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Independent Programmers' No-Win Scenario

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the barriers-to-entry dept.

Businesses 552

snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister writes about the no-win scenario facing today's independent programmers: 'In a knowledge economy, programmers rank among our most valuable workers, yet the current legal and regulatory climate makes a career as an independent software developer virtually a dead-end prospect.' Section 1706 of the 1986 Tax Reform Act, the hurdles and costs of obtaining health care for one's own family, a hostile legal climate in search of accountability for any defects in code — these harsh realities make it 'easy to see why software developers would give up on entrepreneurship. For many, the risks simply don't match the potential rewards. Better to keep their heads down, not rock the boat, and hope they can hang onto their jobs until retirement.' Great news for big software vendors, which will be 'ensured an endless supply of programmers desperate for the safe haven of a steady paycheck, predictable taxation, health benefits, and a shield from civil prosecution when their code turns up buggy. But where will the next Microsoft come from? A field that discourages self-reliance sends the message that the status quo is the highest goal.'"

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552 comments

yeah. its much better to be p0wned (5, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276818)

its much better to work for some huge soulless corporate pig where everything you create is owned by the pig and all you get is a measly salary and the pig gets richer and fatter while you wonder if you have enough to retire on at 65

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (3, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276880)

It's hard to do anything as a beginner.

Of course, but the thing here is that you can't necessary choose the better way either, so you have to go by that. Of course it's easy to yell about "working for soulless big company like EA" from the moms basement, but that's not how it goes in the real world.

But the amount of such things you need to care of in the US isn't even bad yet. In other countries there's so many things you need to take care of it really, really puts you off. You'll be spending a lot more time trying to figure out all the overhead things than getting any work done.

You would need to right away get some lawyer to tell you everything little minor detail in law, an accountant to make sure you fill the complicated taxes correctly, take care of payment processing, and pay large amount of money for irrelevant things like health care and so on. If the workless people don't have to pay for health care, why should a beginning entrepreneur do so if they don't like to?

In beginning you really need someone. If you're an games programmer, this means someone that can handle the distribution and paying your share of it. PopCap and such might be good for a beginner.

On the internet it might also mean starting your site with no financial incentives first and hope someone picks you up, or provides funding and other expertise.

But yourself alone, as a newbie with no money to invest with - no, it's too hard.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (5, Insightful)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276986)

its much better to work for some huge soulless corporate pig where everything you create is owned by the pig and all you get is a measly salary and the pig gets richer and fatter while you wonder if you have enough to retire on at 65

When you have a wife a kid(s) depending on you, when health benefits for you/your wife/kids would cost 5 times as much (if they are available at all, if you have any kind of special needs, or pre-existing conditions, forget it) and half as good, then yeah, it does... The republicans like to burn sacrifices at the alter of "small business" and entrepreneurship, but they are full of it.. There are plenty of folks out there who have idea/dreams, who would go out on their own, but have to make the decision to stay in a job's that don't reveal their full potential, jobs they may even hate because of this..

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277238)

As a Type I diabetic - big corporate is basically the only option for me.

Startups and self-employment are not options, yay for preexisting conditions!

Good news is that I'm an EE, not a software guy. EEs get shit on somewhat less by big companies.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (1, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277320)

Republicans are liars. They're always posturing and claiming they're for small government, small business, etc., but it's all complete lies. They're really little different from the Democrats. They favor BIG business, and helping out already-rich people instead of providing a level playing field or doing anything at all to encourage entrepreneurship. The main difference between the Dems and the Reps is which BIG businesses they're allied with. With the Reps, it's oil, gas, and defense contractors; with the Dems, it's the RIAA, MPAA, etc. The other main difference is which special-interest groups they pander to: Reps pander to fundamentalist Christians, gun owners, and homophobes, while Dems pander to environmentalists, gun-banners, and minority groups. However, it should be noted that in their pandering, they talk a lot to these groups about how much they support them, but in reality, they don't actually do that much to help them when they're in power (Obama's environmental policies aren't really any different from Bush's, for instance). They're all a bunch of liars.

The best thing America could do later this year in the election is to vote out EVERY incumbent (except maybe Ron Paul; he's the only one who isn't a liar from what I can tell, even if I don't agree with him on everything). Of course, that's not going to happen; the people complain about Congress all the time, but they're really complaining about everyone else's Congressmen, not their own. When it comes time to vote out their own Congresscritter, they re-elect him. Of course, part of the problem here is that we don't have very many decent people running. For instance, my state, Arizona, has to elect a new Senator this year for McCain's seat. McCain is running for re-election of course, but lots of people (including myself) hate him for various reasons, such as selecting that twit Palin as his running mate. So another guy named JD Hayworth is challenging him for the Republican ticket, but that guy's even worse: he's a blowhard moron that was involved in a corruption scandal when he was a Representative, and was replaced by a Democrat in a Republican stronghold. Maybe we'll get lucky and a "blue dog" Democrat will run against these two morons and win, but it's unlikely as AZ is very hard for Democrats to get elected in, even if they're not the liberal type. Or who knows, maybe a Libertarian will run and get elected because everyone's so pissed that they don't want to vote for either of the two main parties. One can dream.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277462)

Or who knows, maybe a Libertarian will run and get elected because everyone's so pissed that they don't want to vote for either of the two main parties. One can dream.

Did you mean Libertarian or libertarian? There's a difference.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277556)

Yes, I realize that, but at this point, either one would be a big improvement.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (0, Flamebait)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277516)

I would rather vote for an actual socialist before a so called libertarian. As far as I can tell that party is made up of nutbags and racist nutbags and homophobic racist nutbags.

We need a actual centrist party, that has not sold out to corporate interests.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277688)

I would rather vote for an actual socialist before a so called libertarian. As far as I can tell that party is made up of nutbags and racist nutbags and homophobic racist nutbags.

