[thelist] RE: Template Monster [WAS: A Beginner Freelance Question]

Ken Schaefer ken at adOpenStatic.com
Sat Jul 24 07:29:30 CDT 2004

A few thoughts:

[From: "Diane Soini"]
: Which either means 5 times more brilliant or 5 times more productive.
: ...
: I am not 5 times more brilliant or productive. How can I be.
: I am only human. Do we of the high wage countries have a
: future in this field? ...Templates, open-source programming
: and all that at least help us high wagers compete a little
: longer in this new global world.

There were two economists - Adam Smith (division of labour), and David
Ricardo (comparative advantage) that wrote some stuff about what happens
over time. What they wrote about all that time ago is still relevant today:

a) Jobs will continue to become increasingly specialised. If you don't
believe this, or somehow think "the web" is exempt, look at every other
profession over time. Do you think you can be a physicist, or a lawyer, or a
teacher and know everything? You can't. Furthermore generalists are either
at the very top (they do know a lot about everything), or at the bottom (the
surburban accountant, the general practitioner, and the lawyer that mostly
does real estate conveyancing). Not saying that this isn't a valid career
choice - one might prefer the smaller clients, the less hectic working life,
the collegiate work atmosphere etc.

b) Jobs will continue to be "upskilled" in the developed (ie more expensive
world), and lower-skilled jobs will move overseas where labour is cheaper.
It's been happening in manufacturing for decades - where do you think all
your cheap VCRs, DVD players, televisions, whitegoods etc come from? First
it was Japan, then South Korea, and now it's China. It'll happening with
programming as well. Anyone who thinks "knowing HTML" is somehow a skilled
job is naive. Anyone with some aptitude can learn HTML, CSS and Javascript
in 2-3 weeks.

c) Despite the exodus of jobs to cheaper overseas countries, there is *not*
going to be a huge job shortage in the developed world. Jobs have been
moving from high-cost centres to low-cost centres for hundreds of years
(between towns, between states, and between countries). Yet the unemployment
rate in the developed world is still very low. New, higher paying, jobs have
replaced the old jobs. Our standard of living (as conventionally measured -
quality of life, the environment are a whole different kettle of fish - I'm
well aware of that) has continued to increase year after year.

d) I don't think Open Source is going to help you maintain your margins.
Open Source benefits the end consumer - they get their product (their DVD
players, their cars, their groceries) for less, since it reduces the
barriers to competition in the supply chain. Why get you to develop a
bulletin board, when they can get one for free? Or a shopping cart? Why get
you to develop a DBMS when they can get one for free? Well, there's
customisation, but every other developer can do that to. The *end consumer*
gets the benefits of Open Source (which I think is a good thing - it makes
us all a bit better off), but I think FOSS is going to make life /less/
lucrative for the average developer. As you allude - it makes it easier for
you to get into areas that you otherwise wouldn't be able to handle, but it
makes it easier for everyone else to (the same way HTML being so easy makes
it easier for lots of people to get into the business, and depress prices).

[From: "YoYoEtc]
: isn't it ironic that at the same time the government
: professes to be helping the unemployed by using funds
: from the HN1B programs to train us that they begin
: shipping jobs overseas and bringing down the salaries of
: people in the IT field.

No one is "shipping jobs" anywhere. Sure, jobs you used to do are now done
elsewhere BUT the production of goods cheaper has been the driving force
behind the massive increase in wealth all around the globe. Instead of
paying $5000 for a computer, you now pay <$1000. VCRs used to cost $1000
each, but they probably cost about $50-100 (in your country) now. What
household doesn't have a TV these days? You pay the same for a car now (in
real terms) that you would have 20-30 years ago but look at how the quality
and features have improved. Where does this enormous increase in income come
from? From producing things cheaper, and producing them better.

"But wait - someone else is taking our jobs, and making these things. What
good are cheaper DVD players if no one has a job to buy them?" What is the
unemployment rate in your country? About 5% give or take a few precentage
points? Yet millions of jobs that Americans, or English, French, Germans and
Japanese used to do are now performed in South Korea, China or India. What's
happened? There are lots of /new/ jobs in those first world countries, and
they're not all cheap, low-paying jobs either. Last time I checked, the per
capita income of the US, the UK, France, Germany and Japan were right up
there towards the top of the scale. Last time I checked the biggest
accounting, legal and IT firms where in the US, and Europe. Last time I
checked, the world's top educational institutions where in Europe, the US
and Japan. Last time I checked, fields like biomedical engineeing,
photovoltaics or nuclear medicine where all led by developed countries.

[Johnson, Christopher (MTO)]
: One question, or comment, from this thought that I have
: is if you put together a group of specialists, would it not
: be the generalist who is able to be to glue that holds the
: specialists together?

Certainly - they're called "Project Managers". However even that field now
calls for specialist skills. Which I hardly think is surprising. You don't
get a general practitioner to run a complex, multi-disciplinary medical
procedure. You likewise don't get a jack-of-all trades to run a large,
complex, IT project.

