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The Rise of Developeronomics

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the supply-that-demands dept.

Businesses 253

New submitter Geist3 writes "Forbes has an article by Venkatesh Rao asserting that the safest investment for both corporations and individuals is in software developers. Throwing money at talented coders now — even on random projects — will build relationships that are likely to pay off big in the future. 'In what follows, I am deliberately going to talk about the developers like they are products in a meat market. For practical purposes, they are, since the vast majority of them haven't found a way to use their own scarcity to their advantage.'"

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Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283550)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284056)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

The word you are looking for is commandant.

Re:Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284544)

The word you are looking for is commandant.

I believe you mean cormorant.

Re:Happy Holidays from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284656)

The word you are looking for is commandant.

I believe you mean cormorant.

actually... it is confidante... but ok..

Great a new boom. (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283600)

A bubble in Developers! Developers! Developers!
That means we will get a bunch of snot noes guys jumping into Computer Science who are in it just for the money. It will create the .COM boom all over again... Then it will crash and half of the idiots will stay and they will lay off half of the skilled workers.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283640)

So cash out before the crash. Barring that, be part of the upper half.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283990)

Or, if you're part of the group that is getting hired due to the overheated market, just enjoy that nice fat paycheck (which means you're effectively cashing out every 2 weeks) until it ends. Don't spend it all in one place.

Re:Great a new boom. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38285040)

>So cash out before the crash. Barring that, be part of the upper half.

I hate people who say this kind of thing. It's like telling investors: Buy low, sell high!

There is no "upper half" that is fairly and reasonably chosen. I have a lot of experience in the field, and politics, knowing your manager's favorite flavor of ice cream, and selling your work to everyone is worth a lot more than actually being the talented guy who delivers rock solid work. Work environments are full of politics. It's wrong, and it's lame, but it's true.

Re:Great a new boom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283654)

if only computer science was easy enough for the average money hungry bear to just "jump" into...hahaha

Re:Great a new boom. (5, Informative)

AtlantaSteve (965777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283738)

Umm... were you around during the 1990's?

Even in a normal market, tons of hiring managers don't understand enough to separate the wheat from the chaff anyway. In an overheated market, when hiring managers have to take what they can get if they want to fill a position at all... it is STUNNINGLY easy for workers with zero aptitude to jump in.

Re:Great a new boom. (4, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283970)

... In an overheated market, when hiring managers have to take what they can get if they want to fill a position at all... it is STUNNINGLY easy for workers with zero aptitude to jump in.

It's often easier for the worker with near-zero aptitude. Someone who's spent time studying how people interact will always get ahead of someone who's only studied how *things* work.

Re:Great a new boom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284378)

This is a critical mistake a lot of software people make. People *are* things. A social system can be manipulated to give the most-positive outcome the same way a computer system can.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

Tomato42 (2416694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284532)

Only few of us are blackhats...

Re:Great a new boom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38285132)

Thus, be a psychopath with regard to your job, and you'll be rewarded. (ie. be plotting, planning, walk on people if necessary, kiss up appropriately, set others up for failure, etc. to be the guy who looks great all the time).

Someone make a company where there are systems in place to shut these people down and reward real talent.

Re:Great a new boom. (4, Insightful)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284244)

Umm... were you around during the 1990's? Even in a normal market, tons of hiring managers don't understand enough to separate the wheat from the chaff anyway. In an overheated market, when hiring managers have to take what they can get if they want to fill a position at all... it is STUNNINGLY easy for workers with zero aptitude to jump in.

Well that's the difference, isn't it? That's why it's important to locate and invest in the good developers now. In the speculated wave of developer bubble, it will be the difference between being the next Amazon or being the next Pets.com.

Re:Great a new boom. (2)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283900)

if only computer science was easy enough for the average money hungry bear to just "jump" into...hahaha

Where the hell have you been in the last 12-15 years? CS curricula has been watered down all across many universities, supposedly to churn graduates to meet industrial demand (with the predictable drop in quality.) I see your comment, and all I can think of is "wtf?"

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

Slime-dogg (120473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38285180)

Those aren't "CS," though. There's a guy here who never would have survived standard CS, but got his degree in something like MIS or BIS... he insists his degree is more essential to business than CS. Sad to say, he talks up a storm, but is incapable of following through on what he's promising.

It's the "IT" specific degrees that will flood the market. The Information Systems, Business Systems, and so on, because those are where the math and logic requirements are minimal. They deal with people, and how people relate with computers. It isn't unimportant, but it also doesn't produce very good developers, either.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284302)

Schools adjust the difficulty of their classes to meet demand.
Those tough to pass professors get pushed to those fancy Grad school classes. And the easy to pass gets pushed to into and get the BA in CS with some BS.
 

Re:Great a new boom. (3, Insightful)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283672)

Overproduction of developers/comp.sci. graduates does not create a bubble. Perhaps a lot of miserable people, but not an economic bubble like the .com bubble of the late 90s. The most likely economic impact overproduction of qualified people will have is the cheapening of labor i.e. lower pay rate for developers.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283756)

No but a excessive demand of developers (the bubble) might create an overproduction of CS graduates. I think that's the causal order the GP had in mind.

