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Thornton Hall

The Revolution Will Be Kuhnian.

Computer Savvy Millennials Have No Idea How Software Industry Works

I love bloggers Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein of Slate and The Washington Post, respectively. They are my neighbors. We shop at the same Target in Columbia Heights. All three of us think the richest country in the history of the world should be able to guarantee it's citizens quality, affordable health care. 

But I've lived here a little longer than the two of them and I know that Northern Virginia didn't get rich by making the best Asian food in the Mid-Atlantic. All the best Asian restaurants are there, but nobody get's rich on restaurants. Reston was built by software, and that software was built by people I've met. Things are going about how I expected.

But here is how you react to the problems if you are millennial Matt Yglesias, who knows so much about computers that he's never seen a typewriter outside of a museum: "This was an embarassing failure."  

Meanwhile, Ezra is panicked, these are no glitches, this is BAD CODE: "There's a darkly amusing thread on Reddit where web designers are picking through the site's code and mocking it mercilessly." 

He must be really smart about computers if he reads stuff on Reddit, right? Maybe.

I didn't learn about the way Northern Virginia software companies work by following social media. Instead, I have had conversations with people who have made millions of dollars selling really big software systems to both the government and private sector. Here's how it works:

  • Create a software product with lots of flashy features that sound great to the customer.
  • Sell the software as a package deal with a "consulting contract" to maintain the systems and "stay on top of the ever changing needs of business/government."
  • The software does not work.
  • Explain that all will be well after just a little work by the consultants.
  • Somehow, the software always needs just another tweak from the consultants.
  • Renew consulting contract.

At the end of the day, our military gets where it was going and your order from Amazon makes it to your house. The online Obamacare exchanges will muddle through as well.


Beautiful Reston, Virginia, USA.

Beautiful Reston, Virginia, USA.

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