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Is The Lone Coder Dead?

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the rms-played-by-anthony-hopkins dept.

Software 809

CyNRG writes "The little guy. The one-person software company. Can it still exist today? That's me. I'm once again, after many years, writing my own commercial software to sell. A few things have changed: the patent feeding frenzy. This is my main concern. My perception is that one must verify that you don't infringe on any patents when developing new cool software, and that the explosion of patents granted by the USPTO has reached epic proportions. If this perception is true, then that makes it almost impossible for the Lone Coder to create something new that doesn't infringe on other patents. The amount of money required to perform the due diligence research seems like it would be greater than the amount of money needed to develop the software, or even the total revenues that the software could ever generate. Please someone tell me I'm wrong!" Is he?

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Someone has to do it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838051)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - The Lone Coder was found dead in front of his home computer this evening. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to programming culture. Truly a geek icon.

Re:Someone has to do it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838310)

The by-product of having my job outsourced to India was starting my own "single employee" company.

I'm here at [] .. be gentle

ok - you are wrong! (2, Funny)

SimonInOz (579741) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838058)

Is that what you wanted to hear?

Re:ok - you are wrong! (5, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838193)

"Carson.. promise you'll never die."

"You know I can't promise that."

"If you did, I'd make love to you right now."

"I promise. I will never die."

Re:ok - you are wrong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838333)

Darn, I must have missed that episode of Queer Eye...

Dead? Yes! Shot by the Lone Gunman (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838197)

The Lone Coder is indeed dead, shot by the Lone Gunman. Only later was it revealed that the gunman was also a patent attorney for Microsoft.

Of course not (5, Informative)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838059)

Your real goal though is to write something, get it patented and then sell it for millions to the big boys.

Re:Of course not (4, Funny)

doi (584455) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838211)

Shit, don't bother writing it first, just patent something!

Thanks Timothy (1)

LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838062)

Made me laugh out loud with that editorial comment about RMS :) Classic!

Re:Thanks Timothy (0, Troll)

repruhsent (672799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838100)

RMS is a faggot. So is Timothy. I heard he is quite a fan of juicy douching and of performing the infamous Taco Snot on occasion with CmdrTaco and Cowboi. Cowboi, while we're on the subject, needs to lose about 900 pounds and stop bitching about how nobody cares. Oh, and you're a faggot, too.

Re:Thanks Timothy (1)

SSJ_Ramon (226740) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838250)

> Made me laugh out loud with that editorial
> comment about RMS :) Classic!

Good casting choice, Hopkins as RMS. I wouldn't mind seeing either Wesley Snipes or Jackie Chan have a shot at the role.

I hope not ... (4, Insightful)

smoyer (108342) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838064)

That would be the end of innovation in the U.S. and would cause an even greater shift of technology jobs to oversea markets!

Count me as a fellow Lone Coder (5, Insightful)

turnstyle (588788) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838332)

I'm [] a fellow lone coder [] .

It's not easy -- you have to stoop to doing stuff like adding gratuitous links to your Slashdot posts.

This isn't going to be a popular sentiment here, but I'd say that the GPL and P2P generally make it tougher to make a living.

Yes, it's dead. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838065)

Maybe you could try to make some friends.

sounds like a lone FAGGIT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838066)


meow (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838067)


Heh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838072)

In Soviet Russia, Coder lones YOU!


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838184)

Oh, that was mighty, mighty brave, but YOU FAIL IT, sir.


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838204)

At least my anus isn't bleeding like yours!

I am not a lawyer (5, Interesting)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838079)

Due diligence?

Patent enforcement is the job of the patent holder. You do not need to do "due diligence" unless you are basing your design on someone else's patented product. Or you are attempting to publish your own patent.

Re:I am not a lawyer (3, Informative)

ghettoboy22 (723339) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838134)

I think that's exactly his point. You need to conduct due diligence to make sure YOU AREN'T infringing on someone's patent, less you want to get sued for millions if it's found you are infringing.

Remember, ignorence is no excuse in court.

