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"Low-skill jobs like coding" (NYT)

New York Times has a roundtable discussion about offshoring (yeah, I know, enough already but that's not why I'm posting.):

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/07/business/yourmoney/07out.html?pagewanted=all&position=  (reg. required alas)

Anyway, one quote in there caught my eye:

> Out in the Bay Area there are plenty of folks who would love to create a little bit of protectionism around their I.T. jobs, but we are far better off letting a lot of those jobs go. Low-skill jobs like coding are moving offshore and what's left in their place are more advanced project management jobs.

This statement was not contested by any of the other participants! Is writing code really a 'low skill' job? Not even a 'medium' skill, but... low? OK, let's assume it's not (I think it's high skill) -- does the general public believe it's low skill? Or is it only the ceos who are outsourcing that think this?

Frankly, I doubt anyone who knows much at all about development would classify it as 'low skill', like garbage collection, street sweeping, ditch digging, and all the other low skill jobs. But these economists and ceos making outsourcing decisions really seem to believe they are.

I just wonder how prevalent this belief is. The New York Times accepts the assertion at face value as if it is common knowledge among the sophisticated and educated people who read the NYT.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Although I didn't register to read the article, I also believe that coding is a high skill job.  The wide spread availability of information on how to code and the ease with which one has access to a computer all add to the appearance of low skill.  If coding is such a low skill then an education would obviously not be required to obtain a decent job.  It would be like factory work or a McDonalds burger flipper.

Were any of the people on the board coders themselves?  Perhaps it was just an off-the-cuff remark though I personally find it insulting.  I don't like being a manager.  I can do it and have done it, but what I really like is to code.  It takes a person who can think and who is knowledgeable in all aspects of the problem domain. 


Sunday, December 07, 2003

Only a business professor would claim that the ability to manipulate a Gantt chart was high skill while coding was low skill.

not mr. johnson
Sunday, December 07, 2003

All I do these days is try to find existing API calls that do most of what I want, then write error catching code and simple business logic ("if" statements). Anyone with a high school education who can type could do my job. As far as I can tell, most programming jobs are like this. For 80-90% of programming, it IS a low skill job.

...
Sunday, December 07, 2003

THe participants met at the Algonuqin hotel in Manhatten last month. They were:

> The participants were Josh Bivens, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group in Washington that receives a third of its financing from labor unions; Diana Farrell, the director of the McKinsey Global Institute, which is McKinsey & Company's internal economics research group; Edmund Harriss, the portfolio manager of the Guinness Atkinson China and Hong Kong fund and the Guinness Atkinson Asia Focus fund; M. Eric Johnson, director of Tuck's Glassmeyer/McNamee Center for Digital Strategies at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College; and, via conference call from Singapore, Stephen S. Roach, managing director and chief economist of Morgan Stanley

For those who don't register, the article basically started with some token nod to concerns about outsourcing high tech white collar jobs and in the end said it was inevitable and the Luddites who oppose it must be fought with all strength of those who stand for the truth of the benefits of globalization. (that's my interpretation of their conclusion)

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Oh - it other words, the board was composed of overeducated wankers who had never seen a computer in their lives. (my interpretation, but I bet its accurate)

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

There are aspects of coding that are (IMHO) "lower" skill. I've always felt that a smart code shop would set up a master/apprentice style affair - you have your "masters" that do high-level analysis, proofs of concept, set up code architecture, etc.
Then, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of debugging, unit testing, validation against specs, you hand it off to the apprentice.

Over time, the apprentice learns (yeah, learns what an idiot the master is... [grin]) and can become a master in his/her own right. Apprentice moves up, you hire two more apprentices.

THAT would be a smart way to grow a business, instead of just hiring people willy-nilly off the street. Then you're also not paying someone $60/hr to nitpick through code to find a heisenbug.

Mind you, I still wouldn't want to see the apprentice work offshored...

Philo

Philo
Sunday, December 07, 2003

For registration - that's what mailinator.com is for :)

Foiling the spammers
Sunday, December 07, 2003

"anyone with a high school education who can type"

Hm - well I am sure that anyone with a high school education can sweep streets and dig ditchers. Anyone, as in 100% of them.

