Trade Collapse Begins?

I’ve oft mentioned how the twin cost-revolutions in geekery warped & nearly destroyed our trade.

Then wondered if we’ll get to a place where it’s no longer profitable for most companies to write bad software poorly.

This morning I wonder if I’m seeing the beginning of it.

I don’t have any facts & figures for you. But it feels like I’m seeing more and more companies wonder if the gravy train’s caboose will soon pass the station.

It won’t happen overnight, I don’t think. And though I ultimately believe that a good thing can result, it will not be an unmixed blessing as it arrives.

Think of it this way, my own lovely career of 40+ years absolutely depended on that market explosion. I got to the right place at the right time. In 1980 it was wild west for a geek. Have code will travel. And if you could program, at all, you were hired. Paid well, too.

That’s not true for the great majority of geeks, the 20 or so million who’ve come in just the last decade. A decline in the trade’s growth will surely hurt.

Further, because the geek census was small, there was a culture of clever resilient mutualism.

I had ample ability to learn from people much better at it than me. And since demand was high but not insane, I was given the support and the time and the money to actually learn.

Again, not true for <30yo geeks. Half of all modern geeks have less than 5 years in, and the majority of their seniors have less than a decade. And a geek with <10 years has had dramatically less opportunity to grow.

Instead, the "bad software poorly" methods, about hierarchy and control and magazine-cover tools & rules, have made it extremely difficult for young geeks to learn anything even approaching "good software done well".

Sadly, geek culture itself has thinned to be nearly unbreathable.

Creativity and its source joy have been slashed and slashed again, mutuality, collaboration, community, all minimized and at times actively crushed in the quest for quarterly returns from an infinite bull market.

There was a lot wrong with geek culture in the ’80s, no question of that. Much of it was just what was wrong with Western culture generally, and some of it was more specific than that.

Even dominated as were then (and are now) by white American males, there was actually more collegiality, looser gates, fewer badges, and a general atmosphere of positive and creative excitement. We were far less interested in sources and far more in content.

(Two of my earliest partial mentors, by the way, were female systems programmers at the big ones, one IBM and one AT&T.)

There was much greater generality.

We asked each other what we were doing, and we were fascinated by the answers. We studied far more widely, both longer and deeper, largely ignoring questions of language or tooling or target.

Nowadays, we flip right past anyone who isn’t using our language to solve our problem by creating a snippet and a text of snotty commentary on Stack Overflow.

I know. Old man yells at cloud.

But even as I’ve waited so long for this demand-storm to pass, I worry that we’re not going to be able to put things back together, back together differently, when it finally passes.

Sorry to be so morose, but it felt like I needed to say it out loud.

Soon enough, I’ll be back chipping away at my usual themes. 🙂

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