I just got my copy of the Fusion Authority Quarterly Update Vol. II, Issue I. For those of you who have not yet had a chance to get your hands on any of the FAQu publications, do so now; it is a top quality publication and provides one of the best sources of cutting-edge ColdFusion information around. But of course, what else would you expect from the creators of House of Fusion and the Fusion Authority.
While the previous FAQu issues concentrated on the technical aspects of ColdFusion, this issue took a different point of view on the life of the developer, this time concentrating on the business aspects of work. Topics range from how to deal with clients to promoting yourself to management to how to leverage outsourcing in your favor. At first, I was disappointed by the topics - I am a code-monkey at heart and business is not something that I think of often. However, after reading through the Quarterly, I have to say it was quite eye-opening.
I'll be the first to admit that I do not think about business; I love ColdFusion and I love programming in it - what does that have to do with business? A lot... a whole lot. And this issue of the FAQu has made that abundantly clear. After reading through it, I now feel I am much better prepared to promote myself and to actually grow my career. But even more importantly than having the tools to do so, I now have a bigger picture sense of why I should do that and how important that is as a long term goal.
Hal Helms on Outsourcing
One of the hardest articles in the FAQu for me to swallow was Hal Helms' article titled, "Riding The Coming Wave." In this article he outlines the abilities of developers in developing countries that are working and producing quality code at a fraction of what their American counter-parts make. As a result, lower-level, implementation-oriented tasks are going to be moving out of our local economy and in to these developing countries. But, instead of being scared, he advocates that we can use this new wave to our advantage:
... But Brooks says that the hard part of building software is the specifications, design, and testing, not the actual implementation. If Brooks is right, this points us to a different concept of "developer." In a world in which Nitsh et al. [outsourced developers] provide a cheap programming resource, we can find our niche by moving up the food chain. We can concentrate on the design and architecture of application and outsource the fabrication of what we design. Now, instead of being a threat to us, the rise of outsourcing can be a strategic advantage we benefit from.
This is hard for me to wrap my head around. But don't get me wrong - the hard part is not my understanding of what he is saying. I get it. I even agree with it. The hard part for me, or should I say "scary" part for me is what if I cannot do that? Part of why I love coding so much is that it can be examined and understood on a small scale even if it's part of a massive application. Architecture on the other hand huge concepts that require not only a full understanding of how code works, where to apply design patterns, how to apply frameworks, how it scales, and theory behind why it will all be successful. I have made attempts to understand concepts of this nature, but I cannot seem to do it. My biggest fear right now is that, while I understand and agree with everything Hal is saying, I do not believe that at this time I have the necessary skill set to be able to make that functional leap.
Peter Bell on Software Product Lines
Peter Bell's article on Software Product Lines, while not related to outsourcing, was a little terrifying in its own right. Peter is a huge proponent of code generation and any one who has not been under a rock for the last year has probably ran across his flood of posts on Application Generation. While Hal Helms talks about cheaper labor being over seas, Peter Software Product Lines predict creating cheaper applications locally by generating applications in days and weeks that would take months and years to code traditionally. This scares me for the same reasons Hal scared me: I know that Peter is using methodologies and skills that I do not understand.
Between Hal's upper management track and Peter's application generation, is it only a matter of time before my days as a programmer are numbered? Will ColdFusion become just a hobby?
Michael Dinowitz on Making Google Pay
If you own a site, read this article. Period. Michael has pages and pages of fantastic advice on how to make money with Google services. Even though I attended Michael's previous talk at the New York ColdFusion User Group on "Making Google Pay," I was excited to see that he had even more useful advice that I had not yet heard. I am already making plans in my head as to how I can improve my site using his tactics.
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An Excellent Issue!
The rest of the FAQu is filled with excellent articles including a tremendous run down on how to properly handle consulting contracts (by Jeffry Houser) which made me feel just plain naive. So, if you haven't had a chance to order your Fusion Authority Quarterly Update, do so ASAP.
Looking For A New Job?
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I think FAQu is one of the best CF/tech focused publications out there. Certainly better than the ad bag that CFDJ has become. I have a current subscription paid for by my previous employer but when that runs out I'm probably going to shell out my own money to keep it going.
I really don't think you have to worry about the outsourcing, code generators, etc. I think we're still not near the point where coders are gonna go away, and we might not get there any time soon. Maybe the stuff you're coding now will get handled, but new stuff will come up that will require coders. That's why I've never been concerned about job security, because as long as I'm willing to put in the effort and re-invent myself, there will always be work. As far as I can tell, you have the drive and eagerness to learn, and as much as you may think there's stuff you don't understand, you eventually will. Isn't there stuff you didn't understand before that is like second nature to you nowadays? The same goes for all of the fantastic stuff Peter Bell puts out. OK, maybe not all, because he just keeps coming up with new stuff on weekends and has me reading for what seems like hours! Provided you keep at it as you have, it seems to me you have no reason to be terrified.
I agree 100%. I like CFDJ, but there site is horrible and the articles just generally seem to fall a bit short. I feel that the articles in the FAQu are always well written and fully fleshed out. Much more satisfactory.
Thanks for the reality check :) To be honest, outsourcing is like terrorism purely in that when I think about it it scares me, but when I am not thinking about it, it has no affect on me what-so-ever. And it is true that I have the energy and the drive (if not the compulsion) to keep learning and reinventing myself in which ever way I see best. There is indeed stuff that is second nature to me now that I did not know before. I hope that this continues to be the trend.
Thanks for grounding me a bit.
Great posting - can't wait to get my FAQU, but as it is sent to my New York address, I guess I won't get a chance to see it until the end of the month.
Firstly to restate the obvious, it is an amazing resource and the one "must read" for anyone serious about CF development. And it isn't an accident. Judith and her team put so much effort into the editorial it makes you a better writing just submitting something.
As for the outsourcing and code gen, both are ways to cut the cost of turning requirements into code. One does it by handing over discrete functional requirements to coders offshore and the other does it by writing a compiler or interpreter for those requirements so most of the code is generated automatically. A third trend will be "good enough" hosted apps where more and more use cases will be able to be partially or fully solved with off the shelf, extensible solutions.
All that said, there is a huge need for programmers and we are nowhere near having automated everything we should have. Lowering the cost of developing applications will substantially increase the number of applications that are cost effective to build. There will continue to be a need for people who can understand the way a computer thinks (whether writing mainly in 3GLs or encoding requirements into DSLs). As Hal mentioned, the biggest opportunity is for people who are willing to learn how to communicate with business people to elicit and manage the implementation of their requirements, but there will continue to be plenty of scripting required which doesn't make sense to offshore.
@Thomas, Glad to see someone is reading all this stuff :->
Well, if there is one thing I do have, it's the willingness to learn and improve. Let's just how that where there's a will there's a way in this case.
And, as someone who has gone through the Judith Dinowitz editorial process (on this issue and other articles), I am 100% in agreement. The editorial effort on behalf of her and her team is quite amazing and your writing definitely gets better because of it.
I didn't even know they were doing a quarterly update and let me tell you, I am very pleased. So pleased I've already done some signing up. Thanks for the heads up!
I think you will be very happy with the issues. The previous one on frames works and object oriented programming was really great and got stuff about Model-Glue and the like that had not been clear to me before. I am not sure which is better: whether it's that the writing is so great (which it is) or that fact that its all there bundled for your convenience. But either way, it's excellent information!