Micropayments, writing, and independent software crafting…

…as the drunks say, you can’t fall off the floor. Anyone offering content free gains an advantage that can’t be beaten, only matched, because the competitive answer to free — “I’ll pay you to read my weblog!” — is unsupportable over the long haul….In a world of free content, even the moderate hassle of micropayments greatly damages user preference, and increases their willingness to accept free material as a substitute.” via [The Start of Fee]

I’m afraid he’s right. I do two things to make my living: craft words and craft software. Both careers are severely threatened. Ironically, one of the reasons I dropped out of college was because I could make money crafting software. What did I leave behind? Dual majors in Marine Biology and English. I apparently have a poverty-seeking gene.

One thing that few people have mentioned is that offshoring is a great threat to independent software developers. In the past, I’ve always subsidized my writing by contract work, but the short engagements that I’ve specialized in are flowing offshore at an amazing rate; in the past year, every single small contract negotiation ($5-$20K projects) has revealed that I’m competing against offshore resources. All the offshoring press discusses big IT resources and high-quality teams, but there’s another story, which is the lower-quality teams that are threatening the independent software crafter. Open Source may be a challenge to ISVs, but independent software consulting is almost certainly doomed as a way to make a living wage, at least in urban areas.