Software development during the pandemic

2020 has been an year filled with uncertainty and fear. A virus no one knows much about spreads invisibly throughout the world.

It may or may not kill you in 3 days. If you survive, it may or may not leave you impaired for life. You may or may not have already been infected.

The first reaction in the face of such thing, understandably, is panic. Lock yourself at home and pray you are not infected.

If you are blessed to stay healthy, next comes: follow the news relentlessly. The hope is the advent of a vaccine. Maybe some treatment sill allow the return of normality sooner.

Nobody knows. Nobody knows.

The end of the world

Life goes on, kids devolve into iPad-plugged zombies, parents loose all vestige of mental health they had, macro and micro economies go to shambles around the world. This is the stuff wars spawn from.

All sorts of opportunists take the stage. We are humans, after all. Economists warn of unprecedented crisis ahead. Politicians point to the all-times-high bad indicators to blame the parties in power.

All sorts of prophets of apocalypse come forward, hoping to somehow benefit from the mayhem. After a point, those people are better left ignored.


But for a moment, scavenging the world news, I did find a vestige of hope in some good news. Some countries came to the verge of eradicating the damn virus.

In the end of April some countries were reporting zero new cases for days. Iceland, South Korea, even Australia were presenting very good numbers.

While Covid-19 at this stage remains a world catastrophe and the number of infections soar in most countries, a few others seem to have found a way to control it.

It meant there was something we, simple people, could do about this whole madness. By staying at home, following social distance, complying to a few set of rules and with some luck, one could return to normality.

I have no ties to New Zealand whatsoever, but it was with pride that I saw Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, claim she did a little dance after officially declaring her country free of COVID-19. I was just happy to see the prevalence of good will over this calamity. It meant it was possible.

But no. Two days latter they had to admit new infections were detected when a couple of foreign visitors were allowed to roam before observing quarantine.

South Korean numbers climbed back to about 50 per day throughout June and July, Iceland has some 5 cases a day, New Zealand is 1 or 2 every other day, and Australia is facing a full scale surge in Melbourne.

We just can’t get rid of this virus.

The new (ab)normal

It is as Angela Merkel and some scientists warned months ago: we will have to live with this for a long time.

I mean, there are still good news. New Zealand is a great place to be right now. The very few cases they have are under scrutiny, locked away and the rest of country is supposedly safe.

Iceland has had no deaths for a long time, and even the worst hit countries like Italy and France have been reporting under 50 deaths per day over the last weeks. Those numbers were at over 1,000 at the thick of the crisis.

But life is not back to normal. It won’t for many months ahead. It is not getting easier.

The economic crisis the prophets of apocalypse were talking about, the mental health issues now exacerbated by multiples, are all here to stay. There is no immediate solution in sight and we will all have to live through this somehow.

I had problems before: career wise, financially wise, meaning-of-life wise. They are now just much worse. What to do?


In light of all that, the following five insights should have a growing impact over the business of software development from now on.

1. Growing competition.

This trend started long ago. The 9-to-5 job became (1) insufficient to provide for the family, (2) more and more the source of a miserable and unfulfilling life.

But it is and it has always been very hard to escape from it.

Yet, people are pushed to fend for themselves, to work on their spare time to complement their income.

You are expected to have two, three jobs just to get by.

And this push is stronger than ever.

But this is not to say the market is saturated. Technology continues to advance and to create new space and opportunities.

2. Questioning of authority and institutions.

As universities, schools and teaching institutions in general struggle to adapt to the new social distancing requirements, the very need for their existence comes in check.

Why does one has to pay thousands of dollars for a semester at a renowned institution when the course will be offered online and its content is not different from others available for a fraction of the price?

The discrepancy is more blatant as the more expensive the course is.

But the most elitist institutions serve a social purpose that remains unchallenged. They exist to protect the elite.

The stipends for a course at an Ivy League university may seem outrageous to many. But some look at it as an opportunity to send their children to spend time with the children of other wealthy, powerful families, which increases the chance of marriages between those families.

And for that, the stipends are not high. Therefore, those institutions will not be replaced.

But the current crisis calls for easier and more accessible ways to spread knowledge, which is a welcome change.

3. Shattering, wrecking of corporations as supporters of the economy.

Do you want to buy food, pay the rent and support your family? Go find a job.

Well, now there are no jobs. And if you find one, it isn’t enough to pay the bills. Or it lasts only 6 months.

Markets have grown more and more competitive, and the bill is being passed to the workers. So a job is no longer enough.

Well, if you have to fend for yourself, why spend time looking for a job in the first place?

But supporting oneself with an online business is still enormously more risky than having a job.

Here to hoping the easier access to knowledge, reduction of bureaucracy and advance of technology bring down this risk sooner than later.

4. Push to self-sustainability by the use of technology and social media.

Creating a business is a difficult thing.

Product development, testing, distribution, marketing, accounting, lawyers. The list goes on.

But each one of these parts have been becoming easier with time.

We have come to a point where it is feasible for a single person to execute all steps.

That is not easy, but it used to be impossible not long ago.

Not only technology has evolved to speed processes, but also knowledge has become more accessible.

There are many more resources online about running a business, and for free.

It is still hard to find it. There is a lot of segmentation, bad advice and misinformation. But it is possible to find the required knowledge for free.

5. Reckoning and violent transformation of social media.

Social media is practically inevitable in running an online business these days. They have taken advertisements to a whole new level.

But their own nature - being social - involves a stronger feedback loop than more traditional media. Through comments, likes and post shares the audience has a stronger participation in the success or failure of a brand.

One of the problems of this new model is hate.

For a long time now online creators have been faced with unfiltered, personal and strong attacks online.

The problem with the so called trolls was directly linked to an increase in the number of suicides and has led to calls for new discussions about mental health.

And the pandemic only seems to have made it worse.

Unemployment, uncertainty and fear seem to be directly correlated to spreading hate online.

Perhaps, lashing out at people who seem to be doing well is a way to justify our own failure, to point out the unfairness of the system.

Because social networks like Twitter and Facebook have been dangerous places these last weeks.

People seem a lot quicker to judge, challenge, diminish or just to be mean. Even more than usual.

I attribute this to human nature, a consequence of the general sense of impotence and desperation.

And if it is so, it is best to stay away for while. Wait for better news, for things to calm down.

Hopefully, cooler minds will prevail and the Internet will be a place to help us all overcome these trying times, as we so badly need right now.

July 13, 2020.