Re:I am not a lawyer (5, Informative)

groovemaneuver (539260) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838171)

Remember though, you'll get fined TRIPLE the damages if you knowingly violate a patent, versus 1 x damages if you unknowingly violate. Ignorance isn't protection, but it would appear to be a helluva lot less expensive.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

Re:I am not a lawyer (5, Informative)

geek42 (592158) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838137)

And yet if you invest time and money into producing a product, only to find that it relies on a patented method, you might quickly find your investment going down the drain - or rather, the fruits of your labour going to the patent holder.

Re:I am not a lawyer (2, Informative)

SendBot (29932) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838147)

You do not need to do "due diligence" unless you are basing your design on someone else's patented product.

That's kinda the point. With all the ridiculous software patents, it's a minefield in which you could unwittingly step on an existing patent unless you do some research beforehand.

Re:I am not a lawyer (1)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838292)

And if you do perform some research beforehand, you could be liable for treble damages if they can prove you knew about their patent when they sue you over it. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Unfortunately, ignorance is probably the best policy, unless you can afford to hire an expensive lawyer with a patent background to do the search for you. Under no circumstances should you attempt to do the search yourself, because you'll only taint yourself.

If you want to protect yourself from software patents, there's only one way to do it. Get rid of them entirely. You may not agree with RMS on his free software philosophy, but you should be able to agree with him on his software patent [] philosophy.

You're wrong. (4, Insightful)

Frennzy (730093) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838081)

Feel better?

Seriously though, the one good thing I can think of about all this ridiculous IP litigation is that it actually can drive a good 'lone coder' to really innovate as opposed to create the same old mouse trap in a different way.

In either case, good luck to you. Make us proud.

arg... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838083)

Patents, patents, patents...
Don't be sad... In europe we have the same...
Oh, finally be sad... :(

Yes! (No) (5, Insightful)

JanusFury (452699) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838085)

Well, I'm not exactly an expert, but it seems to me that he's just over-reacting. The threat of patent infringement to a one-man development team seems to me like it would be miniscule compared to much larger threats like running out of money or being unable to accomplish your goals.

From what I've seen of the software market today, one-man teams still seem to be a way to make money. You just have to find the right market, and avoid overextending yourself - do a good job on the things you can manage, instead of trying to do everything and doing a crappy job of it. I've seen lots of developers succeed by marketing shareware or selling software over the internet (especially as far as indie games go, for example Starscape).

Re:Yes! (No) (1)

Frennzy (730093) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838125)

Saying that he is safe because he is a 'lone coder' is analagous to advocating 'security through obscurity'. In short...he isn't safe, and it isn't secure.

While we've all seen 'success' stories through shareware or non-traditional publishing, it doesn't mean that he is immune from prosecution from some 'IP ' lawyer (there are companies now that do this as their sole source of revenue)...he needs to innovate something new, patent it before publishing, then publish. Then his method of remuneration is irrelevant with regards to being's solely a function of how well he markets, and how necessary/good/needed his software is.

Re:Yes! (No) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838261)

I hate the word 'remuneration', therefore I hate you.

Re:Yes! (No) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838131)

But shareware usually is crap. It's the very low average quality of shareware that makes a lot of people shy away from open source, because both are free and, in the eyes of many people, that makes the two sufficiently comparable to extrapolate their experience with shareware to open source.

And that sucks, because now they're missing out on the good stuff.

Re:Yes! (No) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838297)

All software is usually crap. The nature of the business is that you test the product by distributing it.

If the automobile market worked this way, there would be no automobile market.

Re:Yes! (No) (3, Insightful)

Quinthar (8712) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838263)

I agree with this post, and I will add that being sued for patent infringement is a problem that you should be happy to have (in the same sense that your servers crashing from unexepctedly high demand is a happy problem).

If you're being sued, hopefully this means you've actually created a product that was successful enough to get noticed. That's the hard part. Defending yourself from a patent suit, while expensive and shitty, isn't nearly as hard as creating a product that matters in the first place.


Who's going to sue you (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838272)

If you are a small software shop with an employee or two then you are an unlikely litigation target for any broad reaching patent, since the holder is far more likely to go after someone with real money.