You're confusing the libertarians with the Republicans, especially their "Tea Party" wing under Sarah Palin. Libertarians are people who favor smaller government, an end to the War on Drugs, an end to unnecessary foreign wars and military bases overseas, etc.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (5, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277350)

Yup. I had a successful small business that I sold a few years ago. I'd love to start a new business - I hate the current pointless grind I'm in - but I am, for all practical purposes, uninsurable.

My crime is that I am over 50, with numerous "pre-existing conditions" (read: I filed claims) and I have a wife and two small kids.

No insurance company will sell me health insurance for anything like reasonable rates. The last insurance policy I had cost about $15K/year and covered nearly nothing.

So instead of being part of the solution - the compnay I had employed 8 people - I am part of the problem, seeking a job that has good benefits and low demands.

Tell me again how not having universal health care is good for small business?

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (2, Insightful)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277532)

Currently, health care is extremely expensive for small businesses compared to large businesses, going by price-per-head. Universal health care would be great if it were accompanied by a public option (If I understand you correctly, "universal health care" == "everyone is required to buy insurance" and "public option" == "you can buy insurance from the government and/or at subsidized rates". The trouble is the former is tyrannical without the latter, and the latter would create enormous deficit without the former since 20-somethings wouldn't buy insurance and thus the only people with insurance would be the sick, at which point insurance becomes merely a proxy for medical bills, and if you subsidize that, you lose money.).

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (4, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277728)

Most of the rest of the civilzed world has universal health care, and none of the dire things you say have happened..... Maybe we (americans) can lay aside our arrogance for a moment and learn something from another country.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277584)

Universal health care is not the problem! Having 30%+ of your paycheck taken out every month is. Even if you got half of that back a month you could spend that "income" money as you wanted instead of how Obama/Bush/et al. want. You'd easily be able to afford your own health care, possibly/preferably without needing insurance to do it.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (2, Interesting)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277700)

You've never been sick or had a child, have you? Current individual health care premiums approach nearly 50% of the average family income, and one kid with a broken arm can drive you into bankrupcy.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (2, Informative)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277836)

Check out Administaff. You need at least 5 people in the company (could be an affiliation of otherwise self-employed people), but you can get in on their corporate health plans at "normal" exorbitant pricing. Professional organizations (IEEE et al) can also be great sources of health plans.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (5, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277384)

When you have a wife a kid(s) depending on you, when health benefits for you/your wife/kids would cost 5 times as much (if they are available at all, if you have any kind of special needs, or pre-existing conditions, forget it) and half as good, then yeah, it does

We don't treat health insurance like insurance. Insurance is for EMERGENCY and RARE EXPENSIVE claims.

I know of one doctor, who no longer takes insurance because taking insurance cost him too much. He now can offer a regular checkup for very inexpensive cost, and he makes more money in the process. He doesn't have to hire two full time clerks to battle against the insurance companies, saving him tons of money. He doesn't have to get paid less for some people than for others. He charges ONE price for everyone and is able to provide better care and service.

Insurance companies are nothing but middle men skimming BILLIONS (or trillions) out of heath care each year. Those BILLIONS (or trillions) would be better spent on HEALTH CARE than insurance (paper pushing), however nobody is willing to even address THAT issue.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277542)

Health Insurance does not cover rare and expensive issues, they pawn you off on medicare/medicaid for that.

We need to either go no insurance except for rare and expensive events or universal coverage. The current system has the high prices of the latter with the lack of coverage of the former.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277680)

Well, that should have been addressed with the 'public option' idea, after all, in many parts of the world government insurance has extremely low overhead, because they are not in this to make money (not supposed to be) and it is good for creating competition to the rest of the insurance firms.

You won't get your public option in the US though, O'Bama :) is now preparing for the new election campaign (he is now the president 'reelect'). So good luck with him, he never wanted the public option in the first place, cut deals with all of the insurance and drug manufacturers, did everything every single republican wanted from him, would not allow you to import cheap drugs from Canada or other countries, and now, in the reelection mode, where do you think he'll go for the new campaign donations? Insurance companies of-course. You're done, son.

Re:yeah. its much better to be p0wned (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277734)

There's actually a sound economic basis for rising medical costs:
1) As time goes on, most industries tend to improve in efficiency. One result of this is increasing wages, measured in terms of purchasing power (i.e. real wages rather than nominal wages)
2) Some industries don't improve in efficiency as rapidly or at all. For instance, a checkup nowadays isn't much faster or cheaper than 50 years ago.
3) If real wages in one industry increase and real wages in another industry fail to increase, college students/graduates and anyone else who can choose which field to specialize in will gravitate towards the better paying field and away from the worse paying field. As a result, the worse paying field suffers from scarcity of workers and is forced to raise its real wages too, in order to attract more workers. In short, wages tend to rise and fall together due to the laws of supply and demand applied to the factor market [wikipedia.org] .
4) This money has to come from somewhere, and ultimately most of the cost is passed along to the consumer, since the field is no more efficient than it used to be but wages are higher (in other fields the increasing wages are accommodated by the increasing efficiency).
Individuals may choose to work for less than average wages (e.g. your doctor), but the overall economic trend is to rising medical costs. The most obvious way to subvert this is to dramatically improve the efficiency of medical care and to ensure that efficiency continues to improve over time. Since most medical research is not geared towards efficiency, we can expect to be stuck in this rut for a long time. Of course, this doesn't just apply to health care. Colleges are similarly slow to improve in the efficiency department, and that's why college is getting more and more expensive. I didn't just make this up, by the way. This reasoning is basically the same as something I read in a first year economics textbook.

Bagh! (2, Interesting)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276846)

I'm willing to take my chances being an independent. I do it every day of the year.

Re:Bagh! (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276974)

BTW, this restricts independents from contracting work from brokers who are suppling talent to a client. It does not affect an independent who contracts with the client directly.

