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The Rise of Developeronomics 253

Posted by Soulskill
from the supply-that-demands dept.
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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The Rise of Developeronomics

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  • Great a new boom. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:36PM (#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.
    • by gatkinso (15975)

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

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        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.

        • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @12:48AM (#38288070) Journal

          Overheated market?

          What overheated market?

          When I see stupidity like this:

          A software developer on the other hand, can float free on the Internet, making money in mercenary ways, with no deep loyalties, if he/she so desires

          ... it's like this guy has never heard of outsourcing to cheap 3rd-world and eastern European countries and crap sites like elance.

          Or this ...

          An ex-Microsoft engineer is valuable anywhere in the economy if he voices support for buying Microsoft wherever he goes.

          He's never read the posters on the minimsft blog [blogspot.com], all swearing that after being "managed out", they will never, ever recommend Microsoft products.

          A talented high-school kid who starts hacking away at an iPhone app at 14 is likely to stay in orbit around Apple for his/her entire career.

          Really? So none of those iPhone or Android devs got their start on anything but Apple or ... what? Gmail?

          Of course, it's all based on a false premise:

          Today, this abstract point specifically translates to: people who can invest in developers, developers, and everybody else. This means that if you are in apparently more fundamental professions - perhaps you are a baker with a small business - you are effectively useless, not because bread isn't important, but because surviving in the bread business is now a matter of having developers on your side who can help you win in a game that Yelp, Groupon and other software companies are running to their advantage. If your bakery doesn't have an iPhone app, it will soon be at the mercy of outfits like Yelp.

          And god forbid, if you donâ(TM)t have a skill, like baking, which the developer-centric economy can actually use, you are in deep trouble.

          The bakers and butchers will still be eating when Groupon is bankrupt. And almost nobody gives a crap about Yelp. They get their recommendations from friends, not strangers trying to game the system. And certainly not from an iPhone app spamming them with "Eat at Joe's".

          Like so much from Forbes, this is just more idiot drivel!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @05:29PM (#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.

        • I sadly agree, kicking ass helps but it is not even necessary nor sufficient to rise to that hypothetical upper half, however being good at politic is a sure prerequisite to rise in the upper half of any organization composed of more than 100 persons.

        • by Gorobei (127755)

          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.

          To be fair, the article was more talking about the "upper 1%" rather than the upper half.

          If you are really a 10X contributor, you just leave environments that are too political.

          Screw the ice cream, if you are in a serious group, you all have a company credit card and can get it delivered. If senior management is doing their job, they will fire any middle manager who is not rewarding/promoting his talent based on results.

          I love my job :)

    • by mario_grgic (515333) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:42PM (#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.
      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        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.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:01PM (#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.

        • by Tomato42 (2416694) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:49PM (#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.

          • by greg1104 (461138)

            You've missed the real implication that comes from realizing good software developers are actually worth more than just about anything else. The right answer to your thought experiment problem is to find/make an accountant who knows enough about software to write useful specifications, then put them to work on testing the results too. That's cheaper than trying to turn a good developer into a entry-level accountant, which isn't very likely to go well anyway.

      • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:02PM (#38283958) Homepage

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BadPirate (1572721)

      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.

      • 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.

      • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @08:25PM (#38286668) Homepage Journal
        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).

        So very true. As someone who did a fair amount of freelance developing over the last decade, the number of people who are using compilers because they think it will get them rich is truly scary. Non-comp sci types are *probably* safe to let loose on basic web development tasks, and that is about it. If the number of developers that I have meet that are the really talented types who really 'get' coding are representative of the industry as a whole, I fear for our future.
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      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.

      • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:14PM (#38284094) Homepage Journal

        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.

        • a savings account that you never look at

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

        • 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.

          • People that think you can always throw more RAM or disc space at a problem rather than keep their code neat and clean.

            I think you're confusing "think you can" with "have to."

            Writing clean code takes longer. The developer generally isn't the one who decides how long he gets to spend on something.

      • by syousef (465911)

        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.

      • by rubycodez (864176)
        be smart, save up for hard times. I like bubbles, can do well during and after them.
  • Unionize (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dcollins (135727)

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

    The way: Unions.