The flipside is that if you do become sufficiently successful then you may have to spend some of that to fight them in court.

If you establish a corporation of some kind to do your work as, then you should be able to protect your personal assets from any litigation.

Bittorrent (4, Interesting)

jerometremblay (513886) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838090)

Take Bittorrent for example. Does anyone know if he actually lives of it or not?

If that kind of success is not enough, I don't know what is.

Re:Bittorrent (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838153)

from the site:

"I maintain BitTorrent for a living. This is my only job."

what's not clear?

Re:Bittorrent (5, Insightful)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838210)

Probably not. But I bet his resume/cv will climb to the top with this:

*Bittorent: Imagined, designed, coded, deployed, and now maintaining the Bittorent protocol and OS-independent Python client. 12 million users since 2003; 500,000 gigabytes of transfers per day on average.

Build a world-class, industrial-grade extranet messaging and collaboration protocol for your company.

$180,000/yr, total combined annual work hours not to exceed 2300. Cost of living adjustment based on consumer index no later than April 1 of each year. Choice of location.

I tell you, if this guy works for a company 4 years and costs them $1M, they will have gotten themselves a bargain. This guy is cheaper than an average team of 4.

Re:Bittorrent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838280)

Yes, Bram lives off the donations, and he is not living in a tiny apartment on shoe-string budget either.

Re:Bittorrent (1, Informative)

lo2p (750971) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838317)

The guy works for blizzard now... He's the one responsible for blizzards new way to distribute games throught bittorrent.

The Lone Coder is Dead. Long live the Consultant (4, Insightful)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838092)

Coding software to sell is dead, for all the reasons you mentioned.

What's a coder to do?

Code away on an open source project, gove away all your hard work.


Offer your services as an implemetation and customization consultant for said open source software for businesses.

Implementations are not fun, but pound for pound, you get serous cash. Especially if you wrote the software to begin with. You can charge the most.

Re:The Lone Coder is Dead. Long live the Consultan (1)

Donoho (788900) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838209)

I'm a Lone Coder and I'm Dead Inside.

The lone coder died of neglect because (s)he wasn't appreciated, encouraged, kept trained, kept excited. The lone coder, drunk on his/her own absolute power over the life, death, and shape of his/her projects failed to see that no one was even paying attention and that once the hard work was done, there would be no one to really see what went into what (s)he build because by the nature of a good project the final product makes the process looks effortless.

I'm a Lone Coder and I'm Dead Inside.

Offer your services as an implemetation and customization consultant for said open source software for businesses.

Viva Open Source and the paradigm it brings.

Re:The Lone Coder is Dead. Long live the Consultan (4, Insightful)

kinema (630983) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838229)

What about writing open source software on contract? This is how companies like Namesys (ReiserFS) exist. Reiser4 development was paid for by DARPA, SuSE and Lindows.

Re:The Lone Coder is Dead. Long live the Consultan (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838249)

Forget it. Cash is king when you're on your own, and the last thing any prudent developer should be doing is pouring energy into a labor of love while speculating that eventually there will be a some kind of services revenue stream for your so-called free product.

If your software is so good, why does your customer need to spend serious cash for your services?

You're better off consulting on behalf of serious customers respond to your ability to solve their problems. If there is opportunity to productize your work along the way, so be it.

If you don't plan to make money, the market will see to it that you don't.

Re:The Lone Coder is Dead. Long live the Consultan (2, Interesting)

richcoder (539438) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838284)

What about those of us that wish to retain control over the content we create?

In these days you just have to hope that your product is successful, but not so successful that some big business entity decides to shut you down based on some bogus patent.

I used to work for a company that has a patent on the visual representation of latency between to remote connections. Just think of all of the software that is out there that are "violating" these one patent.

Ugg. Just gets me boiling thinking about it. Most great software started out from small unknown groups or even individuals. 1-2-3 spreadsheat, Mosaic web browser, etc. All big companies have to do today is sit back and wait for someone to create something novel and pounce on them once their idea is proven successful.

