2022 Tech Predictions

It’s that time of the year again, when I make predictions for the upcoming year. As has become my tradition now for nigh-on a decade, I will first go back over last years' predictions, to see how well I called it (and keep me honest), then wax prophetic on what I think the new year has to offer us.

As per previous years, I’m giving myself either a +1 or a -1 based on a purely subjective and highly-biased evaluational criteria as to whether it actually happened (or in some cases at least started to happen before 31 Dec 2020 ended).

By the way, as of this writing, I’m still looking for my next great adventure (ideally as an engineering leader-of-leaders), so if you find my analysis here to be interesting or intriguing–even if you disagree with it–perhaps there’s a role in which I can do this kinds of strategic and executive thinking on your company’s behalf? Would love to hear from you.

In 2021…

… I wrote a lot of stuff. (That always seems to happen when I do these.) Let’s start. I’ll include the full text of what I wrote in each bullet point first, then put the Result after it with whatever insights or comments seem relevant. (Arguably none of them are, but hey, it’s my set of predictions, so….)

We began the new year with chaos and tragedy, at least here in the United States. The Capitol Insurrection of 2021, fueled by blatantly-false claims of election fraud and whipped into a frenzy by a narcissist whose continued civic freedom depends on being “untouchable” by legal recourse, meant that a lot of us had things far, far more important than technology trends to worry about. It’s been a rough two months since then, as well, as we struggle to balance hopes for vaccines and coordinated federal response to this damnable virus against the mess that the year-plus of deliberate neglect from the previous US Adminstration created. It was hard on everyone, and in a lot of ways we all just want to “get back to normal” for whatever definition of “normal” you care to use. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to “normal” yet, though the massive rollout of vaccination programs will help, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Well… yeah. I didn’t want to be right about that last part about not being close to normal, but sadly, it held up. 2022 started much as 2021 did, adding in vaccines but also deep hysteria and distrust from the anti-vaxx crowd whipped up by right-wing agitators. (I honestly never thought I’d write those words in a sentence about the United States of America. I really didn’t.)

Thing is, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the “normal” we all knew in 2019 is probably not coming back. Frankly, we should be used to this–the “normal” we all knew in the first half of 2001 never came back, either. I remember a time when you could escort your friends and family to the boarding gate, or meet them there when they stepped off the plane. I remember a time before 20 years of armed conflict in multiple nations in the Middle East. I remember a time when you could bring your own water onto an airplane. I didn’t care for the TSA, I don’t think it actually makes us any safer, but it’s now a part of the fabric of our traveling life, and it’s pretty clear that it’s never going away. Sadly, I think the same will be true of many of the things we’ve come to embrace (by necessity) from this pandemic (and it kills me that the crowd that insisted we had to make all these changes in 2001 in the name of public safety is now telling us that all these changes in the name of public safety is government overreach).

Interesting thing, though: Not all these changes were bad. Some will have ramifications and ripple through the next decade or more, and the results might actually be things we come to embrace and enjoy. More to come.

  • Conferences will begin to pick up in September. (Probability: 0.5) This is an important one to me, personally, because I miss going places and hanging out with friends and talking technology and trends and stuff. My thinking is that the vaccinations will reach a popular “critical mass” somewhere in June–which won’t be yet “herd immunity” but enough so that everyone can know somebody personally who’s been vaccinated and “nothing bad happened”–which would then mean that conferences will scramble to put something together as quickly as they can, but will still need a few momths' lead time. Other countries, who have been more aggressive to fight the virus, will be open sooner, but the US will lag, because we’d rather let people die while arguing “freedoms” than take the pragmatic route of eliminating the virus and then do the debates.”

    Result: 0 sigh Vaccines rolled out, but depending on where you lived in the US, you may or may not have been surrounded by a statistical majority (> 50%) of people who actually took them. Despite that, several conferences braved the wilds and were, in fact, held in person (lookin' at you, KCDC), apparently successfully. (KCDC, at least, seemed to go off successfully, and even more improbably, I heard zero cases of COVID infection stemming from the conference. Woohoo! Win!) -1 for the assumption that it would be more widespread, but +1 for the fact that some did, and did so effectively.

