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Band Together

Why can’t all of those programmers out of a job or looking for a little extra part time work, band together and start our own company? Peter Drucker in one of his books on management talks about “creating business.” There are many things on the market today that we didn’t need or want originally- the market was created. What if we created a group, like a guild, and banded together? Where programmers who want part time work can get it and programmers who need a job could get it.

There would need to be rules for membership. The entrance test could be program software or code that does X in the next Y period of time. What kind of entrance test should it have? Surely not something that would prevent non-traditional programmers from being admitted.

There are things people “need” but don’t yet know they need because we haven’t told them. What do we want people to need software wise? What projects do we want them to ask us to build that would have a software element?

If we created such an organization how would it be held together? Over the internet? It would have to have it’s own web page. What kind of web page? A place with password only forums…

What would be the rules for the distribution of money? The majority of the money produced per project would go to those who actually worked on the project. There would be no overhead of owning buildings or furniture or anything like that. All the work would be done over the Internet from our homes or coffee shops or wherever.

Even if this idea fails miserably, for the unemployed,  it’s an opportunity to get experience doing programming, web page design, market research, etc.

I don’t need a job. I have one at the moment. Our company has been around for over twenty years and we’re going very strong, in sales and in products. I’m not worried. I don’t need anything.

But it is a good idea. Too many of us allow our lives and the lives of those who depend on us to be determined by whether or not company XYZ sees our value. Our value exists whether or not they see it. Some of us are still learning and growing as programmers- I fall in this category, I’m far from an expert in anything. But I know that I can do good work and provide value for my company. I provide more value than I am paid for, but if the company didn’t pay workers for less than they provided they would go out of business. But I could do work on the side. We all know we have something to offer. What if the value that we could provide was all that mattered? Over the Internet it doesn’t matter that I’m a ultra-right-wing-Christian or that I haven’t graduated from a four year collage or that you may be… whatever. On this forum all that matters are the ideas presented, the facts and the opinions argued back and forth.

In “What Color Is Your Parachute” Richard Bolles argues that it doesn’t matter that you have a ‘handicap’ –like not having a bachelors degree or whether or not you are a master with pointers in C++- He says, what you’re looking for is the company that doesn’t care about your handicap.

Individually we may not *all* possess the savvy, technical know-how salesmanship and resources to sell something commercially. But together we have a massive amount of all of the above and more. We have all studied creating systems. Why couldn’t we put that knowledge together to create a system like this? What would such a system look like?

Everybody “needs” more software in their life! They just don’t know it yet and we have a, seemingly, unending supply of people who want to write new software. What can we sell them?

The best responses are more questions.

WNC
Sunday, January 26, 2003

>>  Everybody “needs” more software in their life! They just don’t know it yet and we have a, seemingly, unending supply of people who want to write new software. What can we sell them?

Wrong question and wrong contention. "Everybody" needs more software? My mother-in-law certainly does *not* need more software. Neither do most small businesses. That is an incredibly techie-centric assertion. The point of most people's lives and businesses is to live and to make money, not to focus on a piece of software.

On "need", need is not sufficient - perception is key. Even if a business critically NEEDS more software and is ABLE to pay, they probably are internally convinced that they do NOT need that software. That's been the subject of some forecasts on IT trends for 2003 - companies across the map are said to cut back on software acquisition in '03, even below 2002 levels.

What *any* business needs to do, first and foremost, is to have a clear and unambiguous notion of the market that it is going to serve. Then it needs to develop ideas for products or services that can serve that market.

You have it all turned around. If you really believe that you can develop a better widget and then find a home for it, the very best way to go about this is on your own or with a VERY small collaborative group of partners, no more than 2-3 together tops. IE, keep it small and cohesive.

"We" programmers are notorious for each believing that our personal ideas are the one true way and that nobody else's notions have merit. I think that's one key problem with forming a company consisting of a bunch of programmers each having voting rights. It's why sales people tend to "own" most of us and push us around in real life.

