With the arrival of 2002, I've decided to forgo any last-year reflection, new-year prognostication, or "Best of" listing in favor of what this profession is all aboutapplication development. What's going on, where is it going, and is it worth going there? After such a demoralizing yearreally in more of a pretend, media-hyped sense than in realityit's important to regain the bearings and let the needle on the compass stop spinning for a moment.
The New Beginning, Part 1
My first bold assertion: Reports of the death of the Internet are greatly exaggerated. No, as a matter of fact, the web has not ceased operations, as many in the investment community would like you to believe. Never before have so many vultures suckered the masses into purchasing horribly overpriced stocks with no revenue, as the vultures grew rich on the ride. Now, as a change of pace, those same vultureswho sold all their high-flying Internet plays in time to shaft regular folks out of billions on paperhave now shorted a number of the remaining companies in hopes of a last grim schadenfreude profit as they attempt to rebuild.
In truth, as was inevitable, an evolution has taken place. This is not a bad thing. Just as the geeks on university campuses who delighted in referring to anyone using AOL as a "newbie" grew both scared and angry at the early commercial success and wide adoption of their baby (I count myself on the fringes of that group), many people (many developers, that is) cannot help but feeling a loss at this transformation. (I count myself wholeheartedly a part of that group.) A few Harvard MBAs with a lot of unwisely purloined and exhausted cash have spoiled it for the rest of us. But what a ride!
Big corporations have finally caught up. The same companies that were to be in ruins when dust settled are now brushing the dust from their tweed sport coats, the smug "I told you so" expressions firmly embedded in false grins. Hands are now extended to renegade developers who foolishly believed their piece of the pie was out there. "Welcome back to a real company," the managers say. The laws of economics developed since the advent of the "invisible hand" are just as inviolable as the curmudgeons had claimed.
Again, this is not entirely a bad thing. Just as reigns of terror labeled "coding standards" will begin to creep back into the life of developers used to doing it their own way, and the days of six-figure salaries for a year of Java experience have most certainly passed, bright spots to this equalizing force also exist. For instance, instead of contrived titles that often conveyed just enough credibility to leap to a better job, people will be faced again with real deadlines, and skill will prevail.