Money In The Ghetto

I keep thinking about Zed Shaw’s vitriolic (and newly updated) posting, and one particular aspect about it that seems to bother me. One way of looking at a ghetto is that is keeps people in. Another, is that is keeps outsiders away. In either case, it is an economy, like most any other. And like any economy, there are winners and losers.

What exactly is Zed complaining about? That the overall level of technical competence is very low, even among many self-proclaimed developers? That the industry has lots of hustlers and scammers? That the MAN is keeping us down and holding back our progress? I am just curious, what was the ideal environment that Zed was waxing sentimentally about? Oh yeah, developing software for the NYC Department of Corrections. Hmmm, time for a gratuitous link about the prison-industrial complex.

Ahem, back to whatever point I was trying to make. Some people look at the folks who are collecting recyclables out of the trash as disgusting. Myself, I see them as micro-entrepreneurs. It is a desirable occupation? Of course not. But it is an alternative to the corporate/governmental control structures.

I can certainly understand Zed’s frustration with the relatively small amount of influence developers have in most development projects, and how many shysters are looking to exploit someone. But this is not something unique to any particular industry. It has to do with human nature, and let’s not think for a minute that anyone is immune.

The “ghetto startup” mentality has certain advantages than the entrenched corporate interests, because in the creative chaos there is opportunity for the individual entrepreneur to do something independently from the established control systems. Is the Ruby on Rails community a ghetto? A shantytown? Or is it a successfully growing colony of ingenious social anarchists, and the inevitable hangers-on, sycophants, and moochers that follow success?

So, let me complete this metaphor. I, for one, am not going to complain too much about the stupid A & R execs and greedy managers that are hanging around the clubs signing anyone in sight. Nor am I going to complain about how so many artists are stealing my sound. Instead, I am going to sell mix tapes out of the trunk of my car, and just try to get paid.