Re:Great a new boom. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283948)

You misunderstood. First there is a bubble. A bubble is when the price of a good keeps rising because it has risen in the past. Then there will be people who want a piece of the pie but aren't actually developer material. The bubble may burst sooner due to demand side changes or it will burst later due to the supply side flood.

I believe that developers are exceptionally undervalued. So much so that drastic raises would not be a sign of a bubble but a necessary correction. If you haven't noticed, the importance of software keeps growing, and writing good software is a hard problem that requires lots of experience and knowledge in difficult abstract fields in addition to application specific knowledge. Currently software quality is a major inhibitor of economic growth. Just look at how often you have to update software to fix security bugs.

Re:Great a new boom. (4, Insightful)

Tomato42 (2416694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284574)

that requires lots of experience and knowledge in difficult abstract fields in addition to application specific knowledge

Yes, many don't see that real world IT is a interdisciplinary field. You need to take at least accountancy 101 if you want to know what accountants want from your software, let alone how to implement it, and implement it correctly.

Re:Great a new boom. (3, Insightful)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283958)

Overproduction of developers/comp.sci. graduates does not create a bubble. Perhaps a lot of miserable people, but not an economic bubble like the .com bubble of the late 90s. The most likely economic impact overproduction of qualified people will have is the cheapening of labor i.e. lower pay rate for developers.

It will create a bubble in the sense that morons will invest tons of money in developers, with salaries and benefit packages increasing until economic realities force their fist down their throats, with companies that existed solely for hoarding talent folding down as they should.

Granted that this is harder to happen than in the dot-com era (where the plan was to hoard anything with e- or www in it, hoping to bail out and cash in or be bought by Yahoo or what not.) It is harder, but not impossible. In fact, given the penchant for speculative stupidity displayed by humanity in general (and us Americans in particular), it is highly possible. I cannot wait to see the debacle unfolding as it will be quite hilarious. Yes, it will be hilarious.

Re:Great a new boom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284996)

Developers and those developing relationships with them will succeed to the extent they together remain focused on producing value through their endeavors. When either gets greedy or unfair, they disadvantage themselves and any attached to them. Any impoverished behavior is a liability subjecting one to culling when a reckoning occurs.

Re:Great a new boom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284278)

In IT, school gives you only the starting skill set. To become one of those great, talented, well paid developers you'll have to learn a lot of things on your own, and not once in a while, but constantly.
So, schools will turn out well papered, poorly skilled labour.

Re:Great a new boom. (3, Insightful)

BadPirate (1572721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283820)

Seems to me that there is miles of difference between a born Engineer (a smart, logical thinker who loves tinkering and solving problems), and a sold Engineer (someone who has no inclination or desire towards engineering, but simply wants to make as much money as possible).

I don't think there will be a Boom of engineers, because what any decent company is trying to do (and what this article is referring to) is get their hands on GOOD engineers... a product that you cannot commoditize.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283982)

Seems to me that there is miles of difference between a born Engineer (a smart, logical thinker who loves tinkering and solving problems), and a sold Engineer (someone who has no inclination or desire towards engineering, but simply wants to make as much money as possible).

I don't think there will be a Boom of engineers, because what any decent company is trying to do (and what this article is referring to) is get their hands on GOOD engineers... a product that you cannot commoditize.

Yes, and we can see that right now as companies are becoming, out of necessity, far pickier than before in their hiring process. Having said that, this particular tidbit of truth will be missed by the perennial speculator. You can count on seeing a lot of morons and moronic companies hoarding on software developers, missing completely on the fact that this does not equate to software development talent.

Re:Great a new boom. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284044)

Yes, but I don't think there is miles difference between someone who is a born developer a logical thinker and highly intelligent but largely uninterested in computers, who decides to go that route for the money.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

naughty-timbo (311447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283920)

Already happening, my friend.

Re:Great a new boom. (2)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283936)

Actually, I'm a lot more worried about the bubble bursting than I am about the "snot nose guys".

Right now, I make nice money. If this is a bubble, that will go up. And I'll get comfortable with that, and adjust my life to suit. When the bubble pops, my income will go way back down again, and that is going to hurt.

Re:Great a new boom. (4, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284094)

Right now, I make nice money. If this is a bubble, that will go up. And I'll get comfortable with that, and adjust my life to suit. When the bubble pops, my income will go way back down again, and that is going to hurt.

Sign up for direct deposit, with a fixed amount (not percentage) going to your checking account, and the rest going to a savings account that you never look at.

Re:Great a new boom. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284502)

a savings account that you never look at

Better yet, an investment account, and look at it (to rebalance the portfolio) occasionally.

Re:Great a new boom. (4, Informative)

PerfectionLost (1004287) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284652)

Honestly, over the last 10 years my checking account has out performed my investment accounts.

