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How Does a Poor Economy Affect Tech Innovation?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the counter-cyclical-investing dept.

The Almighty Buck 302

sshuber writes "It's no secret that the US and other parts of the world are currently having some economic problems. How is this affecting new technologies under development? With the large numbers of layoffs, are we seeing projects, such as things under R&D, that are being axed? Are companies playing it safe and sticking with what they know sells in lieu of pushing the envelope? Finally, how is this affecting the open source community, either positively or negatively?" A lot of open source work happens with the backing or at least the sufferance of corporations. Do laid-off tech workers contribute fewer cycles to open source projects, or more?

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Less (2)

dippitydoo (1134915) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560505)

Not as Many Wii Games. Save it for the Gas Tank.

Is It Really A Poor Economy? (4, Interesting)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560527)

There's a lot of foreboding potential out there, and a lot of big numbers have been lost on the market...but the numbers just don't seem to support that poor of an economy.

Yet, at least.

Nonetheless, everyone keeps talking like the world is in the depths of a worldwide recession.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23560603)

There's a lot of foreboding potential out there, and a lot of big numbers have been lost on the market...but the numbers just don't seem to support that poor of an economy. Yet, at least. Nonetheless, everyone keeps talking like the world is in the depths of a worldwide recession.
Remember, when you (the top 5%) can't afford your second SUV for your family it usually means the rest of the world is hurting badly. I think even rural America sees things differently than you.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (5, Insightful)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560719)

Remember, when you (the top 5%) can't afford your second SUV for your family it usually means the rest of the world is hurting badly. I think even rural America sees things differently than you.

Aside from tremors, China is doing fantastic. India is much the same. Europe is doing pretty much the same. Russia is recovering nicely from their economic doldrums.

I would guess that there are far fewer people worldwide living in poverty today than there were 10, or even 5, years ago, despite some speculative food price run-ups.

However, disparity of wealth distribution isn't even the point in contention (no one disputes that it is a real problem). This submission is quite clearly playing upon the current "the economy is in the gutter" meme, but it just isn't supported by the numbers. Things aren't great, and there's some bouncing atop a potential recession, but it's actually remarkably robust given some of the inputs over the past couple of years, which many expected to yield much worse conditions.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23560905)

Wake up. [washingtonpost.com]

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (2, Informative)

willyhill (965620) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561037)

I disagree. With the exception of Europe, the number of people in those countries you claim are "doing great" that are living at or below (WAY below) the poverty level is still staggering. And I omit Europe because growth in the EU is very different from growth in India and China.

History shows that only a small number of people ever truly benefit from runaway growth and industrialization. Are there more Chinese driving Mercedes Benz? Sure. For all the miracle that is high-tech India, you still see things like these [himalmag.com] . But all that doesn't mean those societies as a whole are doing great from an financial and quality of life standpoints.

If you think the economic divide is bad in the west, you should try one of those countries.

Glass Half Full? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561633)

It all depends on how you look at it.

Sure, in India millions of people are in "poverty".

However, a large number of them don't know they are as they are living as they always have raising crops and livestock.

And since the rise of a substantial middle class, many people are now employed making far more than they did before. Not only as employees of companies, but also as "help" for the new middle class.

Bottom line is the world as a whole is improving in just about all respects with regards to economic status. The only places it is not is where you have a despotic government or a complete lack of the rule of law.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (4, Insightful)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561707)

I like how people are saying the drop in housing prices is a terrible thing. It's immediately bad for those people wanting to sell houses, but it's a fantastic opportunity for people like me who live in apartments and may want to invest in a house.

Real Economy VS Financial Environment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561721)

I think we are now seeing that there is a limit to the value that can be created by "innovative financial engineering" a lot of recent "products" are being "revalued"

I know people were getting paid quite a lot of money right out of college for finance degrees (I suppose there was a good return on that investment for employers)now that the products these firms produce are being repriced, will this practice continue?

The home mortgage "loan agent" and "loan broker" positions are certainly not as common as they once were. I suppose they were producing the "raw goods" the financial markets were most recently "developing"

Does anyone more in the know than I have something useful to add?

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (4, Informative)

homer_s (799572) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561865)

However, disparity of wealth distribution isn't even the point in contention (no one disputes that it is a real problem).

Why would that be a problem? I'm from India. There is greater gap between the rich and poor now than there was in the 1980s. But, everyone is richer than we were in the 1980s.

In the 80s in India, the situation was comparable to a rich guy having $10 and a poor guy having $9 and now, it is as if the rich guy has $1000 and the poor guy has $90. Clearly, in the second scenario, the "gap between rich and poor" is higher, but is it the worse scenario among the two I've presented?

You've hit on a very important problem (3, Insightful)

hassanchop (1261914) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561947)

The term "poor economy" can be, and has in the past been, a self fulfilling prophecy.

If the population believes the economy is poor, and they behave as though the economy is poor, then the economy, regardless of its actual state, will, by the actions of the brainwashed masses, begin to behave as though it were poor.

That appears to be exactly what is happening here.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (4, Informative)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560769)

If by rural America you mean farmers, they are doing fantastic right now. They can either get paid to not grow stuff, grow wheat and sell it for food at record high prices, or grow corn and sell it at record high prices and get the ethanol subsidy from the gov.

I agree that the economy is pretty poor right now, but it's not the farmers who are currently suffering :)

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23560885)

Rural America might be farm workers, but it's not "farmers." It's the farm corporations taking the subsidies or selling crops at record prices, not the average joes and julies (well, mostly joes) working on the farms.