Yes. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838093)

He worked himself to death.

you're right and wrong (2, Insightful)

Mite51 (771446) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838097)

You are probably safe as long as the money you make from your software is less than the legal costs to go after you. If you start making a lot of money and get a lot of attention then someone is likely to come after you, for a variety of reasons including patent infringement. Tho this is true for anyone that comes into a lot of money.

Not if you're Jeff Minter (5, Informative)

failrate (583914) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838098)

Llamasoft is still just one guy in his house. He has a support crew, but he's really only the one guy, and he's putting out a title for GameCube soon.

So... no. That said, I know lots of other people that have two-three person teams that make a nice bit of cash here and there from coding.

As long as your code is good, it doesn't crash, and my grandma can use it without resorting to profanity, you'll make a nice piece of money.

Not alot, but maybe enough if you hire a good enough marketer.

Re:Not if you're Jeff Minter (1)

DanielJH (247965) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838214)

But...I can't use MS Windows without resorting to profanity. Usally in just a few minutes.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Economist article (5, Informative)

grandmaster_spunk (203386) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838099)

The Economist has a timely opinion piece about the patent problem in their most recent issue. y_id=3376181" []

Re:Economist article (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838126)

What's this, now we're getting dupes in the comments, too?

Fuck the patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838107)

Write your software. Sell your software. Kill anyone that gets in your way.

Re:Fuck the patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838194)

Your ideas are interesting to me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Fuck the patents (0, Flamebait)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838255)

Yeah ... particularly if they have the letters "Esq." after their name. Seriously, when the Great Collapse of 2047 comes, and human civilization falls and we revert to barbarism ... who do you think will be first on the list? Doctors aren't particularly popular anymre, but we'll still need them, but there a number of groups of people that will be lunchmeat.

"Hey you! What did you do before the Fall?"

"I was a lawye...{thud}"

No you can DO IT!! (1)

Amsterdam Vallon (639622) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838108)

I thought this too but lately my business has been better than ever!

I work on LAMP software and deploy to customer's websites. We use Linux/Apach/MySQL/PHP and it's amazing. I do an average of one dynamic website per two week period at $1,500 a piece. It's plenty to live on!

So yes there's work, keep up the good work, always be generous, get customer referels, and have fun!

Plus I spent all week playing Half-Life 2 lol it's nice not having a boss

Not to worry... (4, Interesting)

Dustismo (643898) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838112)

As long as your source is 'closed', you shouldn't have much to worry about. Cause how is anybody supposed to know that you used a patented algorithm in your code unless they reverse engineered it--which is illegal according to the DMCA. Go nuts.

Re:Not to worry... (1)

nuttyprofessor (83282) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838169)

This is a really good point. The problem of proving
you actually used a particular algorithm in your closed
source binary would be difficult (probably theoretically
impossible, i.e., halting problem kind of thing).
So the answer is to be a LONER and SECRETIVE!

Re:Not to worry... (5, Informative)

tpgp (48001) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838288)

As long as your source is 'closed', you shouldn't have much to worry about. Cause how is anybody supposed to know that you used a patented algorithm in your code unless they reverse engineered it--which is illegal according to the DMCA. Go nuts.


1) Some algorithms are easy to spot - you don't need the code.
2) Some patents cover business methods & possibly looknfeel.
3) The DMCA does not make all reverse engineering illegal.

I think patents are definitely a problem for all small software shops - closed or open.

Re:Not to worry... (2, Insightful)

douthat (568842) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838294)

What if I used the 1-click shopping "algorithm" in my code? People wouldn't have to reverse engineer to determine that I've infringed on Amazon's patent.

My point being that he may be building some software that infringes on someone's patent, but he doesn't realize it. If one didn't realize that Amazon patented 1-click shopping and included it in some software package, he would still be liable for damages, even though he didn't know about the patent.

What he's asking can't be solved by security-through-obscurity .

Re:Not to worry... (5, Informative)

bee-yotch (323219) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838306)

First of all, it's not usually the 'algorithm' that's patented, and that's the problem. Instead it's things like double clicking and other rediculous concepts. If it was an algorithm there wouldn't be a real problem with software patents as it's usually trivial to implement the same thing 1000 different ways.