I would be willing to bet $5,000 that we could take a public high school graduating class in any medium to large sizeh high school and less than 50% of them would be able to develop professional applications with no training. Heck, I'm feeling generous, let's make it an even $10,000.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Perhaps the "low-skill" statement was borne from the general attitude among upper management types that the Project Managers/Architects are the ones REALLY doing all the thinking in the development process.  I believe this attitude exists because when software development is explained to non-technical people (usu. BY the Project Manager) the process can be presented in such a way that it seems that after all the "difficult" design work is completed by the Project Manager/Architect, all that is left for the "coders" to do is to simply follow the elegant and exquisitely detailed specification documents laid out by the PM/Architect in a rote, step-by-step fashion as if building a plastic model of a car from a hobby shop.

In reality, of course, every sane developer knows that functional/design specification documents created by management are:

a) Never SO detailed that NO decisions ever need to be made while coding (no one can think of EVERYTHING up front, etc, etc)  Even pseudo-code isn't going to cover all the possible snafus that could arise.

b) Often (if not constantly) revised DURING the development process when the developer tactfully informs the PM that the WAWA is never going to connect to the WUWU using the FOOBAR adapter...

Furthermore, another problem is that Pointy Haired Bosses don't typically understand that, like the Perl slogan says, there is almost always more than one way to do things when it comes to coding, and it often takes talent and experience to choose the best or most appropriate one.

Because they don't understand this, I really believe that a lot of PHB's think that coders are basically just "filling in the blanks"...

Tim Lara
Sunday, December 07, 2003

The term "coding" in and of itself is asinine.  I am not a coder.  Are you?

Wait a second--who's read Peopleware, here?  What do programmers do?

They communicate human requirements and implement them in software.  Even one who is not an advanced "project manager" is on this boat to some extent.  Project management can spec out requirements until the end of time, but the real craftmanship of programming comes from understanding how to implement those requirements in a way that users understand (often down to the 1%, in good software).

If we're just talking about implementing sorting algorithms, then yes, that is low-skill.  If we're real programmers, working in the real world with real customers, then we deal with the much-more-difficult human aspect.

As for project management, that's clearly a sick joke.  And even if it weren't, what makes it non-outsourcable?  Is it "business expertise"--which is, basically, schmoozing and cronyism.

it_ranter
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Look up the bio of the guy who made this quote and you guessed it, his area of "expertise" is operations management.

http://oracle-www.dartmouth.edu/dart/groucho/tuck_faculty_and_research.faculty_profile?p_id=Q1X3CS

Typical
Sunday, December 07, 2003

"If we're just talking about implementing sorting algorithms, then yes, that is low-skill."

OK well for what it's worth I disagree with even that. Low skill to me means anyone who graduated high school can do it with no training. So, maybe some reading is required to stock shelves and a day of training to know where the aisles are. Move to medium-low skill and we need to be able to operate the cash register or do some filing -- for your average high school graduate, some training is needed for those things, so it's medium-low skill.

Implementing sorting algorithms from a spec? Come on now, I've taught high school and I can tell you most students are not capable of doing even that.

Not that it matters -- I've never seen these 'low skill coders' in the professional market who recieve a magical complete spec and go through a step by step process to generate a working program. Has anyone seen these people working anywhere? Has anyone ever seen a spec for real life commercial products that actually specified stuff to the level where it could be 'coded' by low-skill, uneducated 'coders'? I think it would take far longer to create this mythical complete spec than it would to figure out what is needed and write the code. Now one place where they do have these sorts of extremely complete specs I admit is NASA. And indeed, writing the spec is what takes almost all the time. But, oddly enough, no one is suggesting NASA's code team are low-level jobs that could be done by any one with no training.

Regarding this 'high level project management type jobs' that these PhD economists are talking about. What's that about? If a project manager in the US was capable of managing a job remotely, then wouldn't they already be doing that, allowing for telecommuting from the low level coders? According to the round table, the cut off line is for 'high level project management'. Everybody below that level is a 'low level coder' whose tedious drudgery of a job rightly should be outsourced!

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

> a roundtable at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan

HA HA HA. Literary joke.

> Now you've got this class of white-collar workers who
> are much more insecure about their job prospects, and
> their labor market bargaining power is being
> undermined.

This is about right, and basically a sophisticated and confusing way of saying what I've been saying all along:

Offshoring is designed to make the working class in America desperate and willing to accept lower wages as well.

