better for you. So, here we are. Fresh fruit is healthier than packaged snack foods, costs about 8 times less (per pound), is just as convenient to pack in a lunch box or eat on the run, doesn’t result in environmentally unfriendly litter, but isn’t manufactured as much as grown. Fresh fruit isn’t branded, packaged snacks are.

Open source software development is more like growing software than manufacturing it. Why would it be hard to believe that it might be 8 times cheaper and better for your IT health? Well, there is at least one industry (maybe more) whose profitability depends on convincing you otherwise.

That’s when they start to make processed fruit snacks and marketing fruit juices. Or am I mixing metaphors again?