Second, according to the DMCA reverse engineering is NOT illegal. Breaking copy encryption is.

Re:Not to worry... (1)

Jaime2 (824950) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838331)

It's not the algorithms. The scariest patents are business methods patents. People patent stupid obvious stuff like e-commerce( [] ) and then say you stole the idea from them.

Before/After (1)

Japong (793982) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838113)

It used to be in the old days, if you were on your own a larger company would simply come along and acquire your program, costs them a couple hundred thousand dollars and they get a program out of it.

Now they just sue the shit out of you, doesn't matter if there's any justification to it, legal fees and time spent in court alone can screw you. Costs them a couple hundred thousand dollars of lawyer fees, and you get bankruptcy out of it.

the lone coder is dead... (1)

cerebralsugar (203167) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838115)

netcraft confirms it

Secretly release suspect code with a BSD license (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838117)

Incorporate the code freely into your software. If someone sues, claim you had no idea :)

Ok, that might not work. As an alternative, sell the software. if someone sues, pretend someone stole all of your source code and release everything to the public. There are probably dozens of Slashdotters that would be happy to, I mean use the code to tweak lawyers' noses.

Don't search for possible infringement (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838118)

As I understand it, if you run across a 'possible' infringement and decide to go ahead and then some court deems that it is an infringement, then you knowingly have perpetrated the deed, and the penalty is greater than just simply going ahead and writing the code and letting the chips fall where they may. At that point you won't have knowingly infringed.

Oh yes and sell out to the big boys, get that indemnification and let them worry about the suit.

Short answer: naah, you can still do it (1)

boutell (5367) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838140)

I'm still doing it, although I don't get to make entirely new programs as often as I'd like these days. Certain areas of work, particularly video and audio, involve more patent licensing issues than others. Even in those cases, though, it's a matter of having some negotiating savvy when and if it becomes an issue.

IP is a small threat relative to anything else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838144)

You're right that a one-man software company is extremely difficult, but that's because most of the low-hanging fruit that one person can accomplish is done.

Among issues for very small software companies, things like idea conception, competition with larger products and companies, and distribution are a hundred times more important. IP infringement is near the bottom of the list.

Spiderweb software, and others... (5, Informative)

Richard (5962) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838145)

Spiderweb software is a 10-year old gaming company that only has one coder (President Jeff Vogel).

See [] .

Thomas Warfield, author of Pretty Good Solitaire, Pretty Good Majongg, etc., is also a Lone Coder.

See [] .

See generally discussion on "micro-isvs" at [] .

Yes (4, Insightful)

Spyky (58290) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838148)

But just because software has grown so large (and the computing power needed to run simple applications has increased at the same pace). For most applications, it's simply not possible to have a single person write it from start to finish. If they did, the software would be 5 years out of date when they finished.

It's the same as any other mature industry. A single person can't really build a car from scratch either. At least not one that has any hope of competing with the product of a large design team.

I mean I don't like software patents anymore than most people on Slashdot, but your argument doesn't appeal to me.


Re:Yes (3, Interesting)

Frennzy (730093) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838266)

Individuals CAN build a car...or a motorcycle...or just about anything else...and sell it for a premium to those who appreciate it. Software is a bit different...because it has no 'sex appeal'.

Tropics anyone?? (1)

Magickcat (768797) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838151)

I think we nerds need to get ourselves an uninhabited island in the tropics and set up a government with no copyright laws whatsoever.

Re:Tropics anyone?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838236)

Yup, let's take an island for us nerds !

Re:Tropics anyone?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838253)

Sort of like a reverse of the Amazons... An island inhabited entirely by men, and they are all terrible warriors :-)

Re:Tropics anyone?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838285)

And they have two breasts.

Vanuatu (1)

comwiz56 (447651) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838268)

If I remember correctly, this is a common place for (IP) pirates to hang out. I believe the FastTrack servers are stored here.

Living Proof Speaks Out (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838155)

Yep. I'm proof. I'm in the process of developing a company myself. As a web developer/designer/database developer/sys admin, I've got a nice enough set of skils to be able to cover all the bases for a web driven business.