> After falling by 2.8 million jobs since early 2001,
> employment has risen by 240,000 jobs since August.
> That gain, less than some expected, has not resolved
> whether the nation is suffering cyclical losses or
> permanent job destruction.

The gain is less than expected because the economy as a whole is picking up, but the jobs that traditionally would fill in the gap as people consume more (buy a car from Ford, they'll have to make another one for the showroom floor).

Ironically, when a piece of software sells, nobody has to be around to box & ship it, and nobody has to make a new one.

> It's a race to the bottom if we spend all our energy trying
> to protect existing sources of job creation, as the
> politicians in the U.S. Congress are inclined to do. ...
> The Chinese, for example, are reluctant to transform
> their habits from savers to consumers because they're
> losing jobs through the reform of their own economy,
> and they don't have social security or retirement. ...
> Over time there is a rising tide. But the political process is
> not that patient.

Ah spoken like a good managing director and chief economist of Morgan Stanley. The Chinese are to blame for their own economy because they're frugal and don't rack up debt like the good loyal American Consumer. Also if you want to blame the economy on someone, blame it on your congressman (and certainly not Morgan Stanley or any of the rest of Corporate America).

> This is exactly the same type of challenge farmers went
> through in the late 1800's, sweatshop workers went
> through in the early 1900's, and manufacturing workers
> did in the first half of the 80's. We've got to focus on
> setting in motion a debate that pushes us into new
> sources of job creation rather than bemoaning the loss.
> There are Republicans and Democrats alike who are
> involved in this protectionist backlash. They're very vocal
> right now, and they need to be challenged.

More "blame the government" from a company who probably outsources a good portion of their back end processing. This time, combined with a "historically, displaced workers will find enough work to become good loyal consumers once again. Why it's just a macroeconomic blip, and only affects me when I'm crossing the George Washington Bridge and a displaced worker tries to clean my windshield."

> One is to look backward and hang on to what we think
> we're entitled to. The other is to recognize what has
> made America. Our virtues lie in a flexible and open,
> technology friendly, risk-taking, entrepreneurial,
> market-driven system.

Ah, a good old "survival of the most willing to be exploited." Interesting how he speaks for two seperate groups of people in one breath. The people who think they're entitled to jobs (i.e. the working class) and the corporations of the world who made America great by exploiting the working class.

This is sort of like the "it's not you, it's me" speech when someone wants to break up with someone. Let's pretend it's for your benefit, when really it's for my benefit.

Interesting article, thanks for the link.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Dennis:

Well, ok.  In that sense, I'll agree.

But let's just take it from the perspective that "coding sorting algorithms" is something one can learn to do in, say, college, and could do right out the door.  It is low-skill relative to, say, being CEO of a multinational corporation.  Or a project manager (that's a tongue-in-cheek joke :)).

I don't want to take these guys too far out of context.  Clearly the skill level for writing code, per se, is low, as in just-out-of-college level. 

The main point remains, however, that we are not professional code-writers.  We are business requirements-to-code translators, and that is far different from some rote task or academic algorithm exercises.

But I think we agree there, so I digress.

The main problem here is basically hypocrisy.  The same people who complain about protectionism, endorse it outright in everything they do.

Management has basically defined itself as irreplacable in all respects.  We never see seed capital sent overseas to start an "India Management Institute."  Why?  Because that would do the right thing; it would stripmine America of many of its middle management and executive VP positions, and perhaps more than a few CEO positions.

I mean, if we're going to embrace outsourcing, let's go all the way.  And let's be honest about it.  If I'm not allowed to say "my job can't possibly be outsourced, it's a lot harder than you think!," why should they?  Especially since sending management overseas, and training low-paid, educated workers in domain knowledge would create massive, cheap, competitive ventures there.

Personally, I've always liked the idea of hiring Indian labor.  And living in India to manage it.  If one needs to sell or market, then do that here.  But why should management stay in America?  It's flagrantly inefficient.

There's no reason other than power politics, a great negotiation position, and the golf course culture.

Maybe we'll be lucky and India will do the job for us.  Granted, the Indians have not been especially smart about capitalism to date, but they'll learn soon enough.  We're giving them many great examples to follow.

it_ranter
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Right, I'm with you that it's a bunch of carefully constructed propoganda. This party line of the International Bankers is winning the hearts and minds of foolish companies everywhere. Personally, I see the purpose as a conspiracy to destroy the middle class world wide and create nations of slaves kowtowing to the elite, such as the International Bankers speaking in the article.

