Re: Peer Economics

Alonzo Davis (
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 08:29:01 -0600

James Rogers wrote:
> >The widespread use of computer networks will make it much easier to be
> >self-employed and contract one's services and talents out to those who offer
> >an agreeable trade, much like a free lance artist does. It will become less
> >necessary to have a "steady job", where one trades with the same person day
> >after day, and it will become easier and more secure for someone to have
> >several clients that they work for and multiple streams of income, so they are
> >not dependent on any single source of income.
> I both agree and disagree. In some industries (like software engineering)
> it already is easier to work for multiple clients at the same time. I am
> generally working for about three different clients at any given time. And
> this method almost always gives more flexibility and a lot more money than a
> static "9-to-5" type job. *However*, there are a lot of negatives that go
> along with this as well. The stress levels are generally much higher
> because you have many more obligations than a "normal" job. Also, you don't
> get that "warm-fuzzy" secure feeling of always knowing what you will be
> doing 6 months from now. Even though I can objectively say that I have no
> difficulties getting work (their has been an ongoing computer professional
> deficit in Silicon Valley), and have never had a situation where I had to
> worry about finding a job, it isn't quite the same as knowing exactly where
> you will be working and what you'll be doing in the future.
> To be honest, I enjoy the dynamic nature of this situation, but I know a lot
> of computer types who have gotten really burnt out in this type of work
> environment. There is still something to be said for a steady job, such as
> the ability to spend more time with your family. TANSTAAFL!
> >If one is interested in completing a very large and complex project, such as
> >building and maintaining hydroponic greenhouses, then one will want to
> >organize teams of people to work on this project. One could first hire a team
> >of engineers to plan the project and organize it into sub-projects. Then one
> >could hire teams and individuals to complete the various sub-projects until
> >the greenhouses are built and food is being grown in them. Then one would
> >receive requests for food and hire people to transport the food to the
> >appropriate places. This is not fundamentally any different than what has
> >been done for thousands of years now. People have been organizing companies
> >and groups to complete projects for quite a long time. Now it's becoming a
> >lot easier for the average person to do, because computer networks are helping
> >to lower the costs of organizing a business.
> Agreed. The Internet has been an enormous help in forming project teams. I
> have a not too small list of developers and programmers that I call or email
> whenever I have a large project. More and more software work is being done
> this way. Most of the software people I know do freelance work for various
> projects. I am working on a $1,000,000 project now where the 25-man
> development team is made up entirely of freelancers from around the country.
> Meetings and discussions take place largely via a mailing list on the
> Internet. There is usually one or two consultants or freelancers who "run"
> the whole project.
> In fact, if you are strictly interested in making money, this is the way to
> go. Sure, you don't have job security, but the pay is great. Many
> independant developers I know have spouses who work steady jobs. This way,
> they have a guaranteed minimum income and usually medical benefits. But
> when you consider that the average freelance developer makes between
> $100-500k per year, this is extremely attractive, especially to the younger
> age brackets.
> >I predict that as computer networks become more widespread and their use
> >becomes commonplace, a very large percentage of people will be taking
> >advantage of this technology to make their economic lives extremely flexible,
> >dynamic and lucrative. I predict that it will become increasingly less common
> >for someone to have a "steady job". That concept seems radical now, because
> >there aren't so many secure alternatives for employment than working for the
> >same person day after day. However, I believe this will change within a few
> >years, and it will seem foolish and dangerous to have only one major client
> >that one is dependent on for income.
> In some industries, "steady job" is already meaningless. Better get used to
> it. Actually, I think the "many client" type of environment separates the
> wheat from the chaff much better, ability-wise, than the "steady job"
> environment. I think the "many client" environment will cause a wider
> separation between the living standards of the competent and incompetent in
> a given skill category, not at all a bad thing, IMO.
> >I believe that people will become much more "project oriented" than they are
> >today. I think people will look at employment more in terms of working on a
> >particular project than they do now. People will hire other people to
> >complete particular projects or tasks, and when the project is done or the
> >task is completed, they will each go their own way. As a project manager, you
> >may find someone who consistently does excellent work, and you may hire them
> >regularly to work on various projects, and this will probably be common. But
> >that same person will likely have many other clients that they work for as
> >well.
> >
> >I believe that in the future, one's financial situation will more accurately
> >reflect the quality of work one does and thus be more fair. Good workers will
> >develop a good reputation, and there will be a high-paying demand for them,
> >and they will generally only accept the highest-paying offers for their work.
> >Those who don't prove themselves to be such good workers will not receive such
> >high-paying offers for their work. Of course, they could always hire someone
> >to teach them how to improve their skills and become a more excellent worker,
> >and thus improve their financial situation.
> This is exactly the way it currently works in the independant software
> development industry. You can only screw up so many times, and then no one
> will hire you.
> And incidentally, the majority of independant developers are self-taught.
> If you want to increase your skills, you take it upon yourself to learn more
> skills. This is the way it works. No one else is responsible for your
> welfare except *you*. I learned a majority of the skills I have by studying
> a particular subject I wanted to learn, and then finding a short-term
> mediocre job that required those skills. This way I was able to get the
> practical experience, but not at the expense of someone who was paying good
> money. I would then go on to take on the good paying jobs after validating
> my newly learned skill. A lot of people learn this way. (Lesson here: You
> get what you pay for!) You don't have to pay money to learn a valuable new
> skill. Usually it only involves time, some books, and a short-term pay cut.
> >Considering human history, it seems that people's economic lives have become
> >increasingly dynamic and are continuing to become even more flexible. At one
> >time, most people were pretty much confined to living in the same village,
> >doing the same tasks, all their lives. As we've progressed and developed
> >large cities, it has become much easier for people to relocate and to change
> >employers. Our lives have become much more flexible and filled with more
> >options. I believe that the widespread use of computer networks will create
> >even greater flexibility in people's lives and allow people many more options
> >for organizing their lives, including greater flexibility of who they work
> >for. Technology is providing people the tools they need to take care of
> >themselves better and manage their own lives.
> >
> Flexibility and options are good, but there is a price. Large scale
> networks are a key component of implementing this flexibility, but I think
> it has limits to certain professions and industries. This would not
> generally help a grocery clerk get ahead. Mostly just skilled professionals.
> -James Rogers