Customers come first, basically. Staffing comes MUCH later.

Curmudgeon
Sunday, January 26, 2003

OK, my response might have sounded or come off as a bit harsh. I'm sorry.

I share your sentiments. I'd love sometime to work in a company that was co-owned by my intellectual equals and not have to kowtow to the mentally inferior (I mean professional management and salespeople) and submit to the non-technical person's truncated, non-fun, and dismissive view of the universe.

But...besides other things... I have observed that *all* successful, sustainable startup companies have been created as a result of just one person's vision.
IE - just as with great software on a small scale, great business ideas tend to be one person's initial conception. A committee would only delay or damage that spark of creativity.
Invention of *any* kind is *not* a democracy. Can you point at a successful entrepreneurial business of any sort that was founded as a co-op? I am trying and I can't. Co-ops are good for grassroots volunteerism, eletric utilities, and trading groups, but don't seem to appear in a form that competes aggressively for new business. The closest I can think of is "Ben and Jerry's", and these guys are still capitalists and it still started with just a couple of people, not a hundred, setting a direction.

As far as modeling a programmer's co-op on the notion of a trading group - possibly. But if I had a chunk of billable work in hand that was available for someone else to do, I'd want several things: an incentive to give that chunk away in the first place; a promise that the person that took on that work would not embarrass me by poor performance; and a dead certain promise that I would receive in like value later.
See if you can find ways of appealing to EVERYONE'S self interest, starting with the customers. Everything else will fall into place...

Curmudgeon
Sunday, January 26, 2003

When I was speaking of everyone "needing" more software, I was being tongue-in-cheek. Of course they don't want more software right now- that's the point of business to create a want or need for your services or product. No one *needs* a Dell or an Apple, but enough people want them that Dell and Apple make money. And when there's a confluence of wants and perceived needs you have a real good chance of making a decent profit.

As a flaming capitalist myself, I reject the notion that anything I wrote was anti-capitalist in any way.

But to be a slave to what everybody wants or needs right now is not capitalism. There are many things that make life richer now that no one wanted before it was produced.

If programmers have to perform a feat (coding something specific to join) that might be one way to ensure good professional quality. How could a project like this be run on a sound professional basis? The kind of questions, answers and input I was looking for (but I'm not holding my breath) involved people suspending their skepticism and disbelief for a few minutes and actually saying something that moved the dialog forward. Consider it an exercise in thinking outside the box.

If we're limited to how things have always been done, then we'll never see how things could be.

"Co-ops are good for..." Not proposing a co-op. If you dismiss it by assigning it a bad name, then you have not engaged the idea.

"...*all* successful, sustainable startup companies have been created as a result of just one person's vision." Okay, I have a vision of a company that exists over the Internet, using the value that is already there, for those who want to participate, who can pass whatever tests to enter.

Why should we pretend that the market's current state is some kind of god that we must bow down to? Why shouldn't "My mother-in-law... need more software?" She certainly could *use* more software. Why should we accept that "companies have laid off so many programmers that there is a glut on the market?"

WNC
Sunday, January 26, 2003

Ok, I'll try to be less of a wet blanket. ;-) I'll try, dunno if I can succeed...

You said in your first post:

>> There are many things on the market today that we didn’t need or want originally- the market was created.

Ok, this sounds like a small, entrepreneurial company (like the host of this boards'.) Nothing stopping anyone from doing that. It typically requires risk (downtime + turning down billable work or salary.)

>> What if we created a group, like a guild, and banded together? Where programmers who want part time work can get it and programmers who need a job could get it.

Er.... I have participated on quite a few programmer's message boards (my vice :-) ) and what you stated is one idea that keeps coming up again and again. And it never ever happens.

Before I launch into it, the meaning you originally meant would help clarify things. Do you mean a 'guild' that finds work for its members? Or do you mean a 'guild' that designs, creates and sells new products? Or both? Or a professional & service organization like a Lion's or Rotary Club for programmers, but with a more activist and mercantile bent?