And the corporations are receiving great prices, but are also paying more for diesel and fertilizer, two of the largest costs of producing said crop. So it's also not so clear that the "farmers" are doing incredibly well either.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (0)

jtev (133871) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561077)

Or if things go anything like the last few years, they can put crop in the ground, expending time and fuel, and watch as floods, drought, wildfires, hail, or any of a number of other things ruin their crop, and make it unharvestable. Then the insurance payments won't even be enough to pay the taxes on their farmland. Yep. The farmers are doing great. Wheat and Rice both have shortages, and if we were growing as much as we normally do, that would be great news for the US, but the yeilds just haven't been there in recent years and supprise, there is a worldwide shortage of many foodstuffs.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561517)

In response to you and the ACs who posted. I don't live on or really even near a farm so I just have what I read to go by. These farmers seem to be doing just fine.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120303832040070169.html?mod=googlenews_wsj [wsj.com]

From the article:
"Farmers have a lot of money to spend," says Jerry Carder, a 49-year-old Albion corn and soybean farmer who recently bought a $40,000 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML350.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (2, Insightful)

jtev (133871) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561873)

It depends on where they are, and how their crops did. In many key food production parts of the country they didn't do so good. In some they made out like bandits. That's what happens when crops fail. If your crops fail, you're screwed. if someone else's crops failed, you're in the money, because people need to get food from somewhere.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (2, Insightful)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561991)

Having had some experience with farmers (I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin), I'd say he's either a lucky farmer or a big farmer. Large-scale farms often do well (of course, they also get extra help... took my parents ages to find a plant to buy their milk who didn't offer higher prices to big farmers just because they were producing more milk, and that's not even counting the fact that big businesses in general tend to have an easier time getting breaks from the government), but the small guy is generally just getting by. Not losing money hand over fist, but not getting rich either.

Also, that guy is a corn and soybean farmer. I'm guessing ethanol might have something to do with increased demand for corn (ie: higher profits for him).

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561105)

Whether they get paid to grow or not, they are not doing "fantastic". Never have, never will. They are just getting by, barely paying the bills. The small (a couple thousand acre and smaller) farmers currently are, always have, and always will struggle from year to year. You ubranites have a severe lack of understanding that to farm a 2,000 or 3,000 acre farm you still need several pieces of machinery that cost well north over $200,000. These guys are in debt up their eyeballs. They farm because they love it, not to get rich. The guys or companies getting rich farming, farm 10's of thousands to 100's of thousands of acres.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (3, Insightful)

rmadmin (532701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561533)

Or lose their arses completely when they're feeding that record high price corn to their pigs, which are not getting that great of $$ from the market.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

sdeering (910208) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560819)

It's only really a poor economy for those in the home-building, mortgage, and SUV industries. Those people have been making money hand over fist for the last 10 years, so have some nice savings build up I assume. Unemployment and inflation are not that bad.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (2, Interesting)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560997)

There are some who claim "it's" over already, based on historical indicators that have proved relatively reliable in past recessions.

no one really knows [cnn.com] , I guess, is the answer, but "recession" is such a blanket statement it can't (and doesn't) apply everywhere. For example, Alabama home prices have gone up year-over year aprox. 5%, and the woods and fields around my home are still being torn town and built into subdivisions, even in this so-called "recession". So there are still people out there building and buying houses...

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561463)

A recession's when your neighbor loses his job. When you lose yours, it's a depression.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561911)

Show me a really good indicator that we are in a recession or a depression. Please.

Yes, **average** home prices are down, but that is being skewed by home prices in Florida and California which were massively overvalued, and now are massively down. In more moderate places like the midwest (where I grew up and still have many ties) and Alabama (where I now live) there is little to no change. Again, this is just my experiance.

The market seems to have leveled off. Unemployment rates have leveled off the last three months. Gas prices? Still cheaper than many places in the UK and Europe, and maybe it's for our good. Not to mention, down over the weekend.

Unless you were just throwing out a cliche for the hell of it, show me.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (0, Flamebait)

bitbiter (632065) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561007)

Just how many bad numbers do you need to see?????? Home values take the largest dump in 20 years. Oil hits all time highes everyother day. The dollar is weaker than ever in my life time (over 40). Food prices are on a huge increase. Consumer confidence falls to near 16-year low. Oh and that's just in todays headlines. I just don't get where the "bury my head in the sand and everything will be ok" mentality comes from? I'm not saying that the world is coming to an end, but to think that there is nothing wrong. huh?????? Stop watching Bush give speaches on the economy and you should be just fine....lol You can't ask an elected offical to tell you what's going on with the economy. He has too many "advisors" telling him not to hand out anything that might be negative. Ask normal people like me that lost 15,000 in home value in the last 2 years. Ask the construction worker that is finding it hard to find work, cause they just aren't building that many homes now. Ask the trucker that is having a hardtime affording all the diesel that he truck uses. Ask families that aren't eating out that much, cause everything cost too much. Ask the waitress that isn't getting that many or as big tips anymore. Ask all kinds of people that were looking forward to the boost the holiday travel was suppose to bring. Just how good was their weekend?????

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561273)

Oh and that's just in todays headlines. I just don't get where the "bury my head in the sand and everything will be ok" mentality comes from? I'm not saying that the world is coming to an end, but to think that there is nothing wrong. huh??????

Your post just got too boring to follow past here.

Who's burying their head in the sand? Just because I'm not running around railing about cyclical industries doesn't mean that I don't see some economic turmoil...but it just isn't as bad as some seem to desperately hope it is.

I was in the business during the .COM crash, and that was a bad economy (especially for tech). I was a teen in the early 90s, and saw the incredible turmoil. Right now is ridiculously good times comparatively, despite chickenlittles like yourself.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561783)

I was a teen in the early nineties, you're right it sucked, but I also remember 2000. I made the same amount of money then as I do now, gas has doubled, rent +40% (despite the housing crisis?), and food has gone up about 30-40%. So, yeah, my life is better than it was in the nineties (possibly because the media isn't screaming about how Gen X was going to grow up and rape and murder everyone), but the economy isn't great since those years.

I wonder where you lived during the nineties (silicon valley?), cause where I live right now it's all farms, mills, and construction workers. All but the farmers seem to be hurting right now.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (2, Interesting)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561575)

Just how many bad numbers do you need to see?????? Home values take the largest dump in 20 years. Oil hits all time highes [sic] everyother [sic] day. The dollar is weaker than ever in my life time (over 40). Food prices are on a huge increase.