Not that I'm a REAL coder doing C++ or anything but I still believe that it only takes a little of each skill to get the job started and halfway through you will be a pro at al of them. :)

Dada Mail and Myself (3, Interesting)

skazatmebaby (110364) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838164)

Well, I've been working on Dada Mail (formely Mojo) [] since I started college (graduated last summer)

It's basically fed me for the past three years now; I work on it primarily alone - it's also open source, I make money on a "Pro" distribution, selling an advanced downloadable manual, installation and consultation services.

Very incredibly low overhead for me to run the "shop", and it's still somewhat fun to do.

Oh and I graduated in art - no CS (or math, sans an accounting class) background.

Pay up buddy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838165)

I recently received a patent on making a mountain out of a molehill. You owe me $57,310.

Wrap your mind around that ladies and gentlemen!

Why should we comfort you... (2, Funny)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838168)

...when you can write some software to do it automatically?

Re:Why should we comfort you... (1)

Frennzy (730093) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838300)

This is the first time I've ever asked for this, but somebody needs to mod the parent funny. C'mon...that's classic slashdot mentality!

Even if it's good (1)

mekanizer (823259) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838178)

The thing is, if you make something easy and good, the free software community(ex:sourceforge) will do it better and for free.

Re:Even if it's good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838282)

Thankfully, they'll also do it half-ass. Unfortunately, that's often good enough for most of your customer base.

Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838182)

Steve Jobs invented the lone coder.

College Profs (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838185)

A lot of college profs own one-man shops. Every now and then they'll offer jobs to outstanding students for a summer. It's a great way to get into the business.

Re:College Profs (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838274)

They are not REALLY one man shops are they? Les' see - free advertising, lowest cost access to university's patent portfolio, sometimes room and board, cashflow (job), undreamed HR (get to see and work with potential hires without risk), and often financial sponsership. Great for a "one man shop" just starting out. Oh, yes. The consulting fees can be pretty good too. Not exactly your grandfather's poor but noble prof anymore.

Not the only dead one (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838187)

So, you wanted to read it...

The lone coder writing clever business or home software is no more. If you dream about developing the next Visicalc, alone or in a small team, forget it. Unless you have a very bright idea nobody had before (and patented) and won't have in a year, you will not be able to compete with anyone bigger than you - if you are really lucky, they may buy your company and ideas. We are talking about competing with gigabuck companies that buy politicians and courts. Be happy if they can't hire someone to get rid of you on a more permanent basis. ;-)

I was talking to a friend these days how impossible it is for a small outfit to make a game these days. Unless your game runs on cell-phones, you are talking big money.

You are not wrong (2, Informative)

klingens (147173) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838220)

Sorry for the bad news, but the reality is that, in the US, you are screwed as the "little guy" doing commercial programming (and Free programming too).

This is why in Europe both, the free software community and the small and middle sized corporations are all fighting hard to prevent software patents: []
The Linus defense,39026594,20276 078,00.htm [] of not researching what patents you might infringe will help you a bit by possibly avoiding punitive damages when/if you get sued, since you can claim not to have infringed willfully on a patent. But it won't decrease your lawyer bills for defending yourself in the slightest and neither will it decrease the future licensing costs. So if you are stepping on any big corporation's toes or are in the same business as another, failing company (*cough*SCO*cough*), it is highly likely you might get sued successfully for infringement

Move to a civilized country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838231)

where there are no software patents. then you can write whatever software you want, and be paid, and never have to worry about the FCC regulating you, the DCMA wiping you out or the FBI investigating you.

this doesnt mean that the usa is excluded from your sphere of access. see Skype.

Regarding Patents... (1)

mitchell_pgh (536538) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838237)

Ultimately it all comes down to high quality code, great GUI and your being protected by a company. Yes, you are almost sure to stumble over a patent with the current paten monsters out there... but don't let that stand in your way. The trick is to make your money by selling great code... and when the large companies come to sue... just close your doors and walk away. Writing code by dodging patents isn't the way to do it.