But let's say instead I'm just some John Birch loving conspiracy nut and toss all that out. Let's give these fellows the benefit of the doubt and assume they really believe what they are laying about all coding being low skill grunt jobs needing no training.

While eating some tacos here and making up a gallon pot of my secret Chai recipe, the following points occured to me:

1. I have seen these 'low skill' coders actually. Maybe we all have. The thing is, you don't want to be putting these folks to work on ANY project. You want to fire them. Many threads recently are about this very subject, whether they are the bottom 20%, 50%, or 80%, everyone knows these people are bad news to any project.

Perhaps these CEOs and economists have only seen this 'bottom 80%' of coders. They have never realized there is a secret hidden group of 20% of 'high skill' coders that are literate and have basic algebra skills who are actually doing all the work. Perhaps they just don't know because while the 'bottom 80%", the unskillers, are carousing and brownnosing, the 'silent competants' are invisible, in back rooms, writing the code that saves the company millions, or generates millions in sales.

Really, the solution here is not to fire the high skill workers and give the job to the low skill ones. The opposite, if anything, should be done.

2. I forgot. Chai is starting to smell pretty good.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Well, if you redefine 'low skill' no mean 'requires a high school diploma with good grades, plus 4 years of college education' then you've got a very novel definition of low skill that is not shared by many folks other than PhD economists.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Which makes me think that you are without a clue and your entire argument is either disingenuous or vacuous, depending on motivation.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Given that 100% of the most successful tech companies were founded by engineers, that would suggest that tech is harder than management since it has a stronger correlation with success.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

It's not that coding is low skill, it's that it's so easily replaced. Your own personal opinions aside, corporate America has proven it to themselves by successfully sending it overseas.

Also, we don't know if that argument was contested or not, those are just excerpts from the round table.

In their eyes, any job that can be outsourced to foreigners is, almost by definition low skill, irregardless of the difficulty. Low skill just means "you can train anyone to do it, even some back water, third world labor pool."

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Well, if that's the argument, that it's low skill because it 'can be done by indians', then those economists are racists. Indians are not stupid.

Ah, now I remember my point #2, which is related to your theory.

The CEOs consider high skill to mean high pay and low skill to mean low pay, since that's traditional INternational banker economic theory. Thus, teachers and nurses, making $19,000, are low skill, and the CEO of Enron, is high skill.
So, if you find that a college educated developer in India can develop for $20,000 and a street sweeper can sweep for $20,000 then 'logic' dictates that programming is as low skill as street sweeping.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Dennis, I don't mean it literally, you should read the article and draw your own conclusions. It's low skill because the warm-body to job ratio is so high, irregardless of where the warm bodies happen to be. "Coders" come out of the working class, it's a way to bootstrap yourself up to a better lifestyle, and they're a dime a dozen.

On the other hand, Harvard, Princeton and Yale graduates are a fairly rare commodity.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

So mark, you personally believe that Charlie Steinberg and Marcus  Zetterquist are folks with low-skill talents and just about any onld warm body could write Cubase and Reason? Word? Excel? Mach? XP? Visual Studio? Ad Infinitum? Come on now, show me the low skills people who are writing profit generating software! Show them to me that I may see them with my own eyes!

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Dennis, I'm just taking the devil's advocate position here. Trying to see things through "upper management's" perspective.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

It all boils down to the fact that someone with no education or experience in IT can take a 1-month class in VB, call themselves a programmer, and get hired. (Well, the "get hired" part is probably no longer applicable in this economy, but it used to be 5 years ago, and it could become true again.)

There is no licensing requirement.  No master/apprentice system. No university education requirements.  So the perception is that you can take any monkey off the street and turn them into a programmer very quickly.  They compare that with the preparation that accountants, doctors, commercial pilots, and lawyers go through, and conclude that programming is "low skill".

T. Norman
Sunday, December 07, 2003

T Norman, other groups have power because they deliberately restrict entry to create an artificial shortage. It's not about "quality" or standards at all.

Most of the accounting and lawyer jobs for which you pay $250 to $500 per hour are much simpler than even the most basic development task.

