back to article 'The New Kingmakers': Tech giants pay for the love of coders

The software industry seems hell-bent on following Steve Ballmer's chant to acquire "developers, developers, developers." This developer gold rush is playing out in Silicon Valley recruiting, something that venture capitalist Fred Wilson describes as "a massive talent war for software engineers" and that is loosening the purse …


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  1. Steve McPolin
    Paris Hilton

    'developers are a canny bunch'

    Gotta call you on that one. An associate infamously told a customer one day 'If you pay us enough and we'll dance down the street in pink tutus for you'. Many developers are proud of their prostitution inspired business models, complete with pimps and bordellos .

    Buying the bordello or pimp doesn't get you the developers. Unlike the poor prostitute, they are highly mobile and know it. Line up an endless stream of juicy customers and the box of chocolates, and they will knock on your door.

    Paris, because she understands the model.

  2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Am I invisible?

    Hello!!!! Unemployed software engineer here!!! <waves>

    I get so fed up with all these "software developer gold-rush" type stories. After 260 job applications in six months there's no sign of anybody beating a path to my door.

    1. The BigYin

      You're not going to like this...

      ...if after 260 applications and no offer, you're doing it wrong. No one owes you a living, it's up to you to beat a path to *their* door. If you are not getting offers you have to change how you present yourself, network and job hunt. Maybe your CV is crap, maybe your skills are too niche, maybe you're aiming too high (or low!), maybe you need to relocate...maybe...maybe...

      "Great Answers to Touch Interview Questions" by Martin John Yate is an excellent book. Buy it, read it, follow the advice.

      Have your tried getting involved with a F/OSS project? It will keep your skills sharp and mean you can add experience to your CV, the fact you are active will look good to any employer.

      Perhaps you have done all of the above, but moaning about it on a board won't help!

      Best of luck.

    2. ThuvvaMeister


      I've had a look at your website - you will never find work easily with your skills! Imagine a car supermarket on a saturday afternoon filled with fiestas and corsas all for sale. Lots of bustling action as deals are being done. Except for you, for you would be the 1972 vauxhall victor in the middle of the lot.

      Get the picture? You are way too niche, and if you disagree with that you need to work on your marketing, specifically your CV, so it has a bit more appeal to those residing in this century.

      1. The BigYin


        I think I just found the same CV. Two epic fails on it; "never used the toolset that [I am] recruiting for"? Not been a programmer for ten years? Next please! (Unless I happen to be in that very small niche).

        He's got some serious skills though and I can think of quite a few F/OSS projects that would have his hand-off for some help and that experience could be used to re-skill in current tech. For example, take Myth. I am sure there are a few tuners driving that lot to complete distraction, this chap could probably figure out how to poke/prod them and at the same time pick up some C++/python/whatever.

        Bim-boom-bash, three months time what we have is a hardware engineer with some decent skills, self-starter, team player, mentor, leader blah-de-blah in what is probably going to be the biggest boom for domestic computing - home entertainment (just ask Sony, MS et al). Hell, configuring and selling UK-ready Myth boxes could be a nice little earner.

        Not trying to do you down Mr. Harston, but you need to take a step back and re-assess your approach. When was the last time you went to a Tech Meet Up? LUG? Anything like that? Be like the reed in the storm, it bends; the oak stands firm and resolute, then gets blown over.

  3. jubtastic1

    Doesn't this ignore...

    The relative freedoms and challanges offered in startups and stakeholding compared to the corporate papermill and suppressing politics present in established companies?

    In addition aren't we always reading about developers jumping ship shortly after startups are purchased?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's only the top three in the building you need to poach.

    I worked with several of these guys over the years.

    Some extremely fat who live with their mothers; one who can recite huge lengths of filmscripts, one who shouts at himself; some with strange habits; one very hostile 22 year old; another who makes strange noises while coding, like the scene in Love Actually when Colin Firth's singing in the car to that foreign woman; a guy who used to moo; some so strange you wouldn't leave them alone with your television; some with senses of humour that made you terrified to bring customers back to the office, several ranters with clear signs of autism or tourettes, or autism and tourettes; but the one who takes the biscuit was this guy with an obsession about song lyrics.

    Being weird seems to be almost a pre-requisite to be a member of this group. It's like the part of the brain which is being used for technical ability has consumed some other part of the brain, to make space, such as the area that enables social responsibility, politeness, or dress sense.

    They're like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes character without the obligatory tv required good looks for a leading man, or the personal hygiene. One guy I worked with for a week, was so deep in concentration that twice, he sat with the phone ringing right next to him and he didn't hear it. He wasn't ignoring it. He just didn't hear it. I knew another guy who liked to ask his manager "how was your weekend?" with just enough ambiguity, to ensure the manager wasn't sure if he was taking the piss, or whether there was some joke he was unaware of. The manager used to go to his office, by 9:01 Monday, with his week ruined.

    The really strange thing about them, is that clearly, they're not able to control their behaviour, and they're just made that way. It's obviously some form of accident of history that there's an industry today that was made for their particular brain disorder, because they would've starved in any other time with such Rainman like behaviour.

    There are maybe two dozen or these guys I know; who if you're competing against them, poaching them's the only option you have to stay in business. It's worth hiring them to ensure they're unavailable to work for anyone else, but it's also worth renting a box room, in which to hide them from your customers, and you need a sign on the wall for all the staff, saying "Before you sue your company, because of what Zorba the geek's just said, we have a legal responsibility under the disability act to hire a percentage of these people."