All but one of those are really just symptoms of one number: the money supply. Look at the price of oil in terms of ounces of gold [agiweb.org] . Note that the bottom line of this graph is virtually dead flat.

Of those numbers, the only one that isn't an effect of money supply increases is the price of housing in the US -- it's the cause rather than the effect.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

rcw-work (30090) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561899)

Note that the bottom line of this graph is virtually dead flat.

It is pretty much flat, but it's worth noting that the graph uses inverted units for comparison: dollars per barrel for currency, and barrels per oz for gold. For consistency, they should have used something besides oz (milligrams, maybe) so that they could use barrels as the fraction denominator. As presented, it looks like gold has a response opposite to that of the dollar for short-term fluctuations.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561603)

Just how many bad numbers do you need to see??????
If we are talking about recession, one, the GDP. A recession is a shrinking of the GDP for two consecutive quarters. So far, we've have 0, as in ZERO consecutive quarters of economic shrinkage.

So I don't give a shit what you, the press or anyone else says to try to make things look bad to bring down whatever politician (Bush or a Democrat congress) you are aiming at because numbers don't lie!

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561765)

numbers don't lie!
Lies, damned lies, and statistics [wikipedia.org] .

In a technical sense you're correct, of course.. but housing prices are down, "prime" mortgages are failing at unforseen rates, consumer confidence is in the hole and the dollar is weak, so putting your fingers in your ears and saying everything is fine and it's all just propaganda because we don't meet the technical definition for a recession isn't particularly helpful.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561841)

If we are talking about recession, one, the GDP. A recession is a shrinking of the GDP for two consecutive quarters. So far, we've have 0, as in ZERO consecutive quarters of economic shrinkage.

So I don't give a shit what you, the press or anyone else says to try to make things look bad to bring down whatever politician (Bush or a Democrat congress) you are aiming at because numbers don't lie!
Sure they do... look at the shadowstats.com site.

Every percentage point of inflation equals a zillion more dollars of government expenses. Thats why reported inflation is only 2% annual.

In a similar manner, unemployment stats are all doctored up until practically no one counts.

Half the population could be in a soup line at the homeless shelter, but all you'll see on the news is low unemployment, low interest, and high growth.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (2, Insightful)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561965)

Half the population could be in a soup line at the homeless shelter, but all you'll see on the news is low unemployment, low interest, and high growth.

The press lives off of bad news, so if you really think that they look to play down poor economic news, you are dreaming.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

rcw-work (30090) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561919)

If we are talking about recession, one, the GDP. A recession is a shrinking of the GDP for two consecutive quarters.

Ok, let's call it stagflation [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561011)

Where are my mod points!

This whole submission is based on the premise that "the US and other parts of the world are currently having some economic problems."

While I won't disagree that there are "some" economic problems, I think the amount and severity of economic problems are minimal. If you think the current economy is in bad shape, then you are listening to the political candidates too much.

I doubt that there has been a time in the history of mankind has the world been so prosperous. Sure, pockets of problems. Third World countries with poverty. Maybe your 401-K isn't as high as it was in October. But things are hardly bad.

Next story, please.

Re:Is It Really A Poor Economy? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561187)

We have a NON-WHITE problem, not a problem with the economy. Of COURSE tech takes a dive when your country is invaded by millions of thick as shit, obnoxious, selfish third world parasites.

Anybody care to explain why this is not the problem?

When I was looking for a job... (3, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560543)

...my productivity on pretty much everything taken a huge nosedive.

Re:When I was looking for a job... (2, Funny)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560793)

I was thinking I could do some work while looking for work, but looking for a job is a full time job.

The effects are obvious (2, Interesting)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560547)

In a sagging economy, people couldn't care less about new tech. The only way I could see a poor economy effecting tech innovation is if the new tech will clearly effect a cost reduction to the consumer. Without those effects, tech innovation will continue to be negatively affected by the current economic downturn.

Heh. (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561099)

So what you're saying is, either it will effect tech or it won't? You must be an economist.

The first thing you want to do when you're belt tightening is cut jobs; employees are huge overhead. But how do you cut jobs when the work still has to be done?

Answer? Automation. If you can't automate, you'll outsource, and outsourcing itself often requires new technology.

When the bubble popped, a lot of tech people took it in the shorts, and since that's the last big economic wobble, it's the one everyone is thinking about. But in reality there is no guarantee that a downturn will be bad for tech, or tech industries...It depends on what sectors experience the lowest growth. (Sadly, I do economics too.)

It's all good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23560607)

Everything is just being innovated in India and China.

Depends... (5, Interesting)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560647)

When gas was 99c/gallon, people weren't all that interested in new fuel technology. Now with oil going up and up, I expect we'll finally start seeing some real break throughs in alternative energy research.

OSS should also benefit from a slower economy. Why pay MS 100k for MSSQL licensing when I can get postgres?

Innovation won't stop and will continue to happen. It just might be in different areas.

Re:Depends... (1)

Leonard Fedorov (1139357) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561073)

As much as I'd like to believe you, the train-wreck of Vista was supposed to usher in the year of the Linux desktop...

Re:Depends... (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561245)

As much as I'd like to believe you, the train-wreck of Vista was supposed to usher in the year of the Linux desktop...


IIRC, the activation features of XP were supposed to usher in the year of the Linux desktop.

Re:Depends... (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561393)

As much as I'd like to believe you, the train-wreck of Vista was supposed to usher in the year of the Linux desktop...


Look around you, Linux adoption is higher then ever. Ubuntu has made Linux easy, Dell has Linux installed on normal PCs (along with some other computer makers), the gPC is many times sold out at Wal-Mart, the eeePC with Linux is quite popular, and the use of Linux-based tablets such as the N800 is on the increase. Never before could you get Linux so easily, it still isn't as common to walk into a large retailer and find computers pre-installed with Linux but if you spend 5 minutes hunting around, Linux is easy to find.