Re:Bagh! - Good luck with that! (4, Insightful)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277178)

I was an independent contractor/developer for over 15 years and it was great. However, the dive in the economy and the items mentioned in the original post have squeezed things so much that large contracting organizations are swallowing up all the work and forcing independent contractors to roll over or hit the road. It doesn't matter what you know or how valuable to their clients. Decisions are made from the top of the organizations and middle management has little or no say about it.
I've been in software development for over 30 years and have always kept my skillset crisp and current. I've worked as W2 and 1099 over the years and I like 1099 much better (eg. no politics, focus on the task at hand rather than on corporate culture, more say in what and how I do things, etc.). However, unless corporations begin to operate like small companies (where the end product and customer satisfaction matters rather than maximizing share price at any cost), I don't see much hope for the future of independent developers. That is if making a good living matters. Granted, to some $$$ is secondary to enjoying what you do, but those of us with kids to: put through college, help with healthcare, supplement income due to the crappy job market, etc, it matters more than personal satisfaction.

What are you talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31276870)

I haven't seen any shortage of software startups in the past 30 years..

Not Completely True (4, Interesting)

mikes.song (830361) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276872)

I do well building a reselling software. I make most of my money off something I built two years ago. Working as an independent programmer for someone else may suck, but working for yourself is the only way to go. Build it once, and get paid forever.

Re:Not Completely True (4, Insightful)

jDeepbeep (913892) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277036)

Build it once, and get paid forever.

You're more optimistic than I am. I read that and think, 'build it once, and support it forever.'

Re:Not Completely True (2, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277108)

I read that and think, 'build it once, and support it forever.'

Raise your prices until it makes you happy or you can hire it out.

Re:Not Completely True (2, Funny)

mikes.song (830361) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277258)

You're more optimistic than I am. I read that and think, 'build it once, and support it forever.'

My EULA says forever is 90 days.

Deploy offshore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31276890)

You can sell software to US, no problem.

Re:Deploy offshore (3, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277090)

I wonder if it'd be easier for independent software contractors to simply move to Canada, and then contract with US-based companies, doing work remotely?

Re:Deploy offshore (2, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277146)

If you're going to move somewhere for it, you might as well move to some cheaper country and where they don't require one-man online startup's to take health care or any other high expenses and complicated things.

Hell, you'd probably find a nice island somewhere and can code at your beach house (right after you've gone morning surfing and taking some sun). Not Hawaii though, that place is expensive.

Re:Deploy offshore (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277530)

As an American, I don't know much about Canada's healthcare system. I thought it was government-provided, so as long as you paid taxes, you got healthcare basically for free. That would be a big advantage over the US, where taxes for small (one-man) companies are very very high, and even worse, health insurance is extremely expensive for individuals.

Re:Deploy offshore (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277860)

We complain about long wait-times at hospitals, and waiting a year for hip replacement. But in essence, if you are supposed to be here (citizen, landed immigrant, etc.) you will be taken care of, even if you're homeless. And if you don't like the wait times and have the money - then you just go to the US to get the procedure done(just like one of our politician did recently).

Why now? (4, Insightful)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276892)

This article is more than 10 years late... is this just because the dude crashed his plane into the IRS building?

Most programmers/IT people have long gotten around this by having multiple contracts and/or multiple employees. It's not really all that hard, and if your independent company only has one contract and one employee you're basically already working for them.

This does not in *any way* discourage the next Microsoft. Or the next Google or Facebook, BTW... obviously, since both came up after this law ;)

Re:Why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277416)

is this just because the dude crashed his plane into the IRS building?

yes

Re:Why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277824)

Is it really "getting around" the law?
This seems to me more like "going with" the law to actually fulfill its intent.
If one claims to be an "entrepreneur" running a "consulting firm" then one has to actually act like an entrepreneur by soliciting business and hiring people.
This law is the government giving itself permission to tax one as one really is and not as one labels one's self to be.

Ask Joe Stack (0, Redundant)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276914)

Just ask Joe Stack about being an independent programmer. [infowars.com]

Re:Ask Joe Stack (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277104)

If you had read the article ... Joe Stack was mentioned and linked to in it ...

Re:Ask Joe Stack (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277368)

If you had read the article ...

You must be new here! Welcome!

Re:Ask Joe Stack (3, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277640)

He was a fucking tax cheat not an independent programmer.

Probably from universities... (1)

erikscott (1360245) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276924)

Let's see - SAS from NC State, Linux from U. Helsinki, X11 from MIT, kerberos from MIT, BSD from Berkeley, Maple from Waterloo (?). Matlab from U. of New Mexico. Firefox from Mozilla from Netscape from Mosaic from UIUC. I'd say pretty much any interesting software I can think of came from a university one way or another.

Re:Probably from universities... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277094)

Other than the math software in your list aren't commercial software. Linux might pay for Linus now, but it surely didn't when he started developing it and that wasn't his intent.

Of course, if you're developing open source or free software with no commercial purpose, you don't need to take care of any of the things mentioned in TFA or summary. But for someone starting as independent programmer to make his living, things are different.

Re:Probably from universities... (0, Offtopic)

svtdragon (917476) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277484)

I'm reminded of the quote I can't find a source for atm: "Apart from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the track record of nuclear is really pretty good." While true, those are some pretty big things to just gloss over.

In any case, it's entirely possible to have your own company based around open source--it just changes from a pay-for-development model to a pay-for-support model. Though I suspect if you start out working alone and support is your primary profit driver, your development would probably suffer. Then again, that might be why you'd try to build an OSS community around your product.

Oh well. Something to think about. But yes, as an indy developer, you're pretty much fucked.

Just SOP (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276930)

The corporations use bribes to buy politicians. The politicians write the laws the corporations wants. And the laws the corporations want are protective laws which discourage indepdent businesses (programmers or otherwise).

It doesn't matter whether we're talling about RIAA, Hollywood, Comcast, or Microsoft. It's all the same operating procedure.

Corporations should have their free speech rights taken away (lobbyists/bribes).
They have no more rights than a Tree or a rock.
They are not THINGS not people.

Re:Just SOP (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276982)

[correction]

They are THINGS not people. The Bill of Rights is for the People, not trees, rocks, or things.

