I noticed an article on Wired about robots stealing jobs and got to thinking about outsourcing, this down economy and all the conversations I have had (calm and otherwise) about jobs moving offshore.
Ultimately I don’t see any reasonable way to stop jobs from following a well established lifecycle that ends in automation. If you take any task that is currently done by a robot you can probably look far enough into the past to find a point in time when it was cutting edge technology and either a skilled technician or fine artisan performed the function for premium pay (Dot Com boom html programmers for our purposes). As time goes on the task or job becomes well understood, well documented and even taught in all the schools around the world and since the task is still highly paid (that has eroded by now) it attracts alot of people who want that job. Then the task moves toward commodity and the formerly highly paid technicians and artisans have chosen from exactly two courses of action. They have either moved on to the new cutting edge thing or they are moaning about the erosion of their value in the marketplace (blaming the marketplace of course and never themselves). Then it gets worse for this latter group since eventually (and eventually comes quick in the 21st century we have found) the commodity task is recognized to be cheaper to be done offshore. For high tech India and Egypt are hot along with many other locals (I just have most of my experience with offshore teams in these countries). The formerly high end task is drone work now and can be done by a bright student from any continent so the work flows to where it can be done most inexpensively. This is the point of maximum complaint by those who remember making $100 an hour for doing this task. They then stop paying attention just in time for that task to be automated by a program, system or abstraction layer so that no one would ever pay for it to be done by hand ever again. At this point you could probably hear people in the offshore tech districts complaining. This is progress. It is painful, but it is also inexorable, you cannot stop it and you shouldn’t try to slow it down. Instead you should be like the other group of highly skilled technicians and artisans and find the next big thing and constantly hone your skills. This is absolutely doable in our high tech field.
I know this post will come off as callous to some and I am sorry if I am too blunt for some, but especially in times like these we have to stop looking back wistfully at the past and grab our books and browsers and dig in to invent and shape the next revolution. I personally think that energy and the technology that helps with conservation is the next big thing, but there is still lots of room elsewhere. If you view the lifecycle of a job as a good thing you see that it has freed us from farming our own food, making our own clothes and has allowed so many of the things that are best in our civilization. Embrace it or be marginalized.
Finally my apologies to those stock boys out there who have had their hopes and dreams shattered by R2D2.
In my business we deal with companies that are by their very nature risk averse and hence I only play with the newest tech for our internal projects, the occasional customer emergency and in my free time. Even so I have watched Microsoft’s Azure pretty closely and while I am confident that eventually we will take cloud computer for granted as we do dynamic web technologies now, I am also pretty sure that we still don’t know exactly what and how the real impact will take shape. Without clear SLAs and Pricing I just can’t gauge how reasonable it will be for a customer of size X with application of type Y to opt for Azure or any other cloud computing platform. That belief also drives me to think that the Open Cloud Manifesto is at best irrelevent and at worst a major impediment to getting where we want to go. If we don’t know what the best end state will be because we have yet to really evolve the technology in the real world then how can a group of people (any group) really hope to lay out the rules of the road. There isn’t a road built yet after all.
It has been proposed that guidance is needed to ensure that solutions are “open”. I can only assume that this means that they want code deployed on vendor A’s platform can be moved to vendor B’s platform unchanged (the classic case of wanting to not gamble on vendor lock in). While that is not specifically stated, I just don’t see any other interpretation that makes sense.
Time will tell, but I suspect we are several years of market testing and evolution from a point where we can even begin to have this conversation intelligently.
To read more on this topic I will point you to blog posts by Chris Auld and Michelle Bustamante. I must say that I agree with them for the most part.
I have worked on many software development projects, both commercial and line of business and every single time I talk about optimization to a developer they always jump to the same conclusion. They think I mean speed of execution. I grant that the majority of the time when people talk about optimization that is what they mean, but it is not 100% of the time correct. Often I care more about the maintainability of an application especially if I know it is destined (or doomed) to morph quite a bit over the next year or so. In these case it is often an application that will be used by employees and many of the standard assumptions do not apply.