Re:Depends... (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561569)

When gas was 99c/gallon, people weren't all that interested in new fuel technology. Now with oil going up and up, I expect we'll finally start seeing some real break throughs in alternative energy research.
Well....consumers weren't thinking about alternative fuel sources, but businesses sure as hell were. Businesses exist for one reason: money. Oil was the cheapest, most cost-effective way to get from Point A to Point B for a long, long time. It isn't as though energy-from-dandie-lions has existed for all this time, and the "big evil corporations" have been ignoring because they like pissing their money into the pockets of oil tycoons.

The rise is gas prices has caused consumers to start wanting hydrogen cars, but don't fool yourself into believing that energy companies haven't been pursing this as an alternative for years. Hydrogen might be cheap, but it won't be nearly as cheap as Oil at $20 a barrel.

Re:Depends... (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561933)

People buying new alternative energy cars (even hybrids -- anything new) in mass would only contribute to the consumer debt problem. The average person, the masses, if they spend 10 minutes looking at the real economics of an automobile will discover that gas is still way cheap. It will be 20 years+ before any of the envisioned alternative vehicles are as economically sensible to own as a $3000 car and even $8 dollar per gallon gas.

Re:Depends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561789)

And then you can answer the "Linux is free if your time is worth nothing" trolls with "I'm paid in nickles, you insensitive clod!"

Depends on how long the downturn lasts (5, Interesting)

daveywest (937112) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560657)

Consider the small telecommunications company I work for. Our big projects are years in the making -- like trenching a fiber optic line across 3 states through a mountain range. You can't just put that on hold for 2-3 years.

We're cutting back on extravagances. I'll probably wait one more year for the new computer I was supposed to get last month.

An economic downturn will kill an already unhealthy company, but a good employer with a stable balance sheet knows how to weather the storm.

Re:Depends on how long the downturn lasts (1)

willyhill (965620) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560791)

We're cutting back on extravagances.

I hope that doesn't include toilet paper.

(I kid but in 2001 the company I used to work for stopped providing hand soap in the bathrooms after the stock tanked...)

Re:Depends on how long the downturn lasts (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561723)

We're cutting back on extravagances.


I hope that doesn't include toilet paper.


(I kid but in 2001 the company I used to work for stopped providing hand soap in the bathrooms after the stock tanked...)

You think that toilet paper thing was a joke?
I worked for a company in 1998 that had a rocker on the toilet paper dispenser that allowed for one square to be dispensed at a time.

Acamedic enrollment (4, Interesting)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560685)

It's been pointed out recently to me (at least here in Alberta, Canada), that university enrollment drops when the economy's strong, and picks up when the economy slows. There's at least a couple factors here. One, when the economy's not doing great, a university campus is a relatively secure place to be while you wait out a temporary drought. Secondly, while the economy's doing good, it's generally easy to get a well-paying job, which presents a stronger competition vs the academic route. On that note, the economy's looking pretty rosy up here right now, so we're definitely looking for potential students at the University of Alberta's Computing Science department! [ualberta.ca]

Re:Acamedic enrollment (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561137)

Third, there are a bunch of girls in their late teens and early twenties walking around in small tops and short skirts.

Re:Acamedic enrollment (1)

Alistar (900738) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561685)

You don't get to Canada much do you?

Unless you're there for the summer semester, it gets pretty cold here for most of the university year (October to March is our general no more shorts weather although there are pockets of warm weather on the fringes of that range); where the normal fall/winter semesters are september to december and January to April.

Poorly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23560693)

Next question please.

My employer (3, Interesting)

trrwilson (1096985) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560695)

My employer let go of 90% of the future projects staff, which equated to 75-90 people. No VoiP, or WiFi in the near future, PC/Laptop refreshes were put on hold, server refresh abandoned, the plan to change the entire server OS on file/print servers from 2000 to 2003 was abandoned...and some other stuff that I can't remember.

Food? (1)

grub (11606) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560703)


Do laid-off tech workers contribute fewer cycles to open source projects, or more?

Oh, more for sure. Who worries about silly things like paying the bills or putting food on the family's table?

Re:Food? (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561255)

I did a lot more, last time I was unemployed.

Partly it's because you can put, "Programmer for (insert OSS project here)" as your current occupation, rather than "sitting on the couch, watching the phone" and partly because the best way to put food on the table is to do some work, and the easiest sort of work to get is freelance work.

When you're freelance, you can't afford the licensing for the nice proprietary stuff. You can't afford to scratch build huge webapps. You absolutely have to jump on the OSS bandwagon, just because it's what you can afford.

And when the OSS app you're deploying turns out to lack some feature that's critical to your sale...You code it. Or you jump on the lists, and beg someone else to code it. Or you incorporate some other OSS project to provide that functionality, etc.

I made more when I was out of work than I do now, but I didn't get to post on Slashdot as much. It's all about how you decide to spend that time.

Re:Food? (1)

grub (11606) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561527)

Good points but, damnit man, I was being facetious. :)

workers (4, Insightful)

lupis42 (1048492) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560709)

I would expect at least some laid off workers to do some open source work just to keep their skillset current.

Re:workers (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560951)

Probably some of them that have sufficient savings to weather a long period of unemployment, but I think people like that (even though 90% of Slashdotters claim to be in that position) are in the minority. Many more will likely make finding a job their full time job, through interviewing, networking, and looking for short-term contract work to fill the gap in earnings.

Either that or they'll make posting to Slashdot their full-time job and just collect unemployment checks, but unemployment benefits won't carry you for long unless you really enjoy the taste of ramen noodles.

Re:workers (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561147)

...unless you really enjoy the taste of ramen noodles.

Ramen noodles have taste?

Re:workers (1)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561887)

is styrofoam a taste?

Large numbers of layoffs? (5, Interesting)

Cutie Pi (588366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560723)

Have there really been large numbers of layoffs in the tech industries? I thought many tech companies, particularly those with large overseas businesses, were doing pretty well. See IBM for example.