Re:Just SOP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277160)

That's exactly why they bought legislation to say they were people. However, that same 'assumed identity' is what makes it so you can sue a corporation just like you'd sue a person. Things would get really complex if you tried to split that up to say, 'They are like people this way, and not like people this way." It would involve some long-winded legal definition. Guess who pulls the strings of the people writing the definition. We'd end up in a worse position than we are now.

Re:Just SOP (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277270)

Another aspect to this.

When congress does projections to see how much money they will have available to spend they take into account how different taxes will provide revenue.

So some bill out there got funded by this stupid tax which will make it that much harder to remove.

It's not like we're talking about tax breaks for the rich, after all giving them tax breaks somehow provides more tax money.

It's pretty apparent that Congress failed math, either that or they hired the Enron accountants.

Re:Just SOP (2, Insightful)

mujadaddy (1238164) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277290)

Corporations should have their free speech rights taken away (lobbyists/bribes). They have no more rights than a Tree or a rock. They are not THINGS not people. The Bill of Rights is for the People, not trees, rocks, or things.

Where's my '-1 Ignorant of the last 130 years of American History and Law?' I, of course, completely agree that it's ridiculous that we're in this situation, but the groundwork was laid long ago.

Re:Just SOP (1)

DJ Jones (997846) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277318)

People make this argument about corporations vs. people all the time and it makes no sense. Where did this originate? Fox News? If you disallowed "corporate" campaign funding do you really think that would stop corporations from buying politicians? The CEO of a major corporation could just as easily donate funds under his own name with a little post-it note asking for laws that help his corporation. How does that solve anything?

Public campaign funding is the underlying issue, not corporations acting as persons.

Re:Just SOP (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277330)

The problem is organization - corporations have it, independents don't. If the independents could organize and lobby, their numbers and voting / contribution power would swamp the corporate interests, even today. Alas, independents are independent - and who has time and money to waste on a (presently) losing game? Even most corporations don't, but enough of them do to slant things in their direction.

The rancher / farmer's lobby is a good example of people with time on their hands to bend the ears of their legislators - when's the last time a big land holder paid big property taxes?

Why just programmers? (1, Insightful)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 4 years ago | (#31276946)

Apart from "News for Nerds", the long ago abandonded mission statement, why limit this to programmers? Most all other occupations face the same challenges and pitfalls.

You can be grdauated from mechanic's school and either go to work for someone else's garage and enjoy the benefits of that position, or start your own and accept the attendant risks.

Re:Why just programmers? (5, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277100)

>>>Most all other occupations face the same challenges and pitfalls.

No. The U.S. Congress passed a law that specifically targets programmers. Quoting a previous slashdot article: "Section 1706 of the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Under the law, certain classes of workers, including anyone who engages as a "computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work," are considered de facto employees for tax purposes, regardless of whether they claim to operate their own businesses as independent contractors. The IRS can impose significant tax penalties on companies who hire such workers as contractors rather than full employees, a fact that can make it extremely difficult for self-employed programmers to find work."

An engineer can be independent designer, and yet still find work with someone like Lockheed.
A programmer who is an independent will not be hired, due to Lockheed being afraid of the IRS punishment.

maintaining monopoly (2, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277626)

This is an obvious move by the large software manufacturers to keep their monopoly, that's how large corporations create unbearable situation for anyone who maybe able to compete, they create enormous barriers of entry.

Large corporations lobby the government to get what they want, be it bailout money, interest rate free money, laws that discourage competition, unfair advantage for taxation etc. It's the same old 'struggle of the classes', just moved to a slightly different plane - keeping your tools of production away from you, so that you would be forced to go work at the factory. Marx was wrong about what capitalism is, he mixed the term with mercantilism, but he was right in some principle things: those who have capital want to be the only ones with it, to make sure that it is so, they will do their darnest to be the only ones who have means of production so that the rest are forced to work for them and be paid a wage. Wage slaves.

I work as a contractor since 15th of January 2001, never looked back (worked in Toronto most of the time), the laws in Canada are better for this than in the US. US definitely sucks balls in this particular instance. Tomorrow maybe my last day with a company I worked with for 4.5 years, that's my longest contract yet.

Re:Why just programmers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277746)

You didn't quote the section completely, it applies to any person who provides technical services:

This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

If you go into a company's office according to their work schedule, use their equipment, etc. you are a de facto employee whether you're a programmer or an aerospace engineer. If you set your own hours, use your own equipment, etc., you're independent.

Re:Why just programmers? (1)

fwr (69372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277798)

Actually, it is my understanding that the law removes special exemptions that certain people had that allowed them to basically work for one company full-time, for very long periods, but still claim they were a contractor. You can't have it both ways. Either you are a contractor and do a bunch of short term jobs for a bunch of different companies, or you are a permanent employee of one company. See the other Slashdot article. It's just a scam.

Profession vs trade (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277250)

Lawyers. Legal protection.
Doctors. Legal protection.
Accountant. Legal protection.

What makes a typical profession a profession, is legal protection by the state. You can't just practice as a doctor on a whim, it is illegal to do so. It creates scarcity in the field, and therefore high prices.

Ironically, things normally thought of as trades; electricians, plumbers etc are in many countries increasingly being required to pass certifications and gain legal protection by the state, and are therefore becoming more professional and prices are going up.

Programming. Pretty much nothing required. Anyone can become a programmer on a whim and a "Learning Java" book. People contracting individual jobs like any other trade. It's pretty clear programming is a trade rather than a profession. Sorry, but these features of programming are going to continue to push prices down, not up, as the supply of programmers increases domestically or abroad.

If you want to reverse the trend you're going to have to create or join a professional body and lobby the state to make programming without a license, illegal. (using whatever criteria you think will sway the argument; dangerous, national security etc)
 

Re:Profession vs trade (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277540)

If you want to reverse the trend you're going to have to create or join a professional body and lobby the state to make programming without a license, illegal.

Within limits. I'm no plumber, and I certainly am not a member of the plumber's union and have never been through their apprenticeship programs (remember, many craft trades have their own training, certification, and "scarcity" systems), but it is most certainly legal to work on the plumbing of any property I own, as long as the scope of the work doesn't rise to the level of needing permits and inspections. And, in many municipalities, even if the work is that complex, I can do it myself if I'm willing to see to the permitting pass the inspections.

