Apathy is more dangerous than poison. Unless Developers wake up, mass extinction is all but certain.
What will you do when the App Store closes their doors and sells only in-house software? How will you make money when every device maker has their own operating system, and apps can’t cross national boundaries? Or when advertising no longer pays? Or when Google and Apple stop giving out tools and advice and instead invite you to bid against each other for the privilege of selling them your clever app?
Governments around the world are hell-bent on crushing everything that makes the app economy work. To be clear, they aren’t actually out to “get” developers. They simply never think about collateral damage as they target Big Tech.
Developers handicap their own political power because most developers aren’t engaged, or aware. Politicians don’t know you, or how your job works. Developers are silent, and invisible, even when decisions are being made that will overturn their lives and ability to make a living.
But politics matter and politics applied to manage the rules by which countries operate is “policy”. Policy is what the “suits” in Washington DC and Brussels and Canberra and Ottawa, and all the hundred-some other world capitals spend all day debating and revising. Writing laws, funding, and defunding programs. The results rewrite how entire sectors of the economy operate; who profits, and who gets crushed. Tech policy is being rewritten the world over, and 3rd party Developers (like the dinosaurs) are blissfully unaware that our doom is a likely outcome.
Corporations and industries spend countless hours talking to policymakers to steer these changes in their favor. Doctors, and lawyers, and accountants have their professional societies to argue on their behalf in those same hallways. Developers have no union or guild to align them and exert the might of our numbers. Lawmakers aren’t out to hurt developers; they act out of ignorance because competing voices drown out those few that advocate on dev’s behalf.
Regulations like GDPR didn’t appear overnight. They were debated for years and shaped by Big Tech, community activists, and academics. These groups made themselves visible because they know that policy defines the rules-of-play, and those that make the rules have a big advantage.
While there are millions of developers, driving billions of dollars of economic activity that touches billions of people the world over, we are represented by only a handful of people in the world’s capitals. Your contribution to this is minimal – mostly the effort is supported by people that value what you do on their behalf; tech firms, a few foundations, internet advocates that want to give back to the system that helped them be successful.
I’m here to tell you we’re losing based on that model.
The doom and gloom I laid out above is more than fear-mongering, though it’s not all baked-in yet. The world I describe is the logical outcome if developer voices remain on the sidelines. I come with an ask.
Below this post is a button, where you can add your email to a list of developers willing to spend 30 minutes to get to know us, and perhaps sign on to a letter, or speak to a policymaker at some point in the future. We won’t spam you, or even name you if you’d prefer to be active but hidden. This is separate from our newsletter list – this is just to opt-in for those willing to speak up for the community when we need your voice. I’m asking you to join our Policy Network, and to engage on a topic that impacts or interests you.
To win in policy you need friends, and you need numbers. I’m asking the developer community to be both for the Alliance. We’re happy to work on your behalf, but to do it well we need to know you, and we need to know you’re willing to speak up when the call goes out.
If you can spare a little time, and if the future of the developer community is important to you, I hope you’ll volunteer on behalf of those that can’t.