This whole question reeks of someone wanting the Slashdot community to do their research for them, starting with some pretty questionable assumptions. Maybe the answer to this question is better served by looking at how past recessions hit the tech industry and their innovation output.

Re:Large numbers of layoffs? (3, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561169)

Employment for health care and IT is still very strong. If you were a HELOC pimp, you're in trouble; but you never really contributed anything to the economy in the first place, so count yourself lucky and go get a real job.

Re:Large numbers of layoffs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561201)

"Have there really been large numbers of layoffs in the tech industries?"

Yes. Every firm in Silicon Valley is affected. Contractors/temps were cut (which you won't see as employees) and hiring was frozen. Employee layoffs have been happening steadily for the past year and a half, but you only hear about the big ones (Sun, Yahoo, Intel). The companies that are hiring get to pick and choose now from a large pool.

I even heard of one (medium sized) company (within the last month) that put its potential hires through several interviews and all but gave them the job (background check, salary discussion, starting date). Then the company changed its mind at the last minute. Any time there's a downturn, I start hearing about abuses like this one.

I'm posting anonymously, yet I'm still afraid to mention my employer, who is another company that cut away a lot of temps. (Still employed; knock on particle board.)

Re:Large numbers of layoffs? (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561317)

Maybe the answer to this question is better served by looking at how past recessions hit the tech industry and their innovation output.

Well, if this [wikipedia.org] is any indicator, it should take about 250 years for the tech sector to pick up.

Playing Dodge Question (1)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560815)

Is tech innovation about sitting down one day and saying "I'm going to invent tech." Or is it really a convergence where a solution in one field is applied to problems for another. I suspect the latter, and it takes young, bright minds to want to make those connections. Let me be clear, talented people do exceptional work through their middle and senior years, but revolutions are the domain of the young.

Well, cool, I dodged the question mainly because I don't know. We've had a downcycle every 7-8 years since WWII, if one could measure "tech achievement rates" then it could be correlated or not.

necessity the mother of invention (4, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560821)

We're having economic troubles because people are dumb - not because something has actually happened.

"oh woe is me, the housing market is collapsing!" no its not. Now's a great time to buy. In fact this is really the sort of situation that benefits people in their mid-late 20s. Real Estate values were inflated before. Now those people can more easily afford to buy houses.

now, back on topic... if there is any sort of actual shift taking place, it is not likely to be the big corps that want to try and ring every last drop out of "business as usual" who will benefit.

If people perceive times to be tough and getting worse, with regards to the environment, energy "crisis," etc - then the people who can move in and offer solutions to those problems are going to win. They're going to attract the money from the people that have it to get the stuff to market.

I'd like to think that in the next 5-10 years we're going to see a lot more people interested in home power generation -- solar and/or wind, appliances that use less power, etc.

We're also going to see people and companies wanting solutions which provide maximum advantage for minimum cost. That means we'll see a lot more open, standards-based solutions to problems. We're likely to see more foss solutions to software problems, open hardware solutions to hardware problems, etc.

Likewise, if programmers are now no longer employed by megacorp a, they'll likely have a few more hours a day to contribute to foss projects -- or start smaller ventures based on foss solutions to some of the more pressing problems of our day, and into the future.

or maybe i'm just high

Re:necessity the mother of invention (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23560855)

Now is a great time to pay a real estate agent a commission!

Re:necessity the mother of invention (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561197)

You may be high. And if so, I'm jealous.

But you are correct--is it not human nature to take advantage of good times to plan for the bad. Where was the interest in alternatives to the gasoline-powered auto when oil was $30 a barrel?

Yes, some forward thinkers were working on hybrids or alternative sources of hydrocarbons such as biodiesel and ethanol, but those efforts were certainly not the front page news they are today.

Even those technologies with no apparent practical utilization will see their features fully exploited when the need arises.

However I disagree with regards to unemployed programmers and community projects. Folks without a means of support will concentrate on finding a means of support. It's the programmers who are securely employed who will have the time and energy to contribute to open sores.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (2)

Socguy (933973) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561251)

"oh woe is me, the housing market is collapsing!" no its not. Now's a great time to buy. In fact this is really the sort of situation that benefits people in their mid-late 20s. Real Estate values were inflated before. Now those people can more easily afford to buy houses.


Great plan! Now lets go find a bank who want's to give me, a late 20something, a mortgage.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561325)

Get your parents (early 60-something) to co-sign? There are ways. I'm too much of an abused worker right now, and going to hide out in school again, to worry about it right now... plus i'm still a month shy of 24.

yay for "early 20s" -- like being a teenager, only with my own car insurance.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561523)

Coworker of mine is 22 and just got approved for a mortgage. Have you even tried? If so, why were you denied?

I just got a mortgage 3 years ago at 22, but admittedly it would have been during the whole "era", although I got a traditional mortgage through a traditional bank. It's not hard to have good credit in your early 20's.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561433)

Well, as to your first point, yes and no.

There is a real issue; people losing money on the stock market, people dealing with fuel and food costs, people losing money on real estate...All those things mean that there is less money running around in the economy, and less money means economic issues.

Now generally recessions are a problem of herd mentality. Plenty of people who haven't lost any money are deferring purchases because they're worried that they may lose money, and that restricts the flow of money further and effects industries that were not effected by the original troubles. It seems stupid when the government says, "Go out and spend!" but that actually has a measurable effect.

Otherwise I agree.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (4, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561613)

A few banks did some stupid things which should have been illegal and sold bad debts (mortgages to people who obviously couldn't afford them) to investors.

One they started getting fallout from being retards, more investors jumped ship. A lot of those people dumped money into oil and other comodities, running the price up -- creating another bubble to burst. Of course, even at ~4.00 a gallon, it's still cheaper than 1 venti green tea frap at starbucks, which even with a b&n discount card at the one in the store costs 4.37. Gas is 3.97 here, so if I buy 8 fraps to get the same volume, it costs me $3.20 more, which is a lot closer to a second gallon of gas than it is to another stupid frap. Gas is over 80% cheaper by volume than Starbucks is.