Until developers learn to stop being "team players" and to stand up for themselves, they will continue to get screwed.
Standing up for themselves doesn't mean slagging off at other programmers for not knowing 20 ways of formatting a string; it means slagging off at employers that exploit them.

analyst
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Mark,

Er, OK then. Really we need scorecards here to tell the players apart. I guess I play Devil's Advocate often enough and sometimes I can't even tell if I am doing it or not myself. We need a protocol like I will put these moose antlers on when I am playing devils advocate...

Norman,

Right, agreed with that, as long as there is the understanding also that the dudes with the 1 month training actually are less than useless... right? That's what I was saying with it being foolish to replace high skill developers with proven track records with low skill dudes with 1 month or 1 year of tech training at no-name U. You're not saying that the 1 month guys actually have a record of success at completing projects though, are you?

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

There is really no such thing as "low-skill" coding, only bad coding.  A program may always be written to perform a rote programming task. This is the essence of programming.  If a programmer is not constantly boosting his own productivity (by coding) he can hardly be said to be a programmer. 

A "low-skill" coding job could by definition be eliminated by a skilled programmer.

Paul Mansour
Sunday, December 07, 2003

>> means "you can train anyone to do it, even some back water,
>> third world labor pool."

Do you know the kind of people who do the outsourced work in India? Do you know the kind of people who work at Wipro, Infosys, Sasken, Satyam (these are outsourcing companies in India)??

Well I do ... they consist of people who have at LEAST a four year degree. Often the developers have a Masters and at the Tech Lead level most of them have PhDs!!!! Your telling me these guys are low-skilled ????? WTF????

The ONLY reason why its cheaper is because 1 dollar = 40 rupees. NO OTHER REASON.

Coding even at the most rudimentary level would not be a low-skill job... even at the plugging in API level.  You can NEVER compare it with flipping burgers.

Never respect anyone in buisness unless he's actually founded a sucessfull buisness ... 

-V.
Sunday, December 07, 2003

How did I get involved? :-)

At our company we're doing the reverse to outsourcing.

Looking back the last few years, our company has spend more time and energy recruiting each developer-position than for any other position.

Outsourcing and having the project manager in a different country than the rest of the team feels very wrong. We're doing the opposite - we are currently rearranging the workplace so each project manager can sit _closer_ to the rest of the team - sometimes sitting about 10 meters away was too far. India!? :-)

I also think the project manager should be _part_ of the team - not some sort of ehm. manager. At our company we have a rule that each team should be small enough so the project manager can spend at least about 50% of his/her time doing coding. I feel this is very important to stop project managers from growing pointy hair and for the team to have respect for the project manager. This requires the project manager to come from a coding background.

I also belive the Project manager is a _service_ to the developers on the team, not vice versa.

/Marcus

Marcus Zetterquist
Sunday, December 07, 2003

"You're not saying that the 1 month guys actually have a record of success at completing projects though, are you?"

No.  But they are "programmers", and the skilled successful guys are "programmers", so they all get lumped into the same group.  In good economic times, everybody is seen as a high-skilled genius (therefore the $70K salaries for "Teach yourself HTML in 24 hours" bozos).  In a downturn, everybody is a low-skilled monkey whose job can be replaced by a moron off the street.

T. Norman
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Marcus,

I dragged you into it because you're one of the most brilliant developers in the world today and I knew you read JoS. I also knew that your success is because you guys are really smart, driven, love what you do, and find other folks you are brilliant and love to do it just as much. Stunningly successful companies like Propellerhead are the example that shows why all this negative propaganda about developers is utterly wrong.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Norman,

OK.

Really, I don't think the situation is going to change with the 'illuminati' and 'bilderbund' types. As long as developers let these guys have power, they have power.

The solution, the proven path of success and fulfillment and achievment for developers, is to found our own companies and develop our own rocking fabulous products. To all of us who are dissatisfied with the way things are, this is the one path I see that leads to fulfilment which includes staying on as a developer. Developers don't need to worry about outsourcing, they need to worry about getting themselves in the position to realize their visions and create beautiful things. Every career move, every contract signed, every job taken, should be evaluated against these criteria -- is this bringing me closer to the goal of doing what I love? Some corporation run by MBAs is not going to 'let' you do what you love -- we must be responsible for the creation of our own destinies. A few have gone forth and showed a way through which fulfillment as a developer may be attained. Unhappiness is not necessary. Make plans now. Summon the courage to turn your backs on the discouraging propaganda of the economists, the bankers, the destroyers of dreams. Listen not to their evil whisperings. Build a future for yourself. Create the software of your dreams.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Paul Mansour, I'm afraid your comments buy into the low-skill idea since, by describing it as "bad" programming, you endorse.

