The Myth of the Unemployed Programmer

A software developer should never truly be “unemployed”. Many professions require a certain capital investment or infrastructure to perform work–for example, if I am a cabinetmaker, I require woodworking tools, wood, stains, finish, and probably a shop to store it all (plus the works-in-progress). On the other hand, a software developer in the modern world merely requires a computer and Internet connection–all the other tools can be had for free. Even deploying a web application requires very little capital investment in a world where $5/month servers exist.

I have mused upon this concept in the past, but never with the sense of immediacy engendered by the events of the past week. As of last Wednesday, I suddenly became an “unemployed” software developer when I was laid off. This, of course, prompted many non-software-related activities (my résumé needed a rewrite and my online presence–including this blog–was sadly neglected), but after the initial flurry settled down, I was faced with the decision universal to the unemployed: how shall I spend my time?

The options are not infinite (financial concerns for most of us preclude a spontaneous sailing trip to the Bahamas), but they are vast. I could implement one of the many software ideas which perpetually rattle about in a developer’s brain. I could write new themes for my wife’s blog, or her other one, or her other one. I could try to catch up with my wife in website count. I could delve into any number of modern developments in technology, most of which are fascinating and directly applicable to my career. I could write a book, because as my wife observes, once you exclude teen romance and vampires (and vampiric teen romance) there is a certain dearth of quality literature for the juvenile boy. (Though, if I did write a book, I’m not sure you’d ever know about it. On the one hand, I feel like a man ought to write under his own name and take responsibility for it, but on the other hand, I consider it merely common courtesy to preserve his friends and acquaintances from ever feeling obliged read whatever drivel he produces.) I could even finish that basement remodeling project I started eleven months ago, but let’s not get crazy here.

None of these (home improvement excepted) require anything significantly more substantial than time and sterling intellect, both of which I now have in abundance. What a strange thing!

Having dwelt upon the matter at intervals in the preceding days, I have resolved that three things shall happen:

  • This blog shall receive some sorely needed attention. (There is an argument to be made for “quality over quantity”, but 22 months between posts is pushing it.)
  • My WordPress theme development skills shall be enhanced in the furtherance of my wife’s online empire.
  • I shall enhance my professional skills by writing an amazing web application, guaranteed to please. More on that later, but as a hint to those who have known me long, it might improve morale. Or at least keep track of it.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as true unemployment for the modern creative, and in my case, it is time for some housekeeping. (As an aside, if you’d like to hire me, that’s fine too. I won’t take it personally when you attempt to deprive me of all this glorious free time.)

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