Re:Great a new boom. (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284702)

Oh come on, that makes too much sense.

We're talking about developers here. People that think you can always throw more RAM or disc space at a problem rather than keep their code neat and clean.

Re:Great a new boom. (2)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284998)

Actually, I'm a lot more worried about the bubble bursting than I am about the "snot nose guys".

Right now, I make nice money. If this is a bubble, that will go up. And I'll get comfortable with that, and adjust my life to suit. When the bubble pops, my income will go way back down again, and that is going to hurt.

Then learn to manage your money. Otherwise you are arguing for everyone being on subsistence wages, which is going to hurt you, and everyone else a lot more.

Wait wait wait! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283690)

Are you saying that if you invest in highly skilled staff there are benefits?

This person is clearly a quack and has no fundamental understanding of IT stereotyping. The longer you've been somewhere the more useless you are (sheesh, we all know this right guys? Guys?)

Profit!!! (1, Funny)

gti_guy (875684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283716)

Step 1. Pay Developers - Step 2. ??? - Step 3. Profit!!!

Re:Profit!!! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38283926)

Step 1 Pay Devs
Step 2 Release Product
Step 3 Get sued into Oblivion by a hundred patent trolls
Step 4 go out of business

There, fixed the business model for you.

Yours,
      A recently laid off Developer.

Re:Profit!!! (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284692)

Step 1 Pay Devs Step 2 Release Product Step 3 Get sued into Oblivion by a hundred patent trolls Step 4 go out of business

There, fixed the business model for you.

Yours, A recently laid off Developer.

The moral of this story is go into law school instead of CS.

Unionize (2, Insightful)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283742)

"...the vast majority of them haven't found a way to use their own scarcity to their advantage."

The way: Unions.

Re:Unionize (4, Interesting)

AtlantaSteve (965777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283930)

About half the politically-minded people I run across in IT are hardcore Ron Paul types, and the other half are Karl Marx types. Both of those groups are annoying in different ways, and tend to ruin any conversation that they barge into.

However, I do have to say... at least the Ron Paul types are often competent and good at their jobs. I have NEVER , during 15 years in the field, EVER encountered a competent IT professional who dreamed of being in a union. Union culture is pretty much the antithesis of what makes a good engineer tick. I clicked on and briefly skimmed your profile, and could not help but notice that not a single one of your comments over recent months has anything to do with technology or IT work.

Re:Unionize (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284012)

that's some pretty good nonsensical generalizations there br0

Re:Unionize (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284168)

I didn't see a single generalization there. He specifically stated that he was talking about the ones that he runs across in IT. I would say he's got every right to say how he sees that group without that same commentary being attached to everyone in IT. Did I miss something?

Re:Unionize (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284062)

Umm, you are insinuating that it's "be a Ron Paul" type, or want to join a union in the first two sentences of the last paragraph. I'd rather have my testicles eaten off of me by fire ants, than join a union, but I sure as hell am not a Ron Paul type.

(Unions do have some advantages, but for me, personally, they have tended to be more counterproductive).

Re:Unionize (1)

AtlantaSteve (965777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284160)

Perhaps I should have explicitly said "blowhards" rather than "political-minded people" in the opening sentence, but I was trying to start off on a polite note! :)

Either way... I was speaking about two opposite extremes. It seemed pretty clear that my perspective was somewhere in between the two (along with yours, and probably the majority).

Re:Unionize (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284204)

No, he said that the people he has dealt with have come across either one way or the other. Not that those are the only two options.

And, as unwilling as I am to join a union, I would probably do so if the only other option available was to have my testicles eaten off of me by fire ants.

Re:Unionize (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284346)

Nope, the two sentences I specifically mentioned do not do that at all, in or out of context with the rest of the post.

Re:Unionize (2)

AtlantaSteve (965777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284510)

Perhaps I should have explicitly told you to piss off, and that you're being a ridiculous goober. Sorry for also failing to make that message obvious in context.

Re:Unionize (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284716)

In the context of the rest of the post he has obviously limited his discussion to those that he has dealt with. Specifically, as he has now clarified even further, the "blow hards". If you're talking about the people you know and you have qualified it then it isn't a generalization beyond that group. He didn't say everyone is either ron paul or carl marx and that the ron pauls are better programmers. He said that those that he has come across and that he would classify as ron paul types are generally competent about their jobs. He MIGHT have insinuated (by leaving out the same statement about the marx group) that they were not as competent. He did not insinuate that all developers who are not of a ron paul type mindset suck at programming. I mean, this is pretty simple discreet math (logic / set theory) and if you're "reading into it" or adding "facts" then you're going way beyond what is needed to understand his comment within the context it was made.

Out of context is, well, out of context. Not much to discuss there since someone who is taking things out of context wouldn't be worth have a discussion with. Those type of people just hear what they want and ignore everything else that was said.

