Web Services

Business Week has a special report on Web services: “Web services refer to a set of programming standards used to make different types of software talk to each other over the Internet, without human intervention…Unlike the ASPs, which were building out massive data centers and basically running rental services for other people’s software, today’s Web-service companies design their software from the ground up to be delivered over the Internet as a service. That’s a big difference. It means their business model can scale, and the bigger they get, the more profitable they become because they’re building on that initial research and development investment.”

Rural Development

Atanu Dey writes:

At the turn of the 20th century, the US population was largely rural. Agriculture and related occupations employed the vast majority of Americans. The government saw the need to make higher education available to the rural populations. That was the birth of the so-called land-grant universities. (The University of California, which I attended for several wonderful years, is one such.)

Providing higher education to the children of the rural families was the need. So did they start very little colleges in the tens of thousands of little rural communities? No. They started large universities for the children of farmers to go to. The idea was that these trained people would then go back to the farms and increase the farm productivity. But what was the actual outcome? The children of the farmers got urbanized and did not want to go back to the rural areas. As luck would have it, technologies developed in urban areas were successful in raising farm productivity which meant that so many were not needed in the farms anyway. And who developed the technologies and labored in all those urban areas? Those children of rural farmers who went to the colleges were the people who supplied all the necessary bits that the rural farmers required.

The point I am trying to make is that it was not rural development that made the difference in the rural areas. It was what happened in the urban areas that changed the rural areas.

The problem with rural development, in my considered opinion, is that the focus has been the village. Nothing wrong with focusing on a village, of course. But you do have a problem if you have to focus on 600,000 villages. The moment you try to focus on 600,000 thousand of anything — villages, songs, books, cars, you name it — you become unfocused and unhinged. That is what happened with rural development.

Craigslist and Cottage Industries

Jason Kottke writes about Craigslist (CL): “CL helps lots of people build businesses cheaper and more effectively than more “robust”, complex, and expensive enterprise software solutions. Movers are just one example. CL can help you find employees for your business. If you’ve got a van, you can pick up free furniture and electronics around the city, fix or refurbish, and sell it. You can start a business doing computer troubleshooting, piano lessons, buying and fixing up old motorcycles, or escort and sensual massage services. And if you need something done for your business but don’t have the money to pay for it, you can always barter goods or services in exchange. These are just the obvious examples.”

We can think of Craigslist as enabling “information marketplaces.”

Recuiting the Best

Joel Spolsky writes:

The top 0.5% usually have jobs. They have jobs where they do very well, so their employers pay them lots of money and do whatever it takes to keep them happy. (I know. Oversimplification. Lots of employers try to drive out the good software developers because they complain a lot and demand high salaries. Still.)

Those 200 resumes you got from Craigslist? Those consist of the one guy who happened to be good, but he’s only applying for a job because his wife wants to be nearer to her family, and the usual floating population of 199 people who apply for every single job and are qualified for none. And now you think you’re being “super selective” but you’re not, it’s just a statistical fallacy.

I’m exaggerating a lot, but the point is, when you select 1 out of 200 applicants, the other 199 don’t give up and go into plumbing (although I wish they would… plumbers are impossible to find). They apply again somewhere else, and contribute to some other employer’s self-delusions about how selective they are.

In fact, one thing I have noticed is that the people who I consider to be good software developers barely ever apply for jobs at all. I know lots of great people who took a summer internship on a whim and then got permanent offers. They only ever applied for one or two jobs in their lives.

It’s because of this phenomenonthe fact that many of the great people are never on the job marketthat we are so aggressive about hiring summer interns. This may be the last time these kids ever show up on the open market.