The Federal Reserve then kept lowering interest rates to "encourage growth" (because for some reason anything less than "growth" (and even then, the growth has to be at least thiiiiiiiiis big to count....) counts as "recession" these days), but that just created inflation and discouraged foreign capital investment, lowering the dollar's value.

If I were Congress or the President, I'd make trading petrol futures a capital offense. Margin trading would be earn you public floggings. Frankly, what I might do to the federal reserve board would probably have gotten me kicked out of the SS for inhumane treatment, I hate them so much for crimes of stupidity.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561811)


>If I were Congress or the President, I'd make trading petrol futures a capital offense.

And without a futures market, how will the commodity be traded?
What gets me is how many people don't realize that it's a competitive market, quite transparent, very public, and you might be trading futures yourself. (Do you look at the breakdown of the mutual funds in your 401k?

Re:necessity the mother of invention (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561893)

my asshat employers don't believe in 401k... or health insurance... or vacations... or living wages... or evolution... or gravity.

I can't wait to get out of this place... counting down the days.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561853)

Commodities are irritating to a lot of economists, especially in times like these. It's the big finance equivalent of hiding your money under your mattress.

Lowering rates is weird; there is the risk of inflation, but frankly, the real lowering of the value of the dollar is our national debt, and the fed is really for trying to manage our economy by controlling lending rates.

Gas is relatively cheap; we're paying now effectively what europe has been paying for decades. In the long run, it's still enough to drive the adoption of alternatives, and that's beneficial for our economy.

We're the best placed in the world to come up with a good, marketable fuel solution, simply because most other countries have artificially screwed with their fuel demand. China and India are subsidising cheap gas to fire their economies; this prohibits the adoption of a solution, because economics don't favor one. On the other side, Europe's historically high fuel taxes have already pushed them to adopt fuel efficient cars and public transit...They're not going to feel the pinch like we will.

Interesting times.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561525)

Now's a great time to buy.

Sorry, all of the froth isn't off the market yet. Stay out until this Autumn when the folks who have sat on the property through the prime Summer selling months get desperate. Then take your time and place an offer next Winter or so. Lending should be loosening up a little by then, too. Also, pick properties close to where you are likely to work - the price of gas isn't going down - or close to where other people are likely to work to reduce the potential price downside on your investment. The inner suburbs and in-city neighborhoods are retaining value while the exurbs are sucking wind. Good luck.

Re:necessity the mother of invention (2, Interesting)

a1056 (1296899) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561571)

In a way you're right, this is a good time to buy. But this assumes two principles. First, you do not have to sell your current home to buy a new home. Second, creditors are now being very conservative with their investments, so you have to have impeccable credit, savings and income to get a mortgage these days.

That is also why many economists think this will be a time of very slow growth/recession, because mostly investors will only invest in knowns, safe investments that have guaranteed rates of return. They got overly interested in making easy fast money with mortgage brokering to people that could not maintain the mortgage and now they are gun shy. What this means for innovation is that people will not invest in new technology, or emerging companies, or finance expansion by companies looking to extend into new markets. This extends even into China and India as well because they were also investing in the mortgage markets, right now getting investment is tight world wide, so a lot of companies are loosing out on speculation.

There was a great NPR/This American Life that explained how the housing crisis turned into a global credit crunch that is the root of all the recession claims. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1242 [thisamericanlife.org]

Re:necessity the mother of invention (2, Insightful)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561915)

I think quite a LOT of this doom and gloom is coming from the media and those who want to effect a change in political parties this year. No, everything is not perfect, but it's not going down the drain either. The problem is when you have a lot of people talking down the economy, it has an effect. Every problem or belt tightening becomes another sign that the economy is going downhill.

One of the problems we're facing regarding the housing market is of our own making and the banks being able to create all kinds of ridiculous scams to otherwise qualify people that could not afford the house they were buying. Using an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) or one of those interest only loans only works if the value of property continues to go up, as well as salaries. Eventually, however, the market corrects, the value goes down and the homeowner finds they owe more than it's worth just in time for the ARM to adjust upward. Then then owner gets fed up and walks out of the property.

We already went through a similar Savings and Loan crisis that cost taxpayer millions during the mid-80's - mid-90's when the housing market collapsed. And yet after bailing them out, nothing was put in place to make sure they couldn't invoke other predatory lending practices.

Then there are the companies who use this as an excuse to cut back. Believe it or not, I'm contracting for a large oil company who is in the process of laying staff off! I had hoped they would be hiring, but quite a few of the people I know are having to look elsewhere in the company or outside. It makes no sense with the amount of money they are no doubt pulling in right now, but it's cutting back and outsoucing.

How about both? (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560945)

In any company I've worked with, I've seen tech project put on hold, usually more about maintenance than the new projects.

An email server may not needed to be upgraded, but a new wireless VOIP solution that allows for reduced cost of maintenance and usage most likely would be pushed to the front. Any innovations that can reduce cost and either maintain or increase productivity would be a sure thing in a recession.

Can't speak for everyone, but here is my 4 cents.. (1)

greymond (539980) | more than 6 years ago | (#23560963)

In my career line of work (read: the full time job that pays my bills) I have seen only a few layoffs, however there have been a lot of budget cutbacks. Once we had our kitchen area/break room stocked with sandwhich fixings, snacks and fruit - now we have an empty area where you can bring in your own food. We've cut out almost all of our "social" activities as far as events and department outings. While I've seen an increase in our email blast campaigns and post card mailers, we've cut the amount of exposure we have in magazine and newspaper ads to a third of what they were. In addition, we've given up entirely on any online ads. Industry: Commercial and Luxury Residential Real Estate

With my side design projects I've seen an increase in people looking to pay peanuts for a great deal of work. Several companies in the areas I look for extra work in have been seeking senior graphic designers and art/creative directors, but posting salaries of $10-15 an hour. According to salary.com the typical senior or management level designer/director makes between 50k to 70k in my area and up until a while ago I was typically finding contract jobs offering $20-40/hr for small easy gigs, now it seems that people are looking to take advantage of those laid off, although I find it hard to believe that anyone with management experience would take them up on their offer.

