Here We Go Again

Ever feel like you’re getting old, and the same themes come up again and again? This week it’s the unsustainability of being an independent developer. Some idiot I follow wrote about this in 2011:

Before we got featured by Google on the Android market place, we were about a month away from having no money whatsoever. I’ve talked to many indie developers in Australia, and they are universally in the same boat. Some have taken on client work to try and fill the gap, others are working from home trying to minimise every expense they have. And I’m talking about the successful ones, the companies with great apps that have done well.

Russell Ivanovic, ‘You Guys Are Millionaires Right?’, November 2011

That post is worth a re-read, even if Russell is a “butt-hurt Android fanboy”. Don’t judge me, I read it on Reddit so it must be true. In 2014 though it’s Matt Gemmell:

The implacable, crushing wheels of industry, slow to move because of their size, have at last arrived on the frontier. Our frontier, or at least yours now. I’ve relinquished my claim.

Yes it’s another Gold Rush analogy, I never grow weary of those.

If Gold Rush analogies aren’t your thing, Chris Adamson has rough seas and ports instead:

For the first time in over a decade, I’ve been applying to permanent gigs, when they come up and when they’re willing to work remote (few are, but at least for now, I can still take my time). There’s no way I’d move my family to California, but I’m willing to give up a significant degree of career independence, because it increasingly seems untenable.

Chris Adamson, Any Port in a Storm

It wouldn’t be an Internet themes roundup without my new best friend, Marco Arment:

But I haven’t given it a deep look yet, so this all could just be the out-of-touch ramblings of a 32-year-old who’s already tired of learning new languages without a compelling reason.

Marco Arment, linking to Ed Finkler

So to summarise:

  • Independent developers are tired, grumpy and old
  • We can’t make money anymore
  • All my friends are dead
  • The sky is falling

Sarcasm aside, being independent has always been tough. It was tough in 2008, it was tough in 2011 and it remains tough in 2014. On the Australian weather front our own Bureau are building free mobile apps to compete with ours. In the podcasting space new apps are arriving every day, and the latest wave of them are VC funded, business models be damned ones. That doesn’t make the future rosy, but you won’t see me sailing my ship into a harbour or putting away my pickaxe. We’ve always said from the day that we started Shifty Jelly that we’re developers first, everything else second. We’re not iOS developers. We’re not Mac developers. We’re not Android developers. We’re not web developers. We’re just developers. I don’t really give out advice, but if I did that would be part of it. Forget the platform wars and follow where your customers are. I think too many single-platform developers don’t understand this simple idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I too dream about one day joining Google and building out Google Podcasts, the one true podcast platform to rule them all. I dream of no longer caring about day-to-day business things and just developing in the safety of a large organisation. But this indie thing is fun because it’s hard. It keeps you sharp. It means you have no choice but to stay focussed. And you know what? I love it, and wouldn’t give it up for the world. I look into the abyss, directly into our competitors eyes, and I say “bring it”. I even add a little profanity to the end of that sentence when I’m in the right mood.