It's fair to say that "DIY" and "supported by public policy" are mutually exclusive. If you do it yourself, you go it yourself.

Next Microsoft? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31276996)

Next Microsoft won't appear, that business model is not working that well anymore. Programmers that view their profession as nothing more than a job are not the type that innovate or try something like entrepreneurship. The other type of programmers will still want to make something new or just to work on something where their view counts, that's why I expect the open-source community to grow even larger.

Other than healthcare (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277008)

Health care is the only problem. Fix that and you're good. The BS about contracting is just that, BS. If you're making any kind of money as a programming contractor, you can afford to hire someone to handle your taxes (or you're intelligent enough to handle them yourself, and freelancing means you ought to have the free time.)

Um, sorry, no, you're an idiot. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277044)

As an independent tech worker today who runs his own company developing my own software products. I have health insurance, and I'm not worried about this clause of the tax law which *strictly* governs consulting with third parties and has nothing to do with your typical tech startup. Your premise that entrepreneurship is in any way damaged by this clause is utterly and totally *wrong*. There MAY be a small minority of independent contractors who, because they work an *extensive* amount of hours for *one* customer the tax law is saying "Sorry, no, you're an employee not a contractor." But the VAST majority of entrepreneurial-minded independent PROGRAMMERS are NOT impacted by this law, and I wish you folks would stop spreading FUD about it.

And no, Joe Stack was not some kind of anti-IRS hero... he was a tax cheat who blamed everyone else for his problems.

Yep, I've lost hope. (3, Interesting)

GarryFre (886347) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277066)

When I started working as a programmer some 15 years ago I had an AA degree in computer science. I learned on my own and wrote some pretty fantastic code. My first job was to write a multithreading app and I did well. Now I'm out of work and I can't get a job doing stuff that I could do in my sleep because I don't have a BA and I'm 54 years of age. I can't get a job, in a month or two I'll be homeless. I have pneumonia and I can't even afford to go to the doctor, stinking california denied my medical aid because I didn't state whether i was PREGNANT or not!!! Recently I decided my only hope is to go into business myself and now i read about this situation. Not a day goes by that I don't think about suicide and can only manage to get to sleep by pretending I'm dying. How pathetic I know but that's the way it is. Its over for me.

Re:Yep, I've lost hope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277332)

At this point, I suggest you lie on your resume.

Re:Yep, I've lost hope. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277412)

I know exactly what you're going through because it is the same for me. California turned me down for help basically because I'm not an illegal nor pregnant. However some advice for you on the medical issues. I saw my doctor today and explained I faced job hiring discrimination, could not get any work, had no health insurance and limited money and was sleeping on a friend's couch. He told me that I could apply to Palo Alto Medical Foundation and request "I need to apply for financial hardship" to cover doctor visits and some lab work. If you have pneumonia, first try going to an ER for it, they cannot refuse to treat you. If that is not viable, try the above approach either with PAMF if you're near them or another health care organization accessible to you. We need to fight against incompetent and corrupt legislators who are doing us harm, and we need to stop excessive use of foreign labor over hiring of Americans. It has to stop before we all are homeless. Oh, and I wish Joe had flown a plane into the Indian agencies in Silicon Valley who refuse to accept Americans applying for contract jobs. Discriminatory bastards, I have so many stories about their fraud to bring in H1-Bs.

Re:Yep, I've lost hope. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277538)

Have you thought about learning to fly a plane?

The sky is falling? *looks up* (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277070)

I don't know that things are that grim, several very large or prominent companies in the market today began as small start ups. Sure, there is some risk there, and not everyone will grow to the size of Google, but The arguments that are mentioned (liability, volatility) apply to any sort of independent venture. I don't see developers as having a particularly hard time. In fact, considering the nature of their product, the cheapness of the tools and software for writing code, and the relative ease of finding willing investors compared to starting up a conventional goods manafacturing business, and I would have to say that being a indy dev is pretty darned easy.

Re:The sky is falling? *looks up* (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277300)

Oh right. As long as you don't mind working for $20/hr, even with 30 years of experience.

Lets see. I can make $20/hr as a independent (along with all the stress and uphill battles), or $65/hr as a corporate pig-dog.

Let me ask my wife which she would prefer I do.

Get real.

..only in USA (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277076)

As an independent programmer in Europe, I'm not worried about any of those issues.

The next Microsoft? (4, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277078)

But where will the next Microsoft come from?

Nowhere, hopefully.

In all seriousness, this is typical of the point of view that only large, publicly-owned companies matter and that consumers are just a resource to be harvested by investors in the stock market. Personally, I care a lot less about where the next near-monopoly comes from than where the next generation of quality software comes from. And since it's generally not coming from the existing large corporations, TFA is at least correct in saying that the disincentives to independent development are a bad thing. But this is primarily a bad thing for consumers; there are always plenty of opportunities for the investors, though any given industry -- such as software -- may not be a hot deal at any given time.

More news at 11 (4, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277126)

Yes, working in a group makes it easier than working by yourself.

Thats why companies exist, they can be more productive and efficient than a single person if they properly pool resources and talents.

Accountability in code defects? Lawsuits? Are you fucking kidding me? What universe do you live in where this is happening? Certainly not the one with Microsoft or Toyota in it.

Hold on to their jobs until retirement? Yes, the industry is no longer a fledgling industry. Yes businesses are getting better at figuring out who is actually useful as a programmer and who just happened to pass some courses at the college they went to. The article confuses the industry coming of age and realizing how useless most of the people who claim to be in it are and people not being able to hold on to a job.

People get fired because they are less valuable than something/someone else that can replace them or the need for them has simply went away. Yes companies try to cycle through low cost employees as a way to cut costs, but they end up moving so slowly after a short period of time that they disappear quickly and account for a small percentage of the workforce.