Take our Intranet for instance. It is only used by employees and our closest contractors. We use it for tracking customers and projects, for forecasting sales and even timesheets. I don’t care if it is 5% slower, I want it to be adaptable since we are an agile company. I don’t mess with the code every week or even every quarter, but the code is written in such a way that I or any other developer on staff can go in and very quickly add a field or add other features very quickly. We didn’t sacrifice security (that would be unacceptable), but we did forgo the multi tier architechure and stored procedures for parameterized queries. This is a sin in many circles, but if the application’s backend is single use (only one application) then there is much less advantage to all the abstraction. I am sure the arguments will flow down on me now, but I see the same drive for complexity without purpose (real advantage I mean) in the Java world where code portability is everything and yet almost no one ever avails themselves of that costly feature.
The next time someone asks you to optimize something ask them if they mean for performance or maintainability and let the funny stares begin…
As I said a couple of days ago, I am speaking again in Cairo in a few weeks at the EDC. I have arrived on the topics that I am presenting. While these are still subject to change it looks like:
- A session on AJAX
- A session on Commercial Software Dev (vs. Business development)
- A session on Indexing Optimization in SQL Server
I am really looking forward to seeing all my friends and again want to thank Waleed Abdelwahab for pushing me to revive this blog.
See you all soon!
Every few years I find that there are pieces (sometimes big ones) that I have not played with or encounted on a customer project and it tends to freak me out a bit. We have now arrived at that point in the cycle yet again! Expression, SilverLight, WPF and the like are all technologies that you will likely never see me present upon, but in the aftermath of MIX 08 and whole WideOpen Web movement I just have to dive in deeper and see what the implications are for the parts of the technology that I do use daily.
I think this is a key survival trait for me and I encourage everyone to reach down into that free time (you are still sleeping right?) and get a grip. The good news is that great blogs and podcasts are making this much easier then ten years ago. I promise to report what I find here and might even ask a non-rhetorical question or two
I have finally confirmed the final dates for the Egypt Developers Conference which is held every year in Cairo. This year it is in Mid April and again I will be speaking. I really look forward to this event and for a short time I was afraid that the dates would move to a week where I couldn’t attend, but I now know that this is not the case.
This week I have to solidify which sessions I will present and am thinking about doing a session on commercial software development (as opposed to business software development) on the new Software Architects track.
Last year I made the mistake of re-presenting session from previous years at the request of some very well intentioned people who were running the show, but I will not make that same mistake again.
See you in Cairo!
Someone in my office just forwarded me a link to a video that has Scott Guthrie talking about ASP.Net. Not very unexpected, but the video turns out to be set inside Halo thanks to the crew a Red vs. Blue and it fabulous.
I don’t know what site it was originally hosted on, but if you remotely like Halo, or ASP.Net or Scott or anything remotely cool and / or entertaining, check it out!
Red vs. Blue themed ASP.Net ad featuring Scott Guthrie
StrangeLoop has finally announced their AppScaler device!
Richard Campbell told me about his involvement in StrangeLoop a while ago and I have been dying to tell people about it, but until now it has been confidential.
Basically the AppScaler takes a web farms major headaches and lifts them into the loadbalancer and out of the way of your developers. It really is a cool strategy because it gives sites real performance gains over hosting Session State on a state server or in a database along with a whole host of other performance enhancing and bandwidth saving features.
Check out the recent article at NetWorkWorld.com about it.
My fellow Microsoft Regional Director, Jonathan Goodyear recently wrote a very full and detailed description of what the Microsoft Regional Director program really is, that should help anyone who still thinks I am a MS employee.
I hope this helps clarify things a bit, though I do expect to still have to go through this once a week for those that don’t read this blog
My good friend, Eileen Rumwell, has started blogging. Her blog is something I plan to keep watching especially since in the short time it has been up she has already thrown out some great insights. The really cool thing is that having come from a marketing background, Eileen has been thrust among developers for quite a few years now. Working at Microsoft she has great insight and maybe more importantly she also has insight into how we developers outside MS work and think about our role.
Eileen’s latest post starts off talking about her dogs and quickly points out that developers seem to think that security is not their problem. I have seen this attitude quite a bit, but typically I get to beat it out of those who exhibit it to me since I am often cleaning up after a problem or onsite to beat it out of them.
Ignorance and apathy are both alive and well in the development community. It isn’t the people who are motivated and willing to drag themselves to the user group meetings that are the problem it is those that are likely too lazy to even read a blog about their chosen profession let alone one about something tangential to it. If we hold our breath long enough the world will evolve and security will be baked in to everything that matters, but that is still a long way off if a majority of those building the future think that this whole security thing is a fad. Lets vote them off the island.