Look, when people talk about low skill coding, they don't give a stuff about distinctions as to good or bad. It's all simple stuff, as far as they're concerned.

If you want to condemn the concept, stay away from that attitude that is so common in programming, of agreeing others are low skill, but not you.

Dennis, I think the big change that is needed is for university lecturers to start to understand they have to teach students to have professional pride and to stand up for their professional rights.

analyst
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Dennis, that is exactly what I've been thinking.

Eventually, either I'm going to change careers or strike out on my own. I've already taken the steps to become qualified for a starting position in another career (actuary), but I'm still figuring out how to get to the point where I can do the latter.

T. Norman
Sunday, December 07, 2003

The more I think about it, the more I agree that programming is a low skilled job. Just not in the way that the comment was meant.

I think programming is low skill just like being an artist is low skill.

As people have said, anyone can become a programmer. Anyone can become an artist too. That's what I mean by low skill.

The similarity is that although anyone can become a programmer/artist, most people can't become a good one. It's a talent, and you're mostly born with it. Hard work can only get you so far in both fields, you've either got something or you don't I believe.

Hence I'd classify programmers (good ones anyway) as low skill, but extreamely high talent.

Project management on the other hand does seem to be something you can pick up if you're not a natural at it, and hence it's high skill.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, December 07, 2003

analyst,

It would definitely be a good move for professors to do a bit of school of real-life mentoring, that's astute of you. It reminded me of a professor I befriended. He was (still is) a famous genius and I loved and was inspired by his work for years before I even went back to college. Took independent study with him every chance I could and would just talk for hours about everything but development -- mainly I would show him stuff I was working on and he'd admire the design do stuff like that. He'd be reading some article by some big name in the industry and rant about what a poser that guy was and precisely why. After graduating, I saw him for lunch every few months and he'd ask what was going on and I'd tell him and he'd say stuff like "Those guys (management where I was working) are a bunch of idiots. Don't listen to them. That company is going nowhere. Hows that side project you're working on anyway?"

Basically, his name carries a lot of weight in the industry and his contribution to me was to validate my own gut feelings about stuff. This was the most useful and inspiring reality check of my life. People really were insane and there were some smart people in the world who could see it too! You can't imagine what a relief it was to have this one other person who could see the emperor was naked.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Well Heck, Sum Gai, brain surgery must be low skill too cause the cave men did it -- they called it tepinning. They weren't very good at it but anybody can do it. You just drill a hole in the skull with a sharp bone. It lets the spirits out.

Flying a jumbo jet is low-skill too -- those middle eastern dudes got their planes to the inntended destination without too much trouble.

And what about being a concert pianist or a rock musician? Low-skill.

Rocket scientist? The neighbor's kid makes has made several rockets - must be a low skill career there as well.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Dennis, I agree with you that the way to go would be to develop a rockin product and charge for it. Killer apps aren't too hard to find really, and if you have a passion for something, you can play in a market with other players.

The problem is, I asked here a while ago... over the summer I think, why all the unemployed programmers here didn't develop one of the "wouldn't it be great if we had an app that..." apps that had been discussed here, or one of those "I could write this better than theirs" apps.

The response I got was... "I don't have the initiative, I can't think of any apps I would want to write. I want to be told what to do." I'm paraphrasing, but not much.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Yes, a concert pianist and a rock musician are artists. As I said, that's low skill. It's about talent, not training. We've all seen the 4 year old child prodigy musicians who can play 1000 times better than most people could with a lifetime of training.

Likewise, no matter how much skills training we give people, most aren't going to get anywhere near John Carmack as a 3D games engine developer. Or they aren't going to be able to learn the art of algorithm design to the extent of Knuth.

I'm not saying low skilled in a negative sense. Rather I'm saying it's about natural talent rather than skills training.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, December 07, 2003

> It's about talent, not training.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Sum Gai, I think what you're saying is that programming is a field that requires talent to do well. I agree with you. But there's no need equate that with a lack of "skill," however defined.