  • Remote (anything) is going to be a huge focus. (0.7) In 2020, we had to learn how to survive without driving anywhere or stepping inside other buildings. UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub, all these “remote dining” experiences surged to the forefront of our mobile devices' home screens. Retailers figured out how to do “remote shopping”, enabling curbside or in-store pickups. Amazon, of course, saw a huge surge in use, but a surprising number of retailers took huge leaps to control their own remote distribution channel. Those that didn’t will quickly start to figure it out on their own–and Amazon may actually lose some market share as a result, as for years the principal thing Amazon did was provide that remote distribution channel. Before, when that was just one of several options, it wasn’t important enough to retailers to figure out–when it became their only option, though, they moved fast and slapped enough together to make it all work. In 2021, they’ll start to tune, improve, and perfect those channels, and Amazon will really need to start aggressively fighting against those new channels.”

    Result: +1 To be fair, this was an easy call: Grocery stores now do curbside delivery, every restaurant that wants to do any kind of business has an account with one of those (UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub, or some of the others less well-known), and streaming services continue to do a ton of business. Office work continues to remain entirely remote, which means most of your “office visits” (doctor, lawyer, financial, etc) continue to be entirely remote when/where they can, and frankly there’s no signs of this slowing down any time soon. Amazon hasn’t seemed to start “aggressively fighting against” those new channels yet, at least not with any new services, but they’re definitely being much more aggressive in commercials, I think to try and reassure the public (and reaffirm) to shop there instead. Given how much Amazon analyzes numbers, I have a feeling that either the drain to their accounts isn’t yet significant enough (perhaps there’s less overlap than I thought), or they’re preparing a major campaign for 2022. We will have to see.

  • Amazon will get the Congressional eyeball. (0.5) Bezos already took a hit to his brand with the revelations of his infidelity to his wife, and Amazon’s most recent union-busting efforts just added to the bad PR. Amazon will start to get more and more scrutiny as different companies start looking for reasons to pull their goods out of the Amazonian warehouses and do the distribution themselves–and that will cause Amazon to get a little desperate lest its profit margins come down too far… and that in turn will trigger some undesirable behavior, followed by calls for inquiry and oversight.”

    Result: -1 Nope. Lot sof “Big Tech” did, but to no real end, and with little actual movement. Amazon seems to have weathered the union-busting stories pretty well, and Bezos' infidelity sort of petered out as a story. (Which, to be honest, I like–his relationship with his wife is really his and hers to deal with, and not ours to judge.) Overall, no reasons to pull out of Amazon warehouses, no losses to the profit margins, no calls for inquiry, no calls for oversight. Probably the most complete “whiff” of the year.

  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies start drawing fire from unlikely places. (0.4) “Bitcoin consumes ‘more electricity than Argentina’, while just a year prior, it was Switzerland. And its carbon footprint is comparable to that of New Zealand. Whatever your thoughts about the viability of Bitcoin and other digitial currencies, the act of mining it is not only consuming ridiculous amounts of resources, that consumption is triggering wider ecological woes, and that’s going to draw fire from a lot of different corners of the landscape–particularly because for so many people, it’s just a weird geek-fan-whatever thing that doesn’t have any impact on the wider world. Sooner or later, some country is going to take a hard-line stance against it, and that will start the dominoes in a negative direction.”

    Result: +1 Oh, my, the backlash is building. Of course, I in no way predicted the creation of NFTs, which drew a lot of the ire and focus around the whole growing collection of blockchain-based Ponzi schemes. We haven’t seen many nations taking formal steps, but a few are.

  • ‘AI’ and ‘machine learning’ are going to run into major backlash. (0.6) Amazon ran into ethical issues with its use of machine-learned models for interviewing and hiring, because they didn’t do the right amount of validation and verification of their models before putting them into production. Not a lot of companies are going to have the patience or AI-savvy to do that, either, and as a result, media backlash will start turning the shine of AI and machine learning into glare. By years' end, we may even see Congressional inquiry into the subject(s), under the umbrella of widespread investigation into “Big Tech”.”

    Result: -1 You know, I was surprised we didn’t see more. I mean, like really surprised. There’s a growing movement around better ethical governance of AI, but for the most part, the Congressional interest in “Big Tech” isn’t really motivated or driven by AI or ML. That said, lots of groups–particularly those who represent or advocate for underprivileged/underrepresented groups–are coming out more vocally against the use of AI without oversight or analysis, and that’s good, even if I don’t consider it to be the backlash I’d thought was going to kick in.