On the other hand, there is nothing to say a generalist can't secure a job,
and then use various specialist partners or subcontractors to provide the
end product

[From: "David Siedband"]
: I hear a lot of people reacting to international outsourcing
: out of fear rather than rationality.  I think companies value
: having a contractor in the same region.  For the
: employer/client, there is a trust created in personal
: meetings/interaction and a value to working
: with designers and developers with whom you can
: easily communicate in your native language, and who
: understand your market and culture.

Definately. And who says you can't be the point-of-contact between some
cheap Russian specialists, and your local clients? Of course, you might need
to learn Russian, but that's something that would set you apart from the
competition. And you could say that you're a "multi-national operation".
That's sure to impress some people! :-)

[From: "Seth Thomas Rasmussen"]
: Yes, you can do that, but remember: the government is
: just another pawn, like you and I, in the war games of
: massive global and multinational corporations. They are
: the cause of situations like this. The eternal pursuit of the
: lowest bottom line where everything is potential revenue and
: branding space, nothing is real, human, worth anything
: beyond the $.

The "root" cause of this are consumers like me, and the people I met in the
street (and perhaps you as well). I don't want to pay $5000 for a computer
when I can pay $1000. I go and shop at the big supermarket and pay less for
my groceries. I want to pay less for my phone calls, my internet access, my
hospital bills, and for my transport. My superannuation is invested in a
fund, and I want it to make the highest returns it can ethically and legally
make. So, who puts pressure on companies to cut costs, and maximise returns?
Consumers like me, and investors like me. And there are a lot of ordinary,
average people who think the same. It's like not most companies are making
obscene profits - just look at the average return listed companies make.

[From: "YoYoEtc]
: Are there really people developing sites for $49.95?
: I assume these are  just the one-page sites owned
: perhaps by private individuals??

Sure - the company I work for develops huge systems. On a per-page basis, we
probably end up costing somewhere around $0.01 (or less) for some systems
(well, the cost per page is very low). One system in development is a loans
processing system for one of our biggest banks. It has hundreds of possible
forms for tellers, numerous web pages for loan applicants (probably in the
thousands for all the possible permutations of loans, customer types and
staff access levels), and various other interfaces. Yet we still charge big
dollars to develop it, and we still make money. And clients are happy to
pay, because we're providing something that not many other companies can.
End consumers also benefit - they get convenient access to loan applications
and information, and they get cheaper loans because the bank is able to
undercut its rivals.

[From: "YoYoEtc]
: What would you advise newcomers to the field to do?
: We have a drastic learning curve to follow if we ever want
: to keep up with the people who have years of experience.


I would read the posts by Mattias Hising, and Marc (evoltlist at delime.com).
You need to have something that provides *value* to the customer, and where
that value isn't being provided by someone else at a fraction of the cost.
As an individual (unless you have some other experience, like specialised
industry experience) you will never have the time to learn enough. Go and
join a company that does web app development, learn the ropes, make
contacts, get experience, then start your own business. Otherwise, you're
just like every other entreprenuer - you may make it big if you have
something that everyone wants, but no one has, or you might just fall by the

[From: "YoYoEtc]
: OMG!  It's just tragic!!!!!  There is a lot of skill involved
: in web site design, too. A big learning curve!

You are joking right?
I grant you that there is skill involved in artistic design (as well as
plenty of theory)
There is definately knowledge and experience required in maintaining, or
developing for, high performance DBMSes (though the entry level knowledge:
ER modelling, normalisation etc is not particularly difficult. Even the
theory of transactions, checkpointing etc can be gained in a few weeks).

Stuff like HTML, CSS, Javascript are /relatively/ simple compared to the
knowledge that most professionals require. Just about every programming
language requires more effort to master. And mastering the basics of a
complex legal system (or any other profession) certainly outweigh mastering
the complexities of VB or Delphi. HTML, CSS etc are waaay down on the scale
of complexity.

[From: "Seyon"]
: All mature industries have that. Web development, as an
: industry, is just now beginning to mature.
: Doctors, lawyers, accountants, policemen, sportsmen,
: all have learning curves before they become the experienced
: ones. The key is to realise that the Internet is not the
: get-rich-quick, retire at 35 scheme that it was once
: believed to be.
: You do have to work hard to carve out a niche and
: become a master of your craft.

Absolutely. If you want to get ahead, you have to be ahead of the curve. If
you're content to be average, you only need to be on-the-curve, and if you
want to do everything the hard way (by trying to be a master of everything,
and learn everything yourself), you'll either suceed because you're a
genius, or you'll fall prey to some guy/gal in India/China/Malaysia who can
do the same, but at a fraction of the cost.

From: "Mattias Hising"
: 2.  If you are a *professional* do you just make websites?
: A *professional* web software developer/architect/
: designer/information architect can of course sell in stuff like
: Content Management/Clickstream Applications/Device
: Adaptation Frameworks/Platforms for Charging and all
: people in a *professional* group will have full knowledge
: of these products and the benefits of using them in their
: respective area. So, if professional-agency lemon-digital-
: fancy-business-card says they can build a stupid
: html/flash page for pr-purpose with no extra for making
: it easier for me as a client to update/control R.O.I/target
: multiple environments/charge, and on the other side
: somenone can sell me a Do-It-Yourself package of
: HTML/Flash Templates of course I go for the templates.

This is great stuff!


More information about the thelist mailing list