The last thing on my plate is the PDF RPG market. it's never really been a HUGE industry, especially considering that companies like Onebookshelf (RPGNow and Drivethru) have a customer base of only 50-60k people, but within the last couple years I've seen a very sharp decrease in the amount of sales - granted this year 4th Ed. is coming out, and my line revolves around d20 fantasy, but prior to the announcement of 4th Ed there was a noticable decline in PDF sales. Print sales haven't been much better, but have stayed around what I expected.

Good topic (1)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561101)

Things will probably be similar to the time period right after the dot-com-bust.

Some money will still be spent on new development but projects will be chosen carefully.

I would hope that more companies will turn to open source software. As a consultant, I sometimes find it frustrating when customers are so concerned about protecting their IP instead of their profitability.

A bit obvious, but it is difficult to make money from commonly available data and services.

After the dot-com-bust, I found myself getting a lot more business from companies and individuals overseas (I live in the USA) - good for keeping busy, but I earned less money.

It is obvious that our economy (in the USA) is in a steep decline. Our government tries hard to 'fake the numbers' on inflation (they stopped publishing M3 figures several years ago!) and unemployment. The entire fiat money system looks to be in trouble.

I find it ironic that Iran, one of the few countries that is not in debt to the world "print money as fast as they can" banking system, looks like they may be attacked soon, and I wonder if there is a connection. I tend to believe that money, and the strong desire of the super rich to acquire more, is at the center of most international activities.

I think that we in the USA will unfortunately see a difficult time economically ahead (except for "Bush's base" - the super rich). That said, I hope that the economies in developing countries do OK since worst problems will occur if the economy of the whole world tanks.

The world has become a much more tightly coupled place - except for the super rich who profit from McCain + Bush style "small wars, forever" policies, the rest of us just want peace, and deal with doing business.

Holy fucking Cthulu, Batman! (4, Informative)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561139)

Large numbers of layoffs
What the fuck are you talking about? April 2007 unemployment: 4.73M, March 2008 unemployment: 4.49M, April 2008 unemployment: 4.68M

What large numbers of layoffs?

Re:Holy fucking Cthulu, Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561557)

Large numbers of layoffs
April 2007 unemployment: 4.73M, March 2008 unemployment: 4.49M, April 2008 unemployment: 4.68M

What large numbers of layoffs?
Lower unemployment numbers may be reflecting how deep the despair is. In worsening times unemployment numbers reflect only those still actively seeking work. Those who have given up are not counted. Therefore, lower unemployment numbers may reflect more despair - not better times or fewer layoffs.

Re:Holy fucking Cthulu, Batman! (1)

hercubus (755805) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561675)

Large numbers of layoffs
What the fuck are you talking about? April 2007 unemployment: 4.73M, March 2008 unemployment: 4.49M, April 2008 unemployment: 4.68M What large numbers of layoffs?

yep, you're angry all right...

i believe your reply would be more meaningful if it quoted tech-specific unemployment versus general numbers. and if you mentioned which country. perhaps lots of IT people in the US have been losing their jobs? your numbers wouldn't disprove that

of course it would have been nice if the OP would have cited their own numbers - if they do know of a trend towards US IT unemployment, which they're implying, some factual evidence would be noteworthy for the average /. reader

Re:Holy fucking Cthulu, Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561883)

Except your numbers don't show those Java programmers like me who were laid off and are now working at WalMart. My salary has gone from $28/hr to $8/hr but I'm not recorded anywhere because I'm still "employed"

Re:Holy fucking Cthulu, Batman! (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561955)

You also fail to realize a couple things , what is the number of people who have given up looking for jobs after thier unemployment has run out ?

Personally that is me , I gave up looking for work since every one wants to take advantage of the folks that are looking for work.

Tightening my belt and my wife working a little over time when she can and we are getting along while I am trying to get some training for other then IT.

Consumer Spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561267)

Depressed economy -> tighter budgets across the boards -> less investment -> less dollars for those on bleeding edges of things -> better educated waiters/waitresses

Theoretically, it should help open source (1)

analog_line (465182) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561281)

If your software development budget is being slashed, it would make sense to take advantage of the large pool of work being done at no cost to you. There are costs associated with customizing for your particular needs, but compared to an actual development infrastructure, it's minimal.

Depending on the business, it adds more weight to the money-saving aspects of open source alternatives, but it's not a "slam dunk" reason to switch wholesale. I work with a lot of small businesses, and I'm set to push harder on Linux-based file servers as a low cost option for when their old servers need to be replaced. OpenOffice.org finally getting an Aqua port allows me to start pushing it as an Office alternative for a lot of the Mac people I deal with who are sick and tired of the bugginess in Mac Office. I'm developing some infrastructure in the office with open source software on old machines running Linux for remote monitoring and control of client networks so I save gas money, and my clients don't pay for travel time as often, problems get noticed earlier and fixed faster, and everyone's happier. (not technically saving me money over a closed source alternative, but I likely couldn't afford to implement the closed source alternatives that are out there)

open source ?= tech innovation (1)

VoidEngineer (633446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561303)

I know people are probably going to mark me flamebait or troll on this one, but I have to point out that open source doesn't necessarily equal tech innovation, and in my opinion, it's probably a fallacy to think so. Tech innovation is a lot more than bits and bytes and computer code. To innovate, you generally need resources, and often exotic ones at that. For example, mag-lev trains using the next generation of iron-arsenic superconductors aren't going to be developed by open source, because they need massive amounts of, well, iron and arsenic. And you're not going to get the amount of those materials you need without going through the commodities market. So, mag-lev trains probably delayed because of the poor economy. I could site other examples, ranging from quantum computing to nanotech to neuro interfaces. The basic idea however, is that construction of new tech is slowed down via commodity and labor prices. Maybe you'll have independents working on stuff at home a bit more, and some of the current R&D projects will survive the drought. But those projects will have difficulty coming to market until the market improves. It's hard to get the funding to purchase research time with an MRI magnet if the economy sucks. I anticipate a lot more of hobby programmers at home reverse-engineering current projects, and bringing free alternatives to the market during the economic downturn. Not saying that its a good thing or a bad thing, but often times I see open-source as simply being a reverse-engineering endeavor, rather than a tech innovation endeavor. My personal opinion is that the open source mentality has a lot in common with various types of socialism (and communism?). I'd go so far as to say that the poor economy isn't going to foster tech innovation, as much as it's going to foster tech socialism.