Re:Unionize (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284108)

Great point! 'Round these parts (Tennessee) I have known only one developer that I can think of who believed that unionizing programmers was a good idea. And I'm not so sure he didn't state that in a more "tongue in cheek" kind of way. He's french and would always throw out the occasional "in france.... bla bla bla" comment. He also used to laugh and joke about how American's didn't have a clue on how to go on strike. "Now the french? Oh yeah... we are the KINGS of striking!".

But other than my french friend I have no one that even joked about "organizing" software developers.... would love to hear well thought out arguments in its favor though. Don't mind reading an opposing point of view. Maybe I'll learn something...

Re:Unionize (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284410)

But other than my french friend I have no one that even joked about "organizing" software developers.... would love to hear well thought out arguments in its favor though. Don't mind reading an opposing point of view. Maybe I'll learn something...

Step 1: realize that the hypothesis of the article in question (that developers are scarce and valuable) and the hypothesis of the GP (that the solution to the problem of capitalizing on scarcity is unions) are completely opposite. Unions serve one purpose, to take a large number of otherwise indistinguishable (and therefore disposable) employees and make them distinguishable again by the sole method of giving each one a (identical) contract with the employer that contains certain advantages for the employee (stable hours, stable wage, etc.) Also, it works better if the employees are otherwise not savvy when it comes to contracts (they will rely more on the union's efforts). Therefore to say that the way for a "good developer" to take home an appropriate wage (above-average, according to the article) is to unionize is completely wrong.

Software developers, to date, fall into none of these buckets; good ones are still hard to come by, it is easy to tell the good ones from the bad ones (at least any good company does so, or perishes) and they are generally educated and therefore can recognize a fair/unfair deal when it comes to being employed. In the next 50 years, the trade of software development will likely have grown to become an interchangeable quagmire and it's constituents would benefit from unions, but it is certainly not today. Unions have no part in the current system, plain and simple.

Re:Unionize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284138)

Um I was the branch secretary for connect (father of the chapel) and I was one of the first 5 webmasters in BT I also worked on key web projects for BT as well as representing members my best success was getting a better pension for 1100 people worth around $20,000.

Other Connect members have been CTO's of mobile telcos and the CEO of one uk FTSE100 company was an activist in his younger days.

Oh and earlier this year I diagnosed a problem (worthy of a mention on the daily WTF) with a major site - which had a major impact (id get sacked if I told you how much that cost over only 5 days - hint I could buy a house and an Audi R8 and have change left over)

Re:Unionize (5, Interesting)

xero314 (722674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284648)

I have NEVER , during 15 years in the field, EVER encountered a competent IT professional who dreamed of being in a union.

Now I can't prove my competence in a slashdot post, but I am a software engineer that fully supports unionization.

I am fairly compensated, as I do a good job of negotiating what I believe I am worth. But there is more to unionization than compensation. Though I do support collective bargaining (which does not need to be seniority based, and can be performance based).

Unionization can be used as a tool to bring product quality back into the hands of those that produce the product. Having a union to collectively support only quality changes should improve overall product quality.

Unionization is a tool that can be utilized. I would much rather have more tools at my disposal than less (though we need not use every tool for every task).

Just remember that the corporation is bargaining against you, as there goal is to maximize profit, and they are doing it collectively. If you want to even the score you do your bargaining collectively. But corporations have also done a great job to convince the American people that Unions are bad and lazy, so I doubt I'll be changing any minds here.

Lastly, Unionization is fully in-line with Libertarian ideology, even the Neo Libertarians of the US Libertarian party, and the likes of Ron Paul. Collective bargaining is an important tool that allows capitalism to be successful.

Re:Unionize (2)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38285038)

Gotta love slashdot. A personal attack based on skimming this guy's profile for 5 minutes qualifies as interesting.

I've not known software engineers who wanted to be in a union either....but that is primarily a cultural thing. In other engineering disciplines unions are the norm. Also I make a lot of wise arse remarks. The days of slashdot being primarily a discussion board for serious topics is long over. Why don't you go ahead and take a look at my profile then malign me. Your ridiculous bad behaviour glorified on this board and you don't even see the irony of looking at how serious someone's comments are on that same board. I'd love to have you on my team. NOT.

Re:Unionize (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38285232)

I don't think it has to be an either-or situation. The classic professions - doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers (other than "software engineers") etc. - have managed to structure things so that they gain most or all of the benefits of unions with few of the drawbacks.

Re:Unionize (5, Insightful)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283978)

"...the vast majority of them haven't found a way to use their own scarcity to their advantage."

The way: Unions.

No, that's how the non-scarce resources create an advantage for their collective selves. If you're not scarce you make yourself scarce by joining a group that then says "well, we're it" so you must treat us as if we are scarce. Sort of a "you don't like what I want... well guess what... you have to give it to me anyway because all my buddies are going to hold out for the same and no one will do you work if you don't meet my demands".