    1. Hungry Sean

      not so much in my experience

      Yes, I know the type you are describing, and they do exist, but most of the very best engineers I've met are quite charming and cultured, have a good sense of broader business goals, and your main concern over leaving them alone with a customer would be that the customer might suffer cranial hemorrhaging from the information overload. These are the people who would have been absolutely terrifying if they'd gone to the dark side and entered business.

      Beer-- it's Friday, why not?

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    There's an app for that

    ", VMware, Oracle and so on aren't necessarily the best-positioned to attract developers, but they're in a great position to monetize others' developer outreach."

    I'm waiting for the first Fart App.from Oracle...

  6. nematoad Silver badge

    KIlling the goose...

    Yes, the likes of Microsoft and Oracle are in a position to buy FLOSS companies. That's not the real trick though, what is is keeping the developer communities commited and productive. Microsoft's problem is their past history vis-a-vis Linux and other FLOSS projects. The trust is just not there. Sure, you can have some people that buy into the MS way of doing business, Miguel de Icaza for example, but most FLOSS devs don't trust MS at all. In Oracle's case their handling of Open Office and Java has shall we say, been less than adroit. If you want to drive away the innovators and experts then just follow Oracle's lead. So yes there is expertise in getting money from the efforts of others but what you have to do is make all the effort being expended worthwhile; and I have my doubts as to whether a lot of giant proprietary corporations have either the skills or even the will to do this. More likely they will either turn the purchased company purely proprietary or like the asset-strippers of old suck out what they can and dump the rest.

  7. Doug Glass

    And Had He Been ...

    .... before hardware manufacturers he's have chanted. "hardware, hardware, hardware". Big frelling deal. Corporations exist to make a profit, i.e. grow the company, increase the bottom line and enhance stockholder equity. Nothing more. If they could do those three things better by selling baskets on the street they'd do that.

    They preach what they need to say to stay in business. All the comments about any "for profit" corporation's altruistic intentions is meaningless and the faster the IT world gets a grip on that the better off it's going to be.

    You guys are a tool; a simple tool at that and when the tool needs replacing it's replaced, when it needs repair it gets the cheapest job available and when push comes to shove IT is first out the door along with the clerical staff.

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Growing the Private Sector. An Inventive Discipline for Lodes of Rich Raw Virgin Source/CodeXSSXXXX

    "Developers are a canny bunch, and can't be bought by the highest bidder." .... Matt Asay

    Oh please, Matt, you cannot be serious. Of course they can be bought by the highest bidder whenever their smarts are in sync, and they have the same ultimate goals/aims. It is just a case of the two knowing of each other. It is though that smart synchronisation caveat which has the canniest of developers choosing to accept engagement with a lower bidder in any competitive tendering process for ...... well, as real smart developers deal in unique original proprietary Intellectual Property which ideally delivers overwhelmingly crushing and/or crashing advantage across as many markets as are engaged and envisaged, is it that which is being funded/purchased/developed.

    However, whenever the canniest developers are into powerful command and control and supply and exclusive executive use of priceless novel information and innovative services, is the subject of cost a moot point, and something of market red herring, as that which they can do makes any bid just as a petty cash internal investment/run of the mill expense which pales into insignificance whenever compared to the energised revenue streams which are provided by the new host[s] abilities and facilities in the market place.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The false legend of the "uber-coder"

    I get this all the time from "civilians" who do not know any better, am disappointed to see a professional falling into the same trap. Call it the "Bozinksy Effect". (Points for anyone who can explain the entomology of that statement).

    Lesson for today - Not every person in IT is good at everything about IT (or for that matter, personal interaction, hygiene, self-discpline, self-control, etc). There are a few gurus who get headhunted a bit, but most people working in IT are commodities to be exploited for commercial gain by the company and for whom this is " just a job".

    Register: I would be interested to see a study of job movement in IT to see if there is a highly mobile set and a static set of IT professionals - fancy building a study?

    Mr Invisible - the difference between an unemployed IT professional and an ex-IT professional is 18 months, maybe 2 years tops. Good luck, but know when to call it quits.

    1. deadlockvictim


      Did this Bozinksy fellow discover a lot of bugs? If so, the pun is terribly funny.

    2. godheadatomic

      Developers as Commodities

      "but most people working in IT are commodities to be exploited for commercial gain"

      Absolutely. In my experience, many developers are just widgets -- brought in with a particular skill set to solve a particular problem and then that's it. A worrying trend has been the increase in headhunters and hirers looking primarily for experience with specific frameworks as opposed to people who honestly know how to code and complete a project. This is the next step in the commoditisation of developers -- but suffers from the same shortsightedness. I may not know Ruby, but I've had plenty of experience with similar languages and could pick it up quickly. I may not know Django or whatever the flavour of the month is, but I know MVC and solid design principles and could learn your framework quickly.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One considerations for job hunting, the age of the existing tech,...

    I have been retrained by a public service several times where the technology stack has been changed (OS and Application both). If I had tried to get my job with my existing skills, I would not have been on the shortlist.

    If the tech is aging and within 1-2 years of being replaced, I would take a lower paying job at that company in order to ride the wave of eventual retraining.

  11. hitmouse

    Too many indians without chiefs

    I've encountered plenty of highly-paid developers at Microsoft and elsewhere who confuse salary with knowing the fuck what they should be doing. I can see the same syndrome being exhibited by Google's rolling out of products that are half-baked and not-at-all properly supported because they don't seek out or value people to DESIGN the products.

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