Amidst the roiling debate of whether FogBugz lost to JIRA, one thing has become really clear to me: there has never been a better time to be a developer. Me of a few months ago would recoil and ask “but aren’t all the good, easy, profitable ideas already taken, just like every good domain name/username/gmail address/etc. is taken?” That’s where I believe I was wrong.
While I don’t have the perspective of developing software for years, Joel Spolsky, author of the popular programmer blog, Joel on Software, and CEO of Fog Creek (the makers of FogBugz), gave a history of the company on that Hacker News thread that served to change my mind dramatically. Here’s a quote:
I wanted to make software development better for programmers. When I started creating Fog Creek Software in 2000 programmers were treated like typists. They were not paid very well (my starting salary was $33,000). There was almost no thought around how software should be developed. Companies that scored high on the Joel Test were almost unheard of.
That’s just 15 years ago! He goes on to say that the reason he started blogging and the reason he started Fog Creek was to make things better for developers, both projects can be counted as successes (what programmer hasn’t read Joel’s blog, and the current debate is about whether FogBugz has “lost” to JIRA… but we’re still talking about it!).
I don’t believe Joel’s perspective speaks for the entire industry. I have heard anecdotes about places like Bell Labs, which gave us computing gems such as C and UNIX, which clearly were havens for programmers in their day. However, most organizations can’t thrive on research and new technology, and most businesses use technology as tools to help them get their real work done (ie. line of business apps). It is clear that things have changed for programmers in a good way.
The modern developer has a vast array of well-thought-out and useful tools at his or her disposal. Consider all of the friendly, full featured high-level languages like Ruby and Python we have to work with. And the wide variety of awesome text editors for writing beautiful code. And what about source control? That makes everybody’s life easier!
Thinking specifically about web development, we have all sorts of frameworks that allow us to build applications faster and with less overhead. And then there are the libraries that save us tons of time implementing features ourselves. We even have ways to make sure that we are all developing on the same platform, to make it easy to share code amongst one another.
Being new to this game, I’ve hardly had the chance to dip my feet into the warm, warm water of being a developer. We are far from all of the good ideas being taken, and all of these tools just make it easier for us to build out those good ideas.
I’m so stoked to be a developer right now.