A couple of years ago I wrote a blog article that was unusually well read. As a colleague at the time put it, “don’t think its because of anything other than your employer”, which cut my literary aspirations down to size in a second. But the article – What motivates developers? broke all of the bandwidth limits of my old ISP and blog provider, and meant I had to get my head around WordPress pretty quickly.
Looking back on the article today, it brings up a few things.
First of all that we appear to be, at last, exiting the “Apps Gold Rush” period as a reality of the situation takes hold again: you might get rich building an app for a smart device, but it’s pretty unlikely you’ll get more than a handful of downloads in the leading App stores. If that. And with the exception of the world of gaming, value generally comes from providing a service rather than providing software. It’s no coincidence that the wave of major tech players in the past decade or so to rise to prominence (for example, Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) provide services fuelled by software rather than software as a product. Services that do rise up tend to have a greater purpose, a meaningful mission.
Secondly that the importance of software development as part of producing a compelling service is high, but not absolute; you need a lot more skills and capabilities than just coding to make a successful business. If the only thing that motivates you is writing beautiful code, you’ll need to surround yourself with folks who have the other skills, and will also keep your coding desires in check.
And finally that in many areas where code is important, the importance of coders is much lower than in traditional software businesses. The marketing agency world in particular mostly sees developers in the same way they see “art workers” – people hired by the day to fulfil the creative vision of someone else. I know many folk working in that world who are utterly demotivated by the low importance put on their coding craft.
So, two years on, more than ever I’d say that if you think money is a motivator for developers then you’ll probably ending up over paying for staff that don’t stick around for long, and that if you are a developer and you truly believe that money is the thing that motivates you, try and find another profession.