software: accelerating the development of EVERYTHING

Draft incomplete thoughts and missing links but I just had to get something out…

Marc Andreessen said software is eating entire industries, and from my own personal experience he’s really onto something.

Most heard about Facebook buying Instagram for one BILLION dollars, with predictable shock. NYTimes is 116 years old , Instagram is 557 days old with $0 revenue, and both worth $1bn (Instagram worth $77M per employee). But something they overlook is the mountains of stuff the 13 employees at Instagram adopted . The list of technologies they integrated to be able to serve 30M users is dizzying. Nearly all the software is free, and the services they pay for (storage, servers, etc.) are pay-as-you-go and cheap because they also leverage free software.

I assume any and all the improvements Instgram made to their tools are free and were developed in the openshared development. It would cost them more to keep them in-house. Anyone in the world can follow their steps to provide an app to 30,000,000 people.

…XX more on github and shared development

Rapid development spreads

Now it’s spreading to management. A guy runs a 40-person company remotely using online tools, web-based project management, private messaging to teams, etc. No human resources department, no middle managers, no waste.

You can see the tools and systems that software development is producing to improve & accelerate itself are spilling up into general management, and over into other industries. This is Andreesen’s insight. Links needed.  Will dinosaurs in construction/health care/ education notice the blurry figures zooming past them?

Accelerated software slims down and shakes off layers

The unavoidable reality for me is I made a decent living interfacing developers with the outside world: writing documentation, testing software before it goes out, providing tech support for outside developers, packaging SDKs (even burning the CD-ROMs), feeding bugs and enhancement ideas to them. But the “open” movement destroys the whole notion of outside developers. Link to old Cluetrain manifesto  And software development inevitably develops the tools to accelerate and minimize all the tasks that get in the way of pure programming, including the jobs I performed. Github does them for you:

  • the site integrates simple markup and implements a wiki so project developers can easily make their own online documentation
  • developers can skip the manual and view the code to figure how it works
  • anyone can contribute documentation
  • anyone can file an issue
  • the site builds a download of your project
  • And critically in all these areas, an outside developer can use git’s distributed development “Here’s my fix to the code/documentation/examples/tests, please review and incorporate it” so improvements can happen hourly.

I can code, so all these tools help me do a better job at it just as much as they help a stone-cold genius programmer. But my velocity remains underwhelming compared with a superstar. Every company is desperate to hire someone like Instagram’s 13, but the world is full of me.

My dream is I take my understanding of how rapidly systems can develop back to some stodgy institution (Gibson quote The future is here but it’s unevenly distributed)  and say “Talented people can pump out improvements unimaginably fast… I’m not super-talented myself, but I’ve seen how the greats do it and can encourage the process by writing things up on your wiki.”

Browser-based accelerates faster than all

This distributed development in the open benefits anything that can be expressed in 1s and 0s: not just software but textbooks, media, genetic sequences (!), computer-aided design, and soon even physical parts (with 3-D printers).

Almost without exception you’re using all these tools in a browser, so if the end result of accelerated development is something that itself runs in a browser, it’s completely friction-free. Every moment someone makes an improvement, you get a better web application.

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One Response to software: accelerating the development of EVERYTHING

  1. dhp says:

    post this where more people might actually read it

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