Reality:

Working independently and competing against people who work in groups is generally hard. Doing it as a programmer is no different than doing it as a plumber, with one exception. The plumber isn't so retarded as to expect it to be any different nor do they have the sense of entitlement to think that it should be different for them.

Plenty of people DO go it alone. Happens constantly all the time. The company I work for actually works with more self employed people than companies.

Its not impossible, it just takes effort and is harder than working for a company with shared resources. Yes there are some silly laws aimed at software developers working on their own, but there are also some silly laws aimed at plumbers working alone. God, slashdot would just keel over dead if governments started requiring developers to be licensed and show they are qualified to do so like MANY MANY other professions.

I have a better question:

Why is it IT people in general feel that they are somehow different than everyone else in the world? Are they really so ignorant and socially dysfunctional to not realize that they are no different than any other part of society in any way? Is this ignorance or a form a geek elitism, thinking that we geeks can't possibly be expected to suffer under the same working conditions of the rest of the pathetic planet of idiots?

Re:More news at 11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277274)

Are they really so ignorant and socially dysfunctional...

well, uh, I am...

socialized medicine... (5, Insightful)

Sleepy (4551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277136)

It's funny how all the big-business fat cats claim that "socialized healthcare" is bad for SMALL business, when yeah... lack of affordable self insurance is the PRIMARY reason many dreamers never give their nagging small business idea a go...

the status quo (1)

Univac_1004 (643570) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277154)

"...sends the message that the status quo is the highest goal."

What a non-surprise.

It's the guys who own the status quo that are sending the message.

Health care costs (1)

Stonefred (999097) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277192)

"[...] the hurdles and costs of obtaining health care for one's own family [...]" Health care costs? Good thing every European is integrated in the public health care system of his/her country.

What a whiny load of crap. (3, Interesting)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277194)

Step 1. Form an LLC. It's not hard, you can do it yourself for under $100 in most cases

Step 2. Get an EIN number from the feds. Free and easy

Step 3. Open a checking account for your new LLC. might require a credit check.

Step 4. Get a decent accounting package.

Step 5. Keep track of EVERY business expense. Keep milage logs in your car. Keep receipts. What percentage of your utilities, etc are business related? Track it.

Step 6. If you think you need the additional coverage get E&O Insurance. It can be pricey, true. On the other hand if you LLC doesn't have a lot of hard assets, why worry?

Step 7. Get health coverage. We found insurance through a local trade group for $600 a month for my wife and I. Pay it out of the company, it's a write off.

Step 8. Work your ass off and enjoy the benefits of being able to write-off things you probably would have purchased anyway.

This should have been step 6 - get a good tax guy (or girl) to help you figure shit out.

Now get creative. Like to go to theme parks? Set up another LLC and create a website dedicated to reviewing them, talking about which ones have what etc. Now you get to write off trips to Six Flags and Cedar point as legitimate business research.

Life is far more enjoyable when you do what you want, when you want, for whom you want. All the accounting is a pain in the ass, yes, but not as big of a pain in the ass as working for Bill Lumberg the rest of your life.

Re:What a whiny load of crap. (5, Insightful)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277550)

If it worked like that it would be awesome. But it doesn't.

Say you are an independent programmer with EIN in hand. You walk up to Acme Industrials and present your resume and EIN. They contract you because, dammit, you're really good. A few months go by. You're very good, and love the independence of contracting. So good, in fact, that Acme renews your contract. Life is good.

Tax season rolls around. The government says, "Hey Acme, your awesome programmer contractor is really an employee. You owe us 30% of his salary in withholding tax. You owe use unemployment taxes. You owe us social security taxes. You owe use these other fees. And you're late on paying for the past three years also. Pay or lube up."

Acme gets rid of the awesome contract programmer who is so damn good that he doesn't need an agency to find him work. Well, at least he didn't before.

Re:What a whiny load of crap. (1)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277560)

Step 9: Pray step 5 worked out cause you gonna get an audit

Re:What a whiny load of crap. (2, Insightful)

yumyum (168683) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277576)

Like to go to theme parks? Set up another LLC and create a website dedicated to reviewing them, talking about which ones have what etc. Now you get to write off trips to Six Flags and Cedar point as legitimate business research.

That only works to a point right? According to the IRS you have to show some income at some point, not just a ton of expenses.

Re:What a whiny load of crap. (1)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277776)

You can only show 2 years of losses then you have to show a profit or it's reclassified as a hobby and your write offs are disallowed. I didn't say you need to lose money, btw.

Re:What a whiny load of crap. (2, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277596)

Oh, Lord. A tax attorney would laugh himself into a seizure over this. Write off going to theme parks because reviewing them is your business? Not unless you can show the taxman you made a profit at it in the recent past or have a reasonable expectation of doing so in the future. Incorporate yourself to allow you to calculate taxes on that basis? Yep, and be sued by the IRS for maintaining a phony corporation as a tax dodge, particularly if you have only one client, in which case they will claim you are an employee and must be taxed like one (they've done it before).

Re:What a whiny load of crap. (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277854)

Whilst agreeing with all your other points:

Now get creative. Like to go to theme parks? Set up another LLC and create a website dedicated to reviewing them, talking about which ones have what etc. Now you get to write off trips to Six Flags and Cedar point as legitimate business research.

I would be very surprised if the US does not have an equivalent to the UK "wholly and exclusively [hmrc.gov.uk] " rule. Secondly, there is the whole badges of a trade [hmrc.gov.uk] thing. Thirdly, more relevant to an LLC, is employee expenses and benefits [hmrc.gov.uk] . Also critical to an LLC is the accounting/legal concept of going concern [wikipedia.org] .

Basically the tax man is going to argue there is a) no view to a profit therefore expenses are not deductible for tax (see revenue expenditure [hmrc.gov.uk] ) and/or b) a substantial element of the expense is employee benefit and therefore counts as taxable income to you personally.