Dennis, I'm still in awe of you taking over a university office for the duration of your course.

analyst
Monday, December 08, 2003

> How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

I've never been to America, so I have no idea. Take a taxi I guess. ;)

Sum Dum Gai
Monday, December 08, 2003

In the same vein... 20 years ago, we were told that pretty soon, developers ("coders") would no longer be needed since, thanks to DBase et al., users would develop their own applications.

Right on :-)

Frederic Faure
Monday, December 08, 2003

> How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

"Practice, practice, practice."

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, December 08, 2003

Guys and Gals,


anytime you see these sites that require a free registration, you can bet your backside that someone has already done you a favour.

Try "member-id" for the member ID, and "password" for the password. You'd be surprised to know just how many places you can go in like this ;-)

Antti Kurenniemi
Monday, December 08, 2003

The problem in a nutshell is that despite what the 'economists' say the level of supply/demand for a particular skill does not change the level of learning required to acquire said skill.

Actually, the real skill most people need is to critically analyse anything they read from an unknown / untrusted source.

(e.g. see Typical's post...)

Basically:

The guy has a background primarily in dealing with supply chain / operations / inventory management stuff in  manufacturing.

Manufacturing != Software development

Therefore, give very little (if any) credible weight to his argument, and also note any biases or agenda's the author might have.

Gordon Hartley
Monday, December 08, 2003

In my more cynical moments (if that were possible) I feel that High-skill is generally defined as "What I can do or what I haven't the bottle to try" and Low-skill as "Whatever my boss or the people who work for me do".  Very rarely does someone stand up and say "I'm low skilled"

It also seems that the people who want to outsource generally want to outsource other people.  Funny that.

A cynic writes
Monday, December 08, 2003

'"Coders" come out of the working class, it's a way to bootstrap yourself up to a better lifestyle, and they're a dime a dozen.

'On the other hand, Harvard, Princeton and Yale graduates are a fairly rare commodity.'

Hm, I wonder where that leaves me, since I'm both (if you count Oxford).

When I was a bilingual secretary I thought that was fairly skilled. However, my years of experience in the field have convinced me that it is not generally thought of as skilled at all; I was considered a bottom-feeder by many my fellow graduates, who would not have dreamt of taking secretarial jobs. One frenemy scornfully told me that "trained secretaries are a dime-a-dozen, and you're not EVEN a trained secretary"; I ought to be a copy editor, like her. Part of the irony is that copy editing was a major part of my work anyway.

If secretarial work is medium-skilled, coding is certainly higher-skilled. But they've found a way to denigrate that, too.

Obviously the explanation is that they're out to get *me* personally and would denigrate any line of work I undertook. I'm going to take a management course in graduate school, so watch this space - by doing this I may be able single-handledly to humiliate every manager in this land. Vote for me!

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, December 08, 2003

I meant single-handedly, of course.

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, December 08, 2003

Can't you see that those International Bankers are jealous ? Of course they know that the richest man in the world is a programmer...

GP
Monday, December 08, 2003

The lawyer thing really pisses me off.  It shouldn't require a $200/hour lawyer to draw papers for an LLC.  The Law profession is completely screwed up in my opinion.  It works against the people, not for them.

I feel the same way about the medical professsion.  It shouldn't require a doctor to give me penicillian to cure my strep throat. 

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Monday, December 08, 2003

I say screw the fortune 500.  Those guys all inherited someone else's business.  Big whoop.  What makes this country great are entrepreneurs.  If all us low skill outsourced workers put our minds together, I say we could take a good part of their business away.  It has happened before and it will happen again.  Beware corporations who think they can take advantage of everyone else, including their customers.  It will haunt them...

christopher baus (www.baus.net)
Monday, December 08, 2003

That just sounds like FUD. You still have to develop a solid plan to do it.

Besides, it already did happen - in the dotcom era, and you saw how quickly that was turned around.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, December 08, 2003

> Can't you see that those International Bankers are jealous ? Of course they know that the richest man in the world is a programmer...

What do you think open source is about?

bill
Monday, December 08, 2003

... And when Bill Gates wants to invest his money, or underwrite the his company going public, where do you think he went?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, December 08, 2003

re: the NY times online site -- who does their coding?  Who maintains their servers?  Are these jobs filled by US citizens, H1Bs, or offshored.  In other words, one reason media giants ignored the H1B expansion crisis a few years back was because it was in their own interest.    Who does the CNN web site?  Washington Post?  Fox News? 

berkeleydb
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

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