Re:open source ?= tech innovation (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561629)

Did someone suggest that open source was equal to tech innovation?

I disagree with the implication of the summary (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561311)

If anything, tech seems like its speeding up (at least to me). We're seeing OSS projects going from things that nerds run on their home networks for fun in the their off time, to things that nerds run on their massive corporate networks for fun (and profit) during their on time.

Also, most of the old-time, tech-hating PHB types have retired, and big, corporate-network apps are starting to take over. "Email servers" have been replaced by "collaboration software". Telecommuting is becoming more and more common, video conferencing is starting to take hold with the adoption of VOIP.

If anything, I think that this is one of the most exciting times to be in tech, especially in the United States, and partially because of our economic downturn. Let me explain: our economy is taking a turn for the worse (I don't think anyone is arguing this point), and the reason is that we're either shipping low-income jobs overseas, or we're giving them to people who neither stay in the country, or keep any of their money here (migrant workers). This is causing normal, blue-collar type jobs to disappear, and causing higher-paying white-collar jobs to be created. We still RUN the business from the US..we just don't manufacture any of the goods here.
We went from the boss having to communicate with the factory floor on the other side of the facility or a couple of floors down, to the boss having to communicate with the factory floor on the other side of the globe. The only way to achieve this global communication is by beefing up the networks, and developing better software.

The economic downturn is, in my opinion, fueling the tech market because it caters specifically to white-collar business.

On a slightly related note:
Does anyone else think that...how do I put this...."nerdy stuff" becoming mainstream is hurting tech development overall? It used to be that nerdery was something that reclusive geeks could get together and do. It was their's and you had to be goddamned smart to participate. Lately, though, it seems like geeks are sortof taking a second seat to the exact type of trendy, photogenic, not that creative or inspiring people that we always HATED when i was just a young geek.

Weak Market (1)

goldcd (587052) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561503)

will surely reduce the number of startups - but most of those that erm "don't start" will be the ones with less of a chance of success (i.e as a completely random guess, 50% less startups leading to only 30% less successful startups). People still have money to invest (it didn't vanish anywhere) they're just being more careful where they put it. On the point of OSS productivity. I think if you're not working then you're probably going to be sitting in your underwear on the sofa with a beer. If you're in a startup you're going to be wildly flogging yourself to the bone to support your employer. Only time I ever feel like doing 'MY' coding is when I'm being productive at work and resenting every boring minute of it (i.e. have my work hat on, but am utterly uninspired by it).

Better (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561507)

A poor economy makes it impossible to throw money at a solution and hope it to work. This has lead to the rise of Linux-based UMPCs such as the EEE and the OLPC project. When someone doesn't have $2000 to spend on a shiny new Vista computer with the 4 gigs of RAM it needs and a quad core CPU, they start looking at what they really need, and if they can save $50 by not having Windows and instead have Ubuntu, they will. If they can save $300 and buy a low-end laptop like the EEE rather then a more powerful one, they will. When people start throwing money at a situation, innovation suffers. This is how Windows got its monopoly, businesses who had no clue what they really needed thought it would be better to spend $2000 and get a new Windows desktop then look at a lower-end $1000 DOS or other OS system. Today, with a slowing economy people might actually look and find that they don't need Windows and move on to Linux. A poor economy might just be what is needed for Linux.

What kind of innovation are we talking about? (1)

Touvan (868256) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561725)

Iterative types of innovation, such as the kind that R&D departments do is one thing.

2 guys in a garage style innovation, is another thing entirely.

I'd bet that second kind - the kind that then to revolutionize, rather than incrementally improve - will be the kind to suffer more (especially in the U.S.) when there simply isn't enough financial stability amongst the working class, which produces kids who become the creative class, to create the kind of free time and optimism that's needed for those people to create revolutionary new things.

No one is discussing the fix either, at least not in the U.S. Maybe they think the iterative kind of innovation (if that's even still going on) is enough to compete with China and the E.U.

Project shifts (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23561857)

I work at a small software shop, and we write custom software.

I've noticed a shift in our clients' thinking. New projects have to save the company money overall and more requests to include OSS libraries and products.

Personally for me, I like the fact we're including more OSS products (MySQL, Postgres, Linux, *BSD, etc...). When I first started, I was a little out of place due to the fact I had spent so much time working with open source. Now that experience is useful to my company.

But overall new software work really needs to have an immediate cost savings. For example, a client came back after a year. The client is a non-profit, we developed a system to allow them to keep track of their membership and invoicing. Most of the membership management is being shifted to the web. A year before, it cost too much and they didn't see any benefit.

Now they realize they save on things like stamps, maybe hold off on hiring a part-time person to process mailed in renewal notices. Plus they'll have a better system for calculating how much money they got.

Laid off tech workers = more startups (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561977)

A certain percentage of laid off workers will decide that that is the push they needed to start their own businesses.

The real answer is we don't know. It could make companies more competitive by giving incentives to innovate (biofuels, etc.) You never know where the next great idea will come from.

I would bet more (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23561997)

If you have extra time, you want to stay in 'shape' so you might as well code and contribute.

OSS can help you make contacts too.
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