Attended a great session in Edinburgh called ‘ScotSoft2006’. This is a local event organised by ScotlandIS, www.scotlandis.com , and included a panel session of Industry ‘worthies’ in discussion with the thriving local Scottish IT community. The quality of the people attending, and the questions to those of us on the panel, was truly excellent, and I really must mention great stuff from fellow panel members including Jeff Wacker. Not only does Jeff have one great name but also a great title on his business card, namely; ‘Futurologist’, but he was good, nothing stupid, but solid stuff about the things impacting the next 2 to 5 years.

What set me thinking however was the relative disconnection between the younger, and exceedingly clever, university students, and the older industry employed professionals. This seemed to be based on two separate and distinct themes; working in the IT industry, and whether their view of the future was based on IT as we broadly define it today, or on something else. Okay, for those of you who have read the Blog before this may not be new, but maybe you don’t get the exposure to the same things as I do, and here it is being acted out right in front of me again with awful clarity.
Number one, a career in an IT department looks a very poor choice, therefore a degree and thesis on conventional IT type topics is not interesting. Why? Because it looks like a commoditised treadmill constantly at risk of being sent off shore to the Indians, or whoever else wants this kind of new era ‘sweatshop’ work. No longer are the usual employers interesting to the brightest students, nor are the products of the largest vendors for similar reasons. ‘It’s where we were, not where we are going’ was the best tag line to this conversation.
A question on Open Source leading to the panel answers around the familiar issues of; ‘could you trust it to run your banking transaction system on? No, I don’t think so’. Produced the nearest thing to an audience hissing displeasure under its breath, yet for those making this reply with the existing, (okay if you must call them legacy do so), systems it was a sensible reply. They were straight back with Apache and Web Server farms in Amazon and alike as proof you could, and thus did the two sides miss each other even though both were correct.
So where do they see their future? Seems to be in the fullest sense of Open Source communities building a new generation of unique code for what I will call ‘personal’ or maybe ‘community’ living. I use the word living as opposed to software as all the solutions that they individually talked about were life style oriented. That means things to make a user’s life at home, work and play, (to quote an old advertising line), easier and more effective and efficient in every day matters. They don’t see this as being funded by a VC but being ‘back to the garage’ type start-ups, so they all feel they are in with a chance.
My conclusion? We are heading for several versions of IT and technology and each version is aimed at, sold to and used by a different community. Corporate IT will still be needed, employees will be given more personal freedom, but within a new type of corporate policy framework to ensure that their ‘work’ is aligned with and consistent to the corporate need, and finally a whole new market for consumer based lifestyle working where innovation and fashion will dictate the pace.
Will it work? Judging by the work I saw from some of these guys certainly, they have real skill in attacking what they choose to do differently, usually with community support and it works!