Not dead at all... (1)

borgheron (172546) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838238)

Some of the commercial off the shelf products I've used on certain contracts have been from one man shops.

Not dead by a long shot.


You don't want to read patents (1)

Anthracene (126183) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838246)

Some IANAL-ing, but from apparently reputable sources:

Looking through patents to see if you might be infringing is generally a really, really bad idea. If you infringe a patent you may be liable for damages, but if the patent holder can show that you knowingly infringed the patent, you're on the hook for treble (lawyer speak for triple) damages. A friend of mine who's a developer at a big software company got in trouble for looking up a patent for just this reason.

Maybe if there were a reasonably small number of patents of limited scope it would make sense to look through them and try to steer clear of infringment, but given the number and scope of patents that have been granted, it's almost impossible to avoid infringing on something. Therefore, the accepted strategy (even for big companies that could afford to have a team looking at patents) seems to be to avoid looking at patents so as to avoid taking on further liability.

If it's any consolation, a lone developer's pockets are shallow enough that it's probably pretty unlikely that anyone's going to bother with a patent lawsuit. Probably a good idea to incorporate, though, so in the rare event of a lawsuit the worst that happens is the company goes bankrupt; otherwise your personal assets are at risk.

You don't have to worry (1)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838269)


If you recall Linus's opinion on patents, he encouraged people not to read them. Why? The reason for a patent's existence is to grant a limited monopoly in exchange for publicizing the secret. If you discover the methedology of a patent independently (and without knowledge of the patent), then the patent doesn't apply to you and you can't be sued.

Doesn't mean they won't try to take you to court. But that's why the EFF exists. Have you made your donation?

Re:You don't have to worry (1)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838316)

Ok I have to say this the parent is WRONG.

I don't mean to hurt your feelings, mr. Prien, but I just want to make sure nobody follows your advice, because they can get in trouble. You are liable for infringement regardless of whether you were aware of the patent or came up with the invantion on your own.

However, the ammount of money that you need to pay may depend on whether you knew about the patent.

No, the Lone Coder is not dead (2, Informative)

kompiluj (677438) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838275)

He just has to buy the relevant patents [] .

Simple... (1)

grilo (694373) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838278)

Make it Open Source, and license it under the Free Software Foundation. They'll make the case for you.

You can still sell it. Simply send the source to someone who buys it.

The situation's simultanously better and worse... (5, Insightful)

John_Booty (149925) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838281)

1. Well, "lone coders" can't afford the legal work of performing patent searches. This is true. But you know what? I think small or even medium-sized corporations probably can't afford it either.

2. Even if you ARE clear of existing patents, what if a big company decides to fight you in court? Again, a small or medium-sized company could never afford to fight this.

3. Then again, it's not always in some big company's interest to shut you down or sue you out of existance. Often they probably just want a chunk of your profits. (and a chunk of zero is still zero, so they don't make money if you fold, either)

What a fucking country.

Three words: Work For Hire (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838305)

This is not quite the same as "for yourself", but it can still work.

The downside is you need to find a client, and you need to do what THEY want.

The upside is that you still work for yourself, set your own hours, work from home, etc.

As far as Patents and stuff, make sure your contract indemnifies you - after all the stuff belongs to your client.

Some enlightened clients might even pay you to write open source software that fits their needs.

One or more of the above sentences applies to me, so I know lone programmers can make a living, being, well, almost lone programmers.

Yes. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10838314)

Yes. I'm a lone coder and I make enough to support myself. I did it by becoming part of an open source community and (presumably) becoming respected enough that people are now willing to hire me to do work based on the assumed merit of my prior work. I don't sell any software, I just sell my time.

I think the "guy selling boxes of software from his basement" model might be a bit harder. You need marketing. Open source gives you marketing in a grassroots kind of way, as long as you're reasonably competent and contribute regularly. Somebody selling software needs a different marketing tact, either by spending a lot of money on advertising or by choosing a field so narrow that you're the only guy on the block (and even then you need to be reasonably competent).

BitTorrent (1)

_iris (92554) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838324)

Bram Cohen's BitTorrent [] should give you some hope.
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