Sure, everybody knows someone who seems to be pulling stunts like these. Some of them aren't really: I did tax and VAT for a second hand car salesman who was like a comedy cartoon epitome of a tax evader - I suspect he utilised the image as a sales pitch - but was actually ultra clean. Some people actually are doing it then suddenly aren't after they get an inspection (with penalties and interest). Many people think they are being "a bit cheeky" with the expenses, though the accountant is probably adding back much of the non-deductible stuff in the tax comp.

And yeah, some are getting away with it. Some from being lucky with their gamble and never being inspected, and some because they are very good at it. Of course this is quite the risk and IMO not worth it. A good accountant should have you running quite tax efficient - through good business structure, some avoidance but not evasion [wikipedia.org] (even paying yourself dividends through the LLC can be a great tax advantage compared to the same income as salary).

Poor programmers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277204)

Another article about how programmers are somehow better than anyone else in the SERVICE industry. Here's a tip for you... Everyone working on their own or owner of a small company doing service work has the same responsibilities and various legal obligations as well. If a dude putting a new roof on your house causes your roof to collapse, it is his contractor license and insurance carrying ass that is liable for the damages, as is the landscape company that cuts into your underground power line or knocks a branch into your car or house, as is the low life plumber that is installing your gas hot water heater if your house explodes. Welcome to reality where your dreams and expectations were wrong, you are actually not untouchable and are replaceable by someone else in your field because the barrier to entry to join starts with nothing more than a computer, some software, and a desire.

Boy, talk about a slippery slope. (1)

CherniyVolk (513591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277224)

OK. If a country who decided, stupidly and unconventionally, to have Windows (any version) installed anywhere within the chain of firecontrol for nuclear weapons, or massive bio/chem weapons, and one accidentally launched or worse, didn't launch when needed. Microsoft needs to be held liable.

If a life support system, fails and it is found, beyond all doubt and as matter of fact, that the developer purposely put the bug in for shits and giggles. Yes, I would agree he is liable.

OK, everyone understands these extremes... but what about these?

If a software developer puts a back door sequence into a casino game machine, and they get out... I think he should be held liable.

The problem with liability, and why I think I would rather wait for case by case scenarios, as horrible as that may sound... wait for a nuclear disaster... the problem is the legal system and it's inaccessibility by laymen. The problem is, if you grant liability issues within the legal system for software development, how the hell are you to protect yourself from a lawyer who insists you knew of xyz bug that caused xyz damage? After all, you coded it, saw every line... perhaps you are a professional coder? It's the same things that plague reverse engineering, just because you saw the inside of a PS3, some lawyer in spite of all logic and rationale can make it sound like you have super human intelligence and vision like Superman to see into the chips and that the PS3 is such a simpleton device that merely viewing it once or twice somehow accounts for any and all success in reverse engineering a project like that. Which, *we* all know is bullshit.

And where does the liability train end? God forbid a lawyer actually understand any of this stuff, because it'll go from Microsoft, to the department, to the head engineer, to the underlying compiler, to the board of committee that governs the spec. Maybe no software designer accepts the liability, perhaps pass on the ball to those pesky hardware guys... the bug isn't a problem with software the software was just doing what the hardware allowed... now, square one, in a totally different ball field.

So they try to qualify it by "knowingly", but I just outlined the problem with this. These are ambiguous terms, nearly impossible to prove. Such concepts can result in long drawn out court battles, which due to no legal protection from the state, poor people can't afford. Which the whole thing will get abused by big business wishing to shut down an open source developer, or an upstart, or it's direct competition (we all remember Creative's use of legal battles to crush competition yes?).

Because of reliable prophecy of where this sort of stuff will result in, I'm willing to absolve any and all liability of even my worst enemy (Microsoft) should their software cause damage due to a bug. Besides, I don't know anyone who can write bug free code. I don't know anyone who can write a relatively useful, yet simple, program once and have no bugs, no gotchas without having to hit the backspace key at all. There is a great deal of trial and error in computer programming, there's a great deal of revisionism, bug fixing, updating and modification. Software development is as buggy as there are natural phenomena, it's as progressive and dynamic as nature itself. Attempting to hold someone liable is sheer stupidity.

OK. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277246)

I don't believe in the no win scenario.

Or to paraphrase:
The kobayashi maru is my bitch.

Worry less about winning, and more about doing.

As a side note, I know a lot of small business owners that can not grow there business because the cost of health care is too high.

Think about that next time someone talks about health care hurting business.

Re:OK. (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277620)

Employers shouldn't have anything to do with health care at all. Most people get stuck with their employer's chosen plan because everything else costs so much more in comparison. Give individuals the tax break on their premiums and prohibit employers from offering plans or subsidizing coverage unless said subsidies are provider- and plan-agnostic. And get rid of the "use-it-or-lose-it" stipulation of medical savings accounts; let people save up multiple years and even withdraw it (taxed) for non-medical purposes after a given time.

Oh, and tort reform, end pre-existing conditions, crack down on poor/malicious billing practices and wrongful dismissal of claims... shit, I could be here for hours...

Bunch of FUD (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277280)

I really don't understand this sort of post.
I'm 26; I made 118k last year as an independent contractor. I get job offers all the time. Nobody is looking to out-source me, move me oversees, anything like that. Why? Because I'm good at what I do and easy to work with.
I doubt I'm going to see that change any time soon.

malpractice insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277316)

I don't see the liability issue as being much of a problem once it's established. Programmers will just end up buying some kind of insurance, similar to malpractice insurance. This will raise their costs, sure, but also will end up priced in to their products & services. In the big picture, poor quality and insecure software costs a fortune & is a huge financial drag, so I would bet that this would overall be good economics, even after the insurance companies siphon off a good share.

Because insurance will presumably cost more for careless developers and less for diligent ones, it gives an incentive for quality & security, where currently the only incentive is to get things done as quickly & cheaply as possible, and by extension to hire the cheapest and least skilled programmers you can get away with. This makes skilled programmers time worth more by making their insurance costs & their risks less.

I think it's a win for both programmers and software-users (which is everybody) and for the economy as a whole, and I think that the market will iron out all the details pretty quickly (and it's rare that I say something like that last bit.)