  • Any tech company that wants to compete will need to enable WFH on demand. (0.8) Look, this past year made it pretty obvious that anybody in the technology space can do their job from anyplace in the country–if not the world. Couple that with a continued insatiable demand for tech talent, and you are quickly setting up the model for a buyers' market when it comes to finding a job. “Hmm. You say your company needs me in the office, but this other company over there doesn’t need that. Why should I work for you and add wear and tear to the streets, my car, and my nerves?” Not to mention that when you can work-from-home, you can realistically work-from-anywhere, including your parents' place while the kids are out building snowmen with grandma and grandpa. Some companies will fight hard to bring people back to the office, but they’re going to be fighting an uphill battle, and may well lose out on some prime tech talent if they can’t figure out how to be flexible. On that same note, if a company cannot or will not embrace a culture of “remote first” to allow those in the building and those outside the building to work on the same, level, playing field, that company will find itself scooping up candidates from the bottom half of the talent pool.”

    Result: +1 I feel kinda bad about giving myself credit here, because it really was there and obvious for all the world to see. Companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Google) have all tried to bring employees back to the office, but becaues of a combination of both COVID variants and worker resistance, have all but abandoned those plans thus far. I’ll be curious to read the historical analysis on this in years to come, but I posit that companies' attempts to bring people back to the office is part of what touched off the “Great Resignation” and led to the mad shuffle of employment across the industry.

  • Several voting systems to “secure the vote” will come out in the next two years. (0.7) You don’t have to believe Trump’s wild-eyed and clearly-debunked claims about election fraud to know that people are sensitive on the subject of voting. To the technology space, particularly the startup space, that just screams “I’m a market that demands disruption! Disrupt me!” and the VCs will happily toss billions of dollars at companies that promise to let you “vote from your smartphone” securely and safely. Most of these will crash and burn and take those billions down with them, but a few might make it out of beta and maybe even find some adoption in a few of the smaller states (Rhode Island would be my first target). Personally, I don’t think there’s a damn thing wrong with the system we have at the moment–but as with many things in the startup world, it’s not about fact, it’s about perception.”

    Result: -1 Well, I suppose I have another year to go before I have to call the result on this one, but for the most part we seem pretty content to just let things go as they are. If anything, one half of the political electorate seems to prefer the idea of restricting who gets to vote and how easily, rather than trying to secure better the systems of how we vote. It will be interesting to see how this continues over the next year, going into the mid-term elections, but right now it looks very much like the conservatives of the country are quite content to keep in place the same system they deeply distrusted over the last year–and, I suspect, leave them the opportunity to cry foul if and when their candidate(s) loses again next year.

  • Social media spinoffs will proliferate. (0.6) Parler was just the beginning–now that we’ve proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that we really can’t get along together on a single social media platform, many groups will start flocking to social media platforms of their own choice, further polarizing the conversations there. It will have nothing to do with technology or security–it will have everything to do with humans' basic desire to be among people “just like me”. Ironically, Facebook and Instagram will be losing their stranglehold grip on the social media world just as they start feeling the ire of Congressional gaze, which will further their downward trend. These new platforms will have some space in which to grow and draw eyeballs–and unfortunately allow people to stew inside echo chambers even more.”

    Result: 0 There’ve been a few that have gotten under way, but they’ve really not seen a lot of uptick, it seems. We as a group are perhaps too deeply addicted to our habits of Facebook and Twitter to consider moving our social profile to a newcomer. That said, though, they’re still out there, and drawing some attention, and it’s important to remember that Rome (and Facebook) wasn’t built in a day (or year), either.

  • Languages and platforms will march on, and no one will really care. (0.8) Anybody know what version of Java is the latest? C#? JavaScript? Fact is, most of the popular languages in use are in the tapering-off point of the “value gained per new feature” curve, and most of us have stopped paying attention to the feature list of new releases. Sure, you may have some pet feature of C# you’re waiting to see make it into the long-term-support (LTS) release, so your company can move to adopt that version of the language, but for the most part, whether that happens this year or next, it really makes little difference to your ship schedule. For the most part, now, knowing the latest features in these languages is about proving your knowledge and alpha-geek-ness, not about using them to solve actual business problems.”

    Result: +1 Java’s at 18, C# is at 9 or 10 or something, and who even knows what ECMAScript 2021 looks like.

  • A collegiate and university education backlash is about to begin. (0.7) When the pandemic hit, all the schools went into lockdown, including the collegiate and university campuses that had for so many years told us that the thousands of dollars students spend there was for the “college experience”. When the “college experience” consists of Zoom calls from your home from professors who often couldn’t figure out how to use Zoom for the first half of the semester, delivering substandard content compared to courses from Udemy or Khan Academy, and exposing professorial misconduct (like the professor who chastised a hard-of-hearing student for ‘not paying attention’ during remote classes) for all the world to see, it’s really, really hard to understand why anyone would pay thousands of dollars per semsester for that privilege. Given how coding bootcamps can provide much of the tactical skills (but not the larger conceptual understanding–they’re trade schools, not universities, and let’s keep that clear) that employers are looking for in junior developers, why would I spend $50k to get that diploma from UC Riverside or Iowa State in four years? Colleges and universities are going to have to scramble to figure out how to keep from just doing “business as usual”, if they want to avoid a striking loss of registration numbers that will only get worse as the pandemic continues.”