    • Re:Unionize (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AtlantaSteve (965777) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:59PM (#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.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        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).

        • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by xero314 (722674) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:57PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:51PM (#38285866)
          No mod points today, so I'll post to keep your reasonable, polite and on-topic post from being buried by the "mod down anything supportive of unions" brigade. To the person modding the OP flamebait: If it's an echo chamber you want, there are plenty of other sites that will meet your needs.
        • Re:Unionize (Score:4, Insightful)

          by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:17PM (#38286108) Homepage Journal

          Lastly, Unionization is fully in-line with Libertarian ideology

          Voluntary unionization, yes. But voluntary unions don't last; if the union is at all successful it begins to focus on perpetuating itself and its lock on the labor side of the bargaining table. In some cases scabs get beaten, maimed or killed. In other cases, the unions champion changes in the law that make non-union labor effectively illegal. Even when those extremes are avoided, intense peer pressure is applied to those who don't want to join the union.

          The biggest problem with unions and collective bargaining, though, is hidden in your parenthetical comment "which does not need to be seniority based, and can be performance based". No, it can't be performance based, because that requires an objective way to measure performance. The normal employer/employee relationship has a lot of fuzziness that allows hard-to-quantify performance factors to be taken into account. But unions need to establish clear rules and structures that can be written into the collective bargaining agreement, at least if the agreement is going to do anything more than specify minimums. That's why so many collective agreements end up being purely seniority-based: because it's about the only thing that can be objectively measured.

          • In other cases, the unions champion changes in the law that make non-union labor effectively illegal.

            That is really the problem with unions: If employees can choose whether to join or not, they can go to the negotiation with the employer as a non-union employee and take the union package as the starting point for the negotiation, with nowhere to go but up because the employee has the alternative of joining the union. So non-union employees will always be able to negotiate better compensation than union employees, and nobody will join the union.

            But if you're required to join the union then the union is in t

          • by xero314 (722674)

            Voluntary unionization, yes.

            As far as I am aware, and I could be wrong, all union membership is voluntary in the United States. Membership in certain trade organizations, like Professional Engineering, is not, but that's another issue entirely. But let us not limit a collectives capabilities to bargain. If they have the strength to negotiate a contract with a corporation that says the company can not hire non-union workers, then more power too them.

            In some cases scabs get beaten, maimed or killed.

            Harm is amoral and illegal, and also is no more a side affect of unionization than i

        • Re:Unionize (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Stiletto (12066) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @02:33AM (#38288492)

          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).

          The collective bargaining aspect alone would be a huge boon to Software Engineering and IT salaries. It's appalling how IT workers (who tend to be introverted and lack negotiation skills) are routinely fucked in terms of compensation.

          It's both sad and funny--the engineers who believe they are being fairly compensated and who are confident that they're paid "above average" tend to be the ones getting royally screwed.

      • by syousef (465911)

        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 glo

      • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PoolOfThought (1492445) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:04PM (#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.

      • You're not as scarce as you think you are. I'm not as scarce as I think I am. And if you look into me, I think you'll find I'm reasonably scarce.

        Union? If that's what it takes. Guild or professional organization? Preferably. Unorganized? It sucks.

      • 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.

        That's not it at all. You can create a union that has only in-demand members. Then they can negotiate to be paid $250,000/year instead of $100,000.

        The reason that doesn't happen is that smart people realize what happens when everyone in the market is being paid more than they're worth: You create a market incentive for oversupply. Do you know what happens when a job pays $250,000/year? Everybody who is even remotely capable of learning how to do it does so, and the market is soon flooded with qualified work

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

      The way: Unions.

      Face palm

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)
      When companies act badly enough to their employees unions can be a great way to flex a little muscle to get them to straighten up. If a union would disband once the situation that necessitated it is abated I would gladly advocate and join. What we see today is unions that have lived long past their original charter and are in some cases worse than the companies they seek to extort.

      Add to that the fact that organizing developers into a cohesive group is akin to herding cats and you start to see how hard u
  • Idiots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:48PM (#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 (Score:5, Funny)

      by Pope (17780) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:51PM (#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.

    • 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.

    • ...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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @05:07PM (#38284798) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • 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.