Re:malpractice insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277748)

Agree completely. Realtors (all indepenent contractors, though not the most favored at the minute), pay for E&O (Errors and Omissions) insurance with every sale they make. It's not a lot (compared to say malpractice etc).
Honestly if you are working as an independent contractor and DON'T have -some- kind of liability insurance already regardless of any law, you are being foolish. If you are negligent with your code (forget to take out your debugging back-door password to module "X"), then you're liable as an independent contractor.
Now as an employee, not so much.

I don't really see the big deal in this article. Employee vs contractor have different pros/cons:

Health Insurance: Better as Employee
Tax Write-offs: Better as Contractor
Liability: Better a Employee
Employer Paperwork: Better as Contractor
Employee Paperwork: Better as Employee (arguable depending on how pendantic the employer's policies are)

There's nothing new that makes either choice 'prohibitive'.

Sure it can be done. (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277364)

The point of TFA was not that it was impossible, just that the system's stacked against indies.
Maybe you like that.
As a former indy forced into submission, it pissed me off!

This just in: Another industry goes borg (1)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277448)

Another cottage industry gets swallowed up by corporations who are able to spread risk and cost among a pool of workers and goods. Wal-mart all over again. Just ask the Mom & Pop stores for a good reference.

I can only conclude... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277502)

Code produced by independent programmers must be more reliable.

"status quo is the highest goal" (-1, Troll)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277518)

Welcome to the land of Socialism. Tho you are a bit late noticing, have a nice stay, and can I have that loaf of bread you are carrying?

Work for hire versus licensing (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277552)

This story specifically addresses work for hire and consulting scenarios. It totally neglects other methods of income, such as direct software sales and licensing. An individual developer can build up a portfolio of half a dozen apps for a specific platform (Windows, OSX, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry, etc) and do well financially.

Another reason to escape the USA (3, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277562)

Panama, the Bahamas, Canada. Citizenship can be had elsewhere. If I was starting a company tomorrow, I'd incorporate offshore, hire offshore and only make my software available via download or as a web app. The USA/IRS might try and tax me for domestic downloads. Good luck with that guys.

If the USA wants to make it difficult for independent software developers or other independent entrepreneurs to do business in the United States, I'm sure that those independents will be happy to oblige them - by taking their money, talents and ambition elsewhere.

Outcompete lawyers (4, Funny)

Kim0 (106623) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277570)

Stuff like this is an attack on programmers from people with lawyer education.

We damaged or destroyed the music industry.
We could do that to lawyers and judges as well.
Considering their general low quality, they could in most cases be replaced with simple machine intelligence and data mining. Do this with open source and collaboration, and they will be displaced just like peopled stock exchanges.

Of course there will be a transition period, but when computer guided actors playing lawyers in court rooms win significantly more cases than real lawyers, and computers are better at judging than judges, people will treat them as the obsolete guild they are. The survivors will be lawyers that understands computing.

Kim0

Be Puma, not Nike (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277578)

Good independent companies take advantage of their small scale. If you make something for a niche market, or if you provide an extreme degree of personalization, you beat the big boys, because no megacorp cares about those markets--they're not profitable.

Or you can invent a disruptive technology for a pressing problem and develop it faster and better than existing companies (Google). More money, but more luck required.

The next Microsoft? (1)

quickgold192 (1014925) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277632)

That's like asking where the next Ford will come from, or the next Boeing. Microsoft, as well as IBM, Apple, Intel, etc, rode the wave of the blossoming computer/software industry. Now the industry is well-developed and saturated. The "next Microsoft" will be the company that gets lucky enough to find itself a part of the next big thing.

Kobayashi Maru (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277634)

Just be careful when you change the programming as there is a slight chance you may get kicked out of Star Fleet...

Most valuable my ass (3, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277750)

In a knowledge economy, programmers rank among our most valuable workers

Got a complex or what? Given the audience I'm probably gonna burn some Karma here but, There are a dozens of professions I would put before programmers, maybe even hundreds, as the most important professions in civilization, regardless of development level (Nomadic, Agrarian, Industrial, Information). Lets start with Doctors. I'd value my health far higher than a program to balance my checkbook. Next Nurses, as I value my health to have doctors, Nurses are a critical component to make that happen much more than a web browser. Next, Civil Engineers, as I value having a roof over my head (rather than living in cave), clean potable water in my pipes, sewage lines and treatment plants, roads to move myself and goods on and bridges to cross bodies of water and ravines much more than a value software for digital pictures. Next Mechanical Engineers, I'd value cars, planes, boats and machinery to make things, machines to move goods and people, machines to build things and simply to provide an industrial economy much more than a software of any kind. Next, pretty much the rest of the traditional engineering professions. Next Any military career, as I value the defenders that prevent others from taking my life, loved ones or lively hood much higher than software to play games.

I could go on, but I'd put software programmers near the bottom of the list as the most important professions in civilization. Anyone putting software developers near the top of most important professions frankly has a mental disease involving some sort of superiority complex. Personally I'd rank software developers right up there with Telephone Sanitizers, Hair dressers, salesmen, middle managers and Executives on the most important to civilization.

Move to Rapture? (1)

jayveekay (735967) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277782)

You can escape the oppressive overland governments by moving to the city under the sea! Then you can be truly free.

Excellent article but it makes to much sense (1)

pacoder (1148701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31277804)

The suggestions for what to change at the end of the article make far to much sense for the government to ever seriously consider implementing them. Why would a bureaucrat want to simplify himself out of a job?

But where will the next Microsoft come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31277818)

Somewhere other than the United States, I'm thinking.

Remember in the 1990's when ITAR (now EAR) made domestic crypto development and export such a pain in the backside? Meanwhile, there was a ton of good symmetric and public key cryptography implementations of the very same algorithms available on a certain .fi FTP server in Finland.

The horse had already long left the barn and was now several fields over, but domestically, we were concerned that the barn door might get opened when the government wasn't approving. Craziness.

These types of laws are no different. Innovation will go where it is most free, and it will sell from there, and to those authors and countries will go the economic benefits.

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