Scarce resources have power individually, through simply being scarce. Sometimes it takes a while for someone to realize just how scarce they actually are. Scarce resources are special. They might be really close to the only one who can do the job required job in the required amount of time to the desired degree. That's what makes them scarce. They have the right experience, with the right knowledge, and the possibly even right background for the exact work that needs to be done. Truly scarce resources are capable of getting more than they would be unionized because they are not lumped in with the not quite so scarce.

Re:Unionize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284150)

I dearly wish I had a mod point for you right now.

Re:Unionize (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284002)

Yes, let's create artificial barriers to entry into the engineering fields! The last thing the world needs is more engineers. And I'm sick of having my compensation tied to my performance---from now on it's seniority or nothing.

We don't need a union, we need to teach each other how to fucking negotiate. The startups out in silicon valley are dying for good engineers. If you've got the skills and are willing to play hardball you can have anything you want, but you've got to be willing to do the negotiation. "Sorry, I've got a better offer from so and so. I need a higher salary, larger stake in the company, etc." And there are plenty of companies where the engineers are doing the evaluations. In fact that's the norm in my experience. If you're being interviewed by folks who don't know their shit then try somewhere else.

Re:Unionize (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284310)

"...the vast majority of them haven't found a way to use their own scarcity to their advantage."

The way: Unions.

Face palm

Idiots (4, Insightful)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283746)

Well, then Forbes and Venkatesh Rao are idiots.
The safest investment for corporations and individuals is corporations, as usual. They control everything and they're not going away.

Nobody wants talented coders. People want cheap, get-it-out-the-door coders. And those are in India.
People will buy any old fucking thing you slap a lower case i in front of. Why bother trying? Why bother risking a talented coder coming along and doing stuff on their own? Why, they could get the sense that have some sort of control over, or input into, the project. If they leave before we ship, no one will know how to fix everything. It's best to keep monkeys doing the monkey work, and to pay a "project manager" to vaguely tell them what to do.

A "talented" coder is like a UFO. Everyone talks about them. Some of them say the place in the other business park has one. But no one's really sure what one looks like, or how to tell if one's real when it comes time to interview people for a position.

Furthermore, coders, especially the "talented" ones, don't exactly fly the banner of allegiance. They'll leave at the first opportunity to make more money. If you don't let them take control of a project, they'll either do it their own way, or go somewhere else that lets them do it their own way. Have you heard of open source software? Nothing ever gets done because they keep "forking" things when they have their own ideas!

If you give money and attention to talented coders, they'll think they're worth something, and then you'll have to compete for their work!

No, thank you. I'd much rather we all agree to keep treating them like shit, paying them shit, and not really understanding what they do.

Re:Idiots (5, Funny)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283806)

People will buy any old fucking thing you slap a lower case i in front of. Why bother trying?

Don't be silly; nobody bought an iPaq.

Re:Idiots (1)

emuls (1926384) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284434)

I did :(

Re:Idiots (2)

mdf356 (774923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284824)

Don't be silly; nobody bought an iPaq.

George Bush bought an iRaq, though.

<rimshot>

Re:Idiots (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284988)

You misspelled it -- it's i-Rack [youtube.com] . The similarities are unnerving, though.

Re:Idiots (2)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284242)

The safest investment for corporations and individuals is corporations, as usual.

It's turtles all the way down?

At some point the value in these investments needs to either come from making things, or doing things. This is saying that the (current) best investment is in doing/making things that make it easier (or cheaper) for others to do/make things.

Re:Idiots (0)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284546)

The safest investment for corporations and individuals is corporations, as usual.

It's turtles all the way down?

At some point the value in these investments needs to either come from making things, or doing things. This is saying that the (current) best investment is in doing/making things that make it easier (or cheaper) for others to do/make things.

That would be a good point if our economy was founded on value. But it's not. It's founded on debt.

Even in a value-based economy, yes value comes from making things, but the corporations that use computers to make things have already know about outsourcing. It's already easy and cheap to make things.

The article talks about "talented" developers as if anyone wants talented developers. They don't - they want labor. Even the huge success stories (facebook, angry birds, iThing) that everyone wants to repeat aren't about talented coders, they're about talented marketers.

Re:Idiots (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284402)

...A "talented" coder is like a UFO. Everyone talks about them. Some of them say the place in the other business park has one. But no one's really sure what one looks like, or how to tell if one's real when it comes time to interview people for a position.

You're just not looking in the right places. Once you've found one, you're certainly not going to tell the world about it. But, you're right that they can be difficult to control and even downright dangerous when spooked.

Re:Idiots (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284584)

...A "talented" coder is like a UFO. Everyone talks about them. Some of them say the place in the other business park has one. But no one's really sure what one looks like, or how to tell if one's real when it comes time to interview people for a position.

You're just not looking in the right places. Once you've found one, you're certainly not going to tell the world about it. But, you're right that they can be difficult to control and even downright dangerous when spooked.

The problem is that by the time someone in HR learns of the "right places", they're no longer the right places.
I remember when having a linkedin profile was considered the mark of a serious professional eager to make business contacts. Now it's just yet another site to check, like monster or dice.

