The 90 Percenters

Matthew Baxter-Reynolds writing for The Guardian:

The danger you have as a savvy, professional, 90-percenter software developer looking to build a cottage industry business in the world of app development is that if you come home after a busy day and you have a wife, three kids, a box-set of Battlestar Gallactica and/or The Wire to enjoy, you’re likely to run out of puff pretty quickly trying to get up to speed with iOS.

The real danger you have as a savvy, professional, 90-percenter software developer looking to build a cottage industry business in the world of app development is believing you’ll find success without skipping a lot of TV shows.

I don’t think Baxter-Reynolds is mis-prioritizing at all, in fact spending time with your loved ones and relaxing after a long day with some good entertainment sounds like a wise way to live one’s life. It’s just at odds with building a successful cottage industry business of any kind, mobile software development included.

Of the successful smaller developers I know, and I know many, I can’t think of one that hasn’t at one point or another completely overextended themselves in order to put the time into their product or business that it required. And I mean overextended by stretching themselves to learn new technologies, new ways of marketing, the fundamentals of running a business but also by just simply spending far too many hours working at it. To do that you’ve got to love what you’re doing, there’s no two ways about it.

If you follow the calculus of Baxter-Reynolds’ piece you’ll find yourself working at home, late into the night, with technologies and toolchains you work with at the office. I doubt you’ll love that but I suppose it’s possible. If your goal is to churn out some interesting smaller application ideas and throw them into an online store then maybe a minimum investment is what you’re after. If you’ve got a burning to make something remarkable then dipping your toe in the water won’t get you across the alligator filled moat of hard work that’s between your day job and something self sustaining.

I won’t rush to defend the iOS toolchain against his complaints, I think Gruber largely nailed it with The Unfamilliar. I will call out Baxter-Reynolds’ argument that only 6.1% of programmers are using Objective-C compared to 60% who are using “other languages typically used for building internal-use business applications” is “a good barometer of where the industry is in the terms of platforms that are being developed for”. In terms of sheer man hours? Perhaps he’s right. If we scaled those numbers by which language was used in the most admired pieces of user software we’d see a drastically different picture. The truth of the matter is that currently the most admired client side user facing software is written in Objective-C. When that changes or when one and two man shops working in some other language out maneuver Cocoa developers (as Cocoa developers did to others) then I’ll be happy to have a talk about effectiveness. Until that’s happening I’ll continue using Cocoa, Objective-C and C to write software that has been enjoyed by tens of millions.