There are three basic problems with a 'guild' formed as a lead sharing organization:

1) SOMEONE has to lead such an assembly, and that, right there, contradicts the notion of a democratically organized guild. This must happen because suggestions uttered do far to do this have, to date, not yet resulted in a guild forming out of thin air. Setting rules, policies, and standards of contribution with drive out most people except those with nothing else going on, or at least will contradict the free and loose concept.

2) More pressing yet: customer relationships never arise out of the primordial ooze of a group. Someone in the group has to take the steps to carry the group's message to customers. This is called marketing. Then someone has to make contact with specific prospects and convert them into customers. That's sales. Both of these activities (take my word for it) are ugly and non linear. I hate cold calling, I hate trying to get into the head of someone I hardly know whom I would rather not have a beer with anyway. Most developers are 'thing' people and not 'people' people - really. If you just build it, 'they' will probably not come.

3) Self interest violation: this is the most damning part. It's always sounded to me like the members of such a guild who *had* more business or work than they could handle would be obliged to give it away to other, less salesy guild members. Where's the incentive to do that? Someone who badly needs work is (in many cases) someone who can't find their own work.  Which makes leads to them a throwaway, since they will likely not be in a position to return the favor even if they wanted to.

>> There would need to be rules for membership. The entrance test could be program software or code that does X in the next Y period of time. What kind of entrance test should it have? Surely not something that would prevent non-traditional programmers from being admitted.

That's tough. I work for a client that has such a test. Or at least they THINK they do. It's a generic programming test that no less than two experienced acquaintances of mine have basically labeled moronic and pointless. (In a way, it's so mickey mouse that it tends to select *out* the best people, who just walk out and leave.)

Besides - testing out is not a substitute for being able to deliver, which is what you really need on such a team.

I offer as an alternative: somehow, develop the concept of a network of trust, similar to that which web sites like Epinions.com have. IE: I read a product review on Epinion. 13 people trust the author of the review, including 3 people who are highly ranked epinion reviewers themselves. So I believe his/her opinion much more than if he had no people trusting him.

>>  Why should we pretend that the market's current state is some kind of god that we must bow down to? Why shouldn't "My mother-in-law... need more software?" She certainly could *use* more software.

I'm not, I'm just raising the point that you need to define how you would socially engineer such a group so that salable innovation comes about.

>> Why should we accept that "companies have laid off so many programmers that there is a glut on the market?"

The "glut" is of certain kinds of IT people who are looking for regular jobs. There is probably not a glut of entrepreneurial people who have good ideas. And they generally don't need co op style guilds... they COULD use commiseration with like minded professionals in the form of a professional's association, but they don't need to blend their good ideas with a dozen bad ideas from others nor give away their business...

Curmudgeon
Sunday, January 26, 2003

"I share your sentiments. I'd love sometime to work in a company that was co-owned by my intellectual equals and not have to kowtow to the mentally inferior (I mean professional management and salespeople) and submit to the non-technical person's truncated, non-fun, and dismissive view of the universe."

I don't think companies like this exist because even if they start the techies don't watch the money close enough and don't have the skills to go out and get new business.  I am a techie, I came from sales.  I sucked at it.  I am a good techie though.  Generally I don't like sales people and can look through the feature and benefits and ask pinpoint questions that they don't like to answer.  That doesn't mean they don't do a useful, or as important of a job as I do.  I don't think in this day and age too many people develop software that sells itself.

The world is full of people who are not as smart as I am.  I realize they are not as smart as I am in the same subjects I am, they are far smarter than I am on other topics.

Crusty Admin
Sunday, January 26, 2003

"programmers have to perform a feat, coding something specific to join"

OK, how much time would it take a decent programmer to do this coding and what will he get paid to do it?

Skeptical Minds Want to Know
Monday, January 27, 2003

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