        And by doing so you're seen as a mere laborer and you won't get management's respect, or money.
        If you got away and did something somewhere else, you're talented. If you stayed and did something successful, people will only notice how it was past the deadline, all the trouble getting there, etc. And they'll expect repeated success or better next time, for the same pay.

        Another person who needs to look up tongue in cheek.

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      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!

      That's why The Fucking Article* says to invest in them by forming relationships, not

    • 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!

      Hey, some of us would prefer shorter hours and more vacation time! Money's not everything...

  • Wisdom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lucm (889690) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:52PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:00PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • by lucm (889690)

        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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Belial6 (794905) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @05:02PM (#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.
      • by lucm (889690)

        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.

        In most companies, there is a serious problem with middle management because good managers are promoted - what is left is either on its way up or not worth much. This is a problem that is seen mostly in management because in specialized jobs (such as software development) there is a smaller ladder to climb.

        This is similar to the problem of teachers working in poor schools. The top teachers usually get better opportunities and they run away, so what is left is either waiting for their chance to go, or just c

        • Re:Wisdom (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Doubting Thomas (72381) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @08:58PM (#38286920)

          I don't say this often. Hell, I never say this: this is one place where the military has the right idea about how to manage people. Or at least, my poor, second-hand understanding of military chain of command suggests that is so.

          Non-Commissioned officers are on a separate career path. They are expected to continue managing 'the workers' in some capacity for their whole career. They both know what has to be done and can sympathize with the poor bastards who'll get stuck doing it. They are not expected to seek a C level position. That's not their job. Getting shit done is their job, and no assignment or promotion will ever completely hamper that goal.

          Meanwhile, the commissioned officers never manage the workers. Occasionally junior COs will try get things done that are a Bad Idea, and an NCO (eg, a warrant officer) will tell them to "Kindly fuck off, sir.". These people ARE expected to seek a C level position. Perhaps most importantly, if you demonstrate an inability to eventually achieve a C-level position, you may find yourself unwelcome, and encouraged to leave. "Up or Out"

          I think where this breaks down when applied to civilians is that we don't distinguish people who DO from people who manage. If you can get things done, we should let you do that until the world ends. If you can't get things done, but you can kinda sorta interact with some people who do, should we really keep you around forever? It seems to me like maybe that's not such a good idea.

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @03:52PM (#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!

  • 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.
  • 10x Engineer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:14PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fsckmnky (2505008) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:22PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JustNiz (692889) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @08:29PM (#38286690)

        So true.
        The company I work for recently moved office but they gave us engineers the opportunity to see some sites they were considering.

        The managers were amazed when we said we preferred the crappy old site with separate ofiices rather than the shiny executive newbuild with a big open space.

        Then It dawned on me the reason why they couldn't understand.

        Managers spend all day doing nothing actually productive, just justifying their existence to each other verbally, so they automatically believe that any environment that promotes communication must be the best.

        They are not mentally equipped to understand that anyone's productivity can be anything other than proportional to the level of communication going on around them, whereas in fact, for developers it tends to be inversely proportional.

        • Exactly. And they measure your value that way as well. If you sit in the corner of the office with your office door closed, you're probably goofing off. If you work from home, you're completely worthless.

    • Re:10x Engineer (Score:5, Informative)

      by dubbreak (623656) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @04:44PM (#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.

      • by wmbetts (1306001)

        I was a company that had an open type plan for the developers. We liked being able to bounce ideas off of each other without really getting up and the overall communication improvement with in the team. It was helped others followed simple etiquette rules. The big rule being if someone has head phones on don't bother them unless it really is important.

        What we hated was everyone walking through our space to get some where else. No one could understand this isn't a walk way. It's where we work. It's like a gi

    • Re:10x Engineer (Score:5, Informative)

      by kogut (1133781) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @05:02PM (#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.
    • by msobkow (48369)

      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @05:43PM (#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?

    • Status reports! MORE status reports! Scrum stand up, daily reports, weekly reports, time sheet, burndown chart. It is easy to! Today: 8 hours - Updating status reports. Rince and repeat.

  • 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.

  • by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @05:00PM (#38284686) Homepage Journal
    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".
    • 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.

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