Introducing Jonathan Harris: A Software Farmer

The Farmer and Farmer Review is a blog dedicated to asking wonderfully penetrating questions about business ethics in the sphere of technology.  With the gracious permission of Jonathan Harris, I am reprinting an entire post from their site.  Jonathan and Sep’s pithy, pungent insights can be found at


On the Web, there are two main kinds of companies: marketplaces and attention economies.

Marketplaces operate by connecting one group of people to another group of people and allowing them to conduct a transaction, of which they take a cut. Etsy connects buyers to sellers; Kickstarter connects creators to backers; Airbnb connects travelers to hosts; OkCupid connects daters to daters. Marketplace companies build tools to solve problems that exist in the world. At their best, they operate like healers — mixing up medicine to answer a need.

Attention economies operate by convincing users to spend large amounts of time online, clicking many things, and viewing many ads. These companies often masquerade as “communication tools” that help people “connect”. But in attention economies, most of the “connecting” happens alone, while you’re staring at a screen, and it often leaves you feeling empty. Attention economy companies operate less like healers and more like dealers — creating addictive experiences to keep people hooked.

Both kinds of companies fulfill urges that are already in us, but the way that they answer those urges is different.

Marketplaces aim to eliminate urges by feeding them quickly (find a date, book a room, etc.), while attention economies aim to keep the urges going forever (continuous updates, another cool video, more new messages, etc.).

There is an ancient pact between tools and their users which says that tools should be used by their users, and not the other way around. Good tools should help their users accomplish a task by satisfying some pre-existing urge and then getting out of the way. Attention economies, at their most addictive, violate this pact.

Like good medicine, good tools should appear briefly when you need them, and then disappear, leaving you free to get on with your life.

By Jonathan Harris

* * *

This guy rocks.

The same is true of religion.

Many religious leaders and many religious organizations are deliberately focused on creating addictive bonds with their followers.

But for every malicious religious leader who is trying to attract followers instead of showing them how to unpack their treasures, there is a small army of junkies who would rather medicate their pain with religion, instead of heal it with tools.

I know.

The single most common complaint about Sapphire comes from the junkies who came for a toke and were offered a tool.

And resented it.

Copyright October 2013 by Arthur Burk

On the road, but looking toward home

This entry was posted in The Kingdom of God. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Introducing Jonathan Harris: A Software Farmer

  1. Diane says:

    Well well put…that hits some mindsets

  2. Debbie G. says:

    Tools get you places. Personally I’d rather have a tool that will allow me to be more useful to the King. Much more than if I made comfort based choices. I have left my church, recently I went back to visit, not much seems to have changed. I will take the tools I find here, that challenge me and push me to be of more use in the kingdom. Rather than ever realizing that I have not grown or changed.

  3. Nico says:

    Be cautious to not become addicted to tools as well. Or another way of saying it, is to become dependent on the tools. Tools should make a task easier, but they should not become an idol.

    One of the subtlest attacks I had to deal with recently, there is a certain Bedtime Prayer I got which is really great to help consecrate sleep.

    It helped me a lot in regaining lost sleep and sanctifying my sleep so that I can actually get a good nights rest and not be haunted with bad dreams.

    But ever so slightly, it became more about the actual prayer than about spending time with God or talking to God. A routine before going to sleep. Just another tick to be made on the TO-DO list.

    Hear me well, I truly believe that prayer is an immensely powerful tool, but the power of prayer is not in the prayer itself, but from God.

    • Deb Harford says:

      Yes I hear and admire the progression of truth here but also recognize the need to crawl before we walk. Maturity is a process, we grow and put away,childish things, but when we were in that state of need it may have been very good. Thanks for painting the picture, I relate and remember a time like this, but I know in the midst it was good and in time I grew and no longer needed it. I would also offer it without hesitation to another in need if so led.

  4. barbarakski says:

    Bravo Arthur! Well said my friend!

  5. snoopsparky says:

    I have been working with my hands and my brains since childhood. You can use a cheap tool when you only need it once. But you want a precise and durable tool for doing the everyday stuff. SLG has provided high-grade tools for building stuff you can build more on.

  6. George O'Neil says:

    I have been trying to figure out why I left my church….and you nailed it ….no tools were given, but rather I developed and addiction.

  7. nancy henry says:

    Tokens are about as useful for finishing well in life, as is flattery. Fools gold. Tools, on the other hand, have substance. You can get a grasp on them, use them over and over and over………..and in the end, you have tangible treasures to lay at the feet of our Lord and King. Solomon would have a thing or two to say on this subject.

  8. Jeanne says:

    I realize my comments are not that meaty; more of an ‘at-a-boy’ type. I love your commentary on the blog–especially, the two sentences after ‘The same is true of religion”–and it is just the expression of thoughts that I needed at this time to deal with a situation in which I find myself. I already knew what I thought but was having a very hard time wording it so that I did not just sound like I was complaining about the situation. Thank you, thank you.

Comments are closed.