Re:Idiots (1)

vencs (1937504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284780)

A "talented" coder is like a UFO. Everyone talks about them. Some of them say the place in the other business park has one. But no one's really sure what one looks like, or how to tell if one's real when it comes time to interview people for a position.

Agree with this. 45 mins each with 4 strangers can be a better model for identifying talent in pros other than coders.

Have you heard of open source software? Nothing ever gets done because they keep "forking" things when they have their own ideas!

Disagree with this. Freedom in OSS lets you come up with innovation beyond deadlines, budgets, managers. Its not fast, but evolution wasn't either.

--
:wq

Re:Idiots (3, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284798)

Furthermore, coders, especially the "talented" ones, don't exactly fly the banner of allegiance. They'll leave at the first opportunity to make more money.

Having repeatedly stayed on to try to deliver failing and late projects over the years in order to save a client's bacon, I find your comment not only insulting but dead wrong. I and many other people I work with actually have the integrity to do our level-headed best to get things done, even if management is pissed off because we couldn't get it done on their fantasy schedule or overly optimistic budgets.

Real coders are ethical people who work on the code as much out of love of getting things done and the satisfaction of happy users as they are people who want to make money. Let's face it -- if you're only into money, this is the wrong industry to be in with all the fierce competition from cheap overseas labour constantly undercutting the rates.

Wisdom (5, Insightful)

lucm (889690) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283810)

This is exactly how Rockefeller was thinking: when you come across talent, you hire, then you adapt your business based on the people available. Even if in the short term it does not fit in an existing MS-Project plan, over the years you build a strong core and the team is driving the business, not the other way around. And if people walk away to get more experience, you keep the door open so you can benefit from what they did elsewhere.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies are doing the exact opposite because the MBAs are trained to manage by balance sheet, stock price and quarterly projections: short-term metrics.

Re:Wisdom (3, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283940)

Most employers are looking for Rumplestiskin employees. "If we just had people that could spin straw into gold, we'd rule the world." Then they either wait for Mr. R. to apply, or they take the first smooth talking huckster that claims to be able to spin gold. This is especially bad at the 'C' level.

Re:Wisdom (3, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284344)

my favorite part about that is they often over look a real Mr. R because he doesn't have the normal look of the slick C level guy.

Re:Wisdom (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284366)

Unfortunately, a lot of companies are doing the exact opposite because the MBAs are trained to manage by balance sheet, stock price and quarterly projections: short-term metrics.

This is sadly true. I'm experiencing it first-hand. I work for a Fortune 50 IT company as a software developer and team lead for 8 other developers. I was recently given a new "stretch" assignment with the vague title of "architect" (which I'm still learning how to define) along with four other people from other organizations within the company. It comes with a pay bump, but I recently learned that the other four people got far better financial packages than I did.

Throughout the process of creating the assignment, my management has consistently over-promised and under-delivered (financial compensation, timelines, and even job scope). I know that this is a positive move, but it could be *much more* positive, based on what I've seen by comparing notes with the others. My immediate manager understands that I could easily leave and work elsewhere, joining the steady trickle of coders and team leads that have moved to greener pastures over the last 12 months. My senior managers, though, don't seem to understand this.

This assignment puts me in a possibly unique but precarious position, as mentioned in TFA. I know that I can get more (more money, a better title, more flexibility). I just need to figure out how to approach them, and get what the others got.

Worst case, I exercise my right (as mentioned in the article) to accept the random interview requests that I get every month or so, and politely walk out the door.

Re:Wisdom (2)

lucm (889690) | more than 2 years ago | (#38285248)

Throughout the process of creating the assignment, my management has consistently over-promised and under-delivered (financial compensation, timelines, and even job scope).

From their perspective, this makes sense because they have short-term incentives. Talk is cheap, and leading people on is a typical management tactic.

My immediate manager understands that I could easily leave and work elsewhere, joining the steady trickle of coders and team leads that have moved to greener pastures over the last 12 months. My senior managers, though, don't seem to understand this.

Working for a Fortune 50 IT company has benefits (nobody will ask you to take out the garbage or change the printer toner, and you will never worry about bouncing paychecks), however the bigger the company, the more likely significant gaps will appear between management layers.

Re:Wisdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284586)

Very, very well stated!

Re:Wisdom (4, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284728)

I'm not going to disagree with you, but I would like to put in that there is another factor that gets over looked.

Middle management is a necessary job that is not taken seriously. I have worked for great middle managers, and I have worked for (lots) of bad ones. The C level management has no idea what the actual employees do. In a company of any size, they couldn't get a grip on it anyway just do to the vast quantity of different jobs being done. Middle management is there to manage the day to day work, and to report to the higher level management. When this breaks down, the C level management can't informed decisions, and the worker doesn't have the tools necessary to do their job effectively.

Middle management has become such a joke that neither the C level management, nor the workers take them seriously. No doubt the fact that the C level management doesn't take them seriously is a big reason why so many people that are bad at management end up in middle management.

