Where are all the programmers?

Programmer's aid
Creative Commons License photo credit: dunkv

Yesterday evening I posted a small C# project on Odesk.

By noon today, I had 19 responses.

Most of them were qualified (a few were VERY qualified) and had passed enough of ODesk’s tests for me to know that they could do the job. In the various .Net test topics, several had numerous scores over 95%, with one showing a dozen or more top 10% scores.

Of those, several had 500+ hours of ODesk work, great recommendations from prior jobs and fairly well written replies.

East 19, West 0

Yet none of those replies from countries that you would consider English-speaking, nor were they from Western Europe.

ODesk also has language skills tests to make sure the contractor can speak the language of the person who hires them. In my case, English is required because my language skills are limited to programming languages, English and the occasional ability to read French. In written English, several of the applicants were at 95% or higher, test-wise.

I talked about this with a couple of U.S. based programmers today and wondered aloud if this was a function of Western programmers who have “better” things to do, or that they don’t do piece work. Maybe Western programmers feel that freelance sites are for “commodity programmers“. I’m just not sure.

Many of the previous ODesk jobs listed for applicants as successfully completed (by the happy buyer) were 500 to 2000 hours in length. Full-blown internal development projects, software products and so on. I suspect some of the work is commodity programming, but I seriously doubt all of it is.

The commoditization of programming is not a new situation. Friedman’s been talking about the flat world for as long as anyone would listen, almost…

Where’s the West?

The skills that make a Western programmer valuable these days is business knowledge, vertical market expertise, project management abilities, responsibility-taking initiative, vision AND tech skills, to name a few. Being “just a programmer” is how you end up competing with someone who bills at 30% of your rate.

Perhaps being a Western programmer by the definition above means you’re automatically busy working. I could make assumptions, but I’m curious what your thoughts are – where are all the Western programmers? For my part, I guess they’re busy. The .Net guys I know locally all have jobs or long-term consulting gigs.

PS: Late in the day, I heard from an Ohio-based guy via Twitter who offered to take a look if I sent him a link to the project. I had already assigned the task, but will keep him in mind next time.  In overtime, it’s East 19, West 1.

2 thoughts on “Where are all the programmers?”

  1. Forgetting the content of the story (which was an “interesting” comment on the times), what we have here is a really well-written piece.

    “19-1 in overtime:” very clever.

    1. Thanks, Dave. I was quite surprised to have received so little North American/Western European response. Looking back, maybe it was the time window, but if you’re hungry for work, 11pm to noon my time during the middle of the week isn’t unreasonable response time.

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