I know that when I have worked for a middle manager that was skilled in his trade, my productivity has often doubled or tripled over the times I have worked for those that were not skilled in their field.

Re:Wisdom (1)

trancemission (823050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284992)

Touche......

Any 'grad' can code....

Coders are 'ten a penny'

The value is in people who understand what the *business* needs to develop.

So many ways to skin a cat in this industry.

Find someone who understands your business and how they can develop it and 'move it forward'.

If they can also 'code' - look after them ;)

Re:Wisdom (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38285140)

This is exactly how Rockefeller was thinking: when you come across talent, you hire, then you adapt your business based on the people available. Even if in the short term it does not fit in an existing MS-Project plan, over the years you build a strong core and the team is driving the business, not the other way around.

Excellent comment. I've worked in several areas where a bunch of talented people were assembled, did the work, released the project and then broken up. Staff were blown to the four winds. Rocky would have us looking at what we can do with what we have, rather than what we want to do and who we get to do that.

But I think reality is harsher - businesses are there to make money and do the whims of the CEO/Shareholders, not employ people.

Career length (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283822)

investment is actually investment in people who will live out long careers in the sector

long careers? He means ageism might kick in at 35 instead of 30? Sign me up!

We are a waste (2)

tatman (1076111) | more than 2 years ago | (#38283966)

Speaking for myself mostly, I spend most my free time playing games rather than developing a product or service. Yes I do invest in learning new skills and technologies. But once I get a grasp of it, I go back to my game.

Sexy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284050)

I am one sexy piece of meat. Oh, yes, I am :-P

10x Engineer (3, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284088)

The industry standard when I was in school, was that the average programmer could churn out 10 debugged lines of code a day. I know I could run at 300 lines of C a day if distractions were minimized and the coke machine didn't run out. I had friends that could do 600 without too much trouble. (none of us got good grades, because we were writing too much code.)

These days the company I work for keeps the phones ringing, cube noise up, and enough meetings that I'm lucky to write a few lines. Some days go by without any objective measure of success.

Re:10x Engineer (3, Insightful)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284192)

the company I work for keeps the phones ringing, cube noise up, and enough meetings that I'm lucky to write a few lines. Some days go by without any objective measure of success.

Remember all those people in your COBOL class that had perplexed and confused looks on their faces, and were only there because they required the class as part of their MBA coursework ? Those people are your managers, and their cost-benefit analysis said if they stuffed you at a tiny desk in the phone room, they could save $100 on floor space and cubicle walls.

Go talk to some of them about a productive engineering environment. I'd lay odds the same perplexed look re-appears. ;)

Re:10x Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284394)

Better yet, go work for a better company. Seriously, there is a *shortage* of good developers. There's no reason for you to stick with a company you don't like.

Re:10x Engineer (2)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284464)

Location, location, location.

Don't want to move, don't want to extend my commute. Also, they pay me too much, and are very flexible with the hours. That causes a lot of inertia. (I could make more, if I took a pay cut in a new job, then worked my way higher, but I value my time too much)

Re:10x Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284420)

300 lines of C a day

The dreaded LoC metric. We usually say it's meaningless; but it's not absolutely meaningless. The average problem in language X will take programmer C Y lines to code. Of course, nobody asks you to code an average problem, and you might be an A programmer or a D- programmer.

I came into school sharper than average and have fond memories of beating my peers 3:11 in printed page count (we were required to hand in printouts!) simply because I knew how to code using lookup tables.

Re:10x Engineer (4, Informative)

dubbreak (623656) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284498)

These days the company I work for keeps the phones ringing, cube noise up, and enough meetings that I'm lucky to write a few lines. Some days go by without any objective measure of success.

What's more important than the obvious lack of productivity that gives the company as a whole is the way it demotivates the employees.

I was in a similar situation. I lost my private office to a shared office, then to an "open concept" plan. I went from 500+ lines/day C# to nearly none (unless I worked from home). It was the meetings, general drone of noise, lack of a door to keep sales and service personnel out.. etc. Interruption after interruption. It wore on me.

We implemented some functions to try to prevent the interruptions (e.g. single point of contact within the software team, acting as the gatekeeper/barking dog), but it really wasn't enough. Software team productivity dropped from high 80s of % time spent developing to under 60. I was under 40% of my time spent developing due to my long term experience with the products. That combined with a non-competitive wage for our local market and I was extremely unhappy. I desperately wanted to be productive and wage wasn't a huge issue when I was a happy employee but it became quite important when I could make more at any other shitty job in town.

Long story short I left to do independent contracting at a much higher rate. I much happier getting stuff done and getting paid what I know is a fair wage. The company I left is now looking for a replacement that will expect the wage I expected and will need 3-6 months experience with their products to be a contributing member of the team. It's costing them. Of course IF they find someone who is actually good (finding good devs is extremely difficult, I helped hire the last 2 member sof their team and 90% of the applicants were duds) they will still have problems keeping them productive and keeping them at all.

A few local companies have it figured out and are getting most of the local talent (which often means poaching as talented people tend to have jobs). If the smaller private companies don't step up to maintain their current staff they are going to find themselves without talent and having to cough up a lot of money to attract talent to a high cost of living location and then train those people.

Re:10x Engineer (5, Informative)

kogut (1133781) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284724)

>I know I could run at 300 lines of C a day Someone call security. We have a mid-level manager masquerading as a coder. I've never met a competent coder who considers lines-of-code/day to be an even remotely useful metric of productivity. Coders who eat through requirements like a shark through chum with tight, transparent patterns...those are the good ones.

Re:10x Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38285186)

And here when someone starts talking about tight, transparent patterns we usually look behind them at the failed projects they have worked on with them...

Re:10x Engineer (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284896)

Nonsense. A competent C/C++/Java programmer will produce more on the order of 1000 lines of debugged code per day, even with 25% of their time stuck in meetings. Nothing would ever have gotten done over the years if people could only write 10 lines a day!

Re:10x Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38285258)

Last week I produced about -50000 lines of code (yes, that is a minus). Sad thing is that someone wrote and maintained that code half a year, before I replaced it with about 10 lines of code which I wrote within half a day.

Re:10x Engineer (4, Interesting)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38285200)

On the last moderate sized project I worked on where I had full control of development IIRC I ended up with about 70,000 lines of code, i.e., all comments etc stripped out. There would have been more code but (sigh...) about half way through the process the client changed course and about 30% of the code had to be ripped out as they no longer wanted that functionality - that code isn't included in the figure of 70,000 lines of code.

Total time for the entire development process was about 1,800 hours - which included the above activities and, of course, understanding the pre-existing system, meetings, designing the solution, removing the code for the discarded functionality, more meetings, full documentation - source comments, system documents and substantial (>100 pages) user manuals, email with stakeholders, more meetings.

It is in use by governments, businesses and universities and it took over two years before anyone found (what they thought was) a bug.

However most people/businesses don't want to pay what it costs for that kind of result.

To be fair I think figures like 10 lines/day usually mean that at the end of the entire process 10 lines that survived and are documented and survive testing account for a day of time. But still you really have to wonder about the people at the low end who managed to get the average down to 10 lines a day... were they producing code that was simply discarded wholesale? Were they producing negative lines of code, i.e., somehow intentionally or unintentionally sabotaging the efforts of others?

Boon for Tech Fly By Night Schools (1)

kodiaktau (2351664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284128)

I can see the Fly By Night Degree Programs swooping down on this and getting more stooges to sign up as software programmers.

You too can make thousands of dollars more per year .

It is misinformation like this that drives me crazy about this business.

The biggest differential in productuvity ... (1)

YordanGeorgiev (1770998) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284462)

Is in the developer's profession ... I know developers which are worth 1000 and more of the cheap minds calling itself developers ... Sad but true.

Re:The biggest differential in productuvity ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284954)

The regular good developer is 10 times more productive than average code-monkey. What is shocking is that they don't earn 4 times as much, let alone 10 times...

Scarce? (1)

wilfy (1318471) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284618)

> the vast majority of them haven't found a way to use their own scarcity to their advantage Strewth, if I'd know I was that scarce and valuable I would have warned the guys that just 'insourced' our projects. BTW, 'insourcing' means bringing a project it into the company then sending it out to India. It sounds more cozy than 'I am sacking all indigenous programmers and employing truckloads elsewhere because I bought half the software house'. Good luck with that. I am going fishing.

has anyone actually read this article? (4, Insightful)

doom (14564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284686)

Has anyone actually read this article? The guy is talking out his ass. As far as I can tell he's got nothing behind anything he's saying. In the places I've worked, developers have certainly been valuable-- this is why, after all, we're paid a lot of money to do stuff a lot of us would do anyway-- but the critical assests of the companies have been things like the reputation of a domain name, or the side-agreements with various content providers, and so on. As for a new bubble, yes, as far as I can tell there's a venture capital bubble of sorts in the SF area: VCs are tossing money at 20-somethings that'll work 80 hour weeks under the delusion that they're going to be the next facebook. This makes a degree of sense from the investor point of view, if you consider that there's nothing else going on in the economy remotely worth investing in. This time around, there's this weird phenomena where there are no rental apartments available at any price in SF, but there's plenty of vacant office space: the kids are working on laptops in their living rooms and out in cafes, not in actual offices-- they're also completely trashing their backs and hands in the process. If you really want to invest in a growth industry, think about "physical therapy".

Re:has anyone actually read this article? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284756)

they're also completely trashing their backs and hands in the process. If you really want to invest in a growth industry, think about "physical therapy".

Or adjustable standing desks. Supposed to be great for your back.

Re:has anyone actually read this article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284936)

Has anyone actually read this article? The guy is talking out his ass. As far as I can tell he's got nothing behind anything he's saying.

It's Forbes and it's about technology, so that sounds about right.

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