    Result: 0 The backlash around remote education definitely shifted to the elementary and high schools, but thus far universities and colleges aren’t feeling the sting–yet. Anecdotally, I talk with college students, and they’re asking these same questions, though, and thus far the universities and colleges haven’t really put together any kind of message that addresses it, so the backlash may be starting quietly. Expecting to see any sort of tangible or measurable result in a single calendar year might have been a little aggressive; this one may take a decade to play out. For now, I’m still seeing people talk about it, but a lot of the energy is caught up in online-vs-in-person debates. Students and faculty simultaneously (a) don’t want to expose themselves to COVID, and (b) don’t want to spend their college experience online.

  • Resilience and failover will be the focus in the Ops-minded world. (0.7) The huge loads on servers from people staying at home and using digital channels caught a lot of companies by surprise, and they suffered outages as their predictive load models failed them utterly. In 2021, these companies will put a bunch of engineering into making sure they can handle the load, just in time to see the load start to draw back down as people start getting out of their homes more. Once the pandemic eases up enough to allow us to leave the house and dine safely anywhere in town, we won’t see that high-water mark of server load again for some time–but companies, like generals, love to prepare to fight the last war, and they will put a large investment of time, money, and thought into systems that can scale in time for the next pandemic (a hundred years from now).”

    Result: +1 It definitely was the focus during my time at Rocket Mortgage, and from watching some of the articles and periodicals around the DevOps space, resiliency and failover were definitely hot-button topics. Some of that could easily be confirmation bias, though, and honestly I was expecting more, so I’m marking it a zero, Dude.

In summary:

  • eleven predictions,
  • three 0s,
  • and three -1s

… leaving me with five +1s, just a shade under 50%. Not bad, and about my average, it seems.

2022 Predictions

With that settled up, let’s take a look at what I think will happen across calendar year 2022.

Overall, it’s going to be “more of the same” with respect to the pandemic. Thanks to the intransigence of some selfish and closed-minded people, the COVID virus has plenty of people in whom it can mutate and incubate before spawing a new variant, and that will mean that COVID will, likely, remain a fact of our lives for quite some time to come. Hopefully we can get enough of a grip on it that it becomes more “comfortable” for us as a society, a la influenza, but COVID for the moment still represents a major threat to the lives and health of too many folks. For now, all indications are that there won’t be a “cliff” that will indicate the end of the pandemic and a return to normal life; we will likely “taper down” slowly, masks and vaccine cards and boosters (and all the arguments that come with all of those) being a part of our lives for probably a half-decade to come.

Specifically, though, I think 2022 will show us the following:

  • 5G rollout is going to be a lot more contentious than we expected. (Probability 0.6) 5G rollout two years ago wasn’t a sure thing, but then it was because of crackpot theories about how it would affect brainwaves or somesuch nonsense. Now, the FAA has concerns, and that’s a helluva lot more serious. It’s pretty likely that the technical issues will be addressed, but this could very well turn into the next conspiracy-theorist farmground, which in turn will create barriers and obstacles.

  • Demand for full-stack developers will continue to leave companies high-and-dry. (0.8) If this isn’t alreday self-evident to you, you’re clearly not in a position of trying to hire engineers these days. Big Tech companies are throwing ever-greater compensation numbers at people, driving the equilibrium price for developers up, and that’s before we even consider the ever-increasing numbers of tech jobs that are outpacing the numbers of people who can fill them. If a company is expecting to grow their developer staff significantly, trying to hire “full-stack” is going to run into significant hurdles, particularly if they aren’t willing to move fast, take a few risks, and pay handsomely.

    This is going to have some interesting second-order effects:

    • Work-from-home will become normalized as part of the landscape. (0.8) Talk to that one friend you have that’s a classic Keynesian economist, and they’ll tell you that when supply is tight and demand is high, in addition to a high equilibrium price, the market starts to see “complementary” and “supplementary” effects kicking in. In this case, those high-demand engineers are going to get their pick of the perks, and one that many of them seem to value highly is the flexibility to work from home. That in turn will create (or enhance) pressure to let everybody on the team to work remotely–or else find that you need to hire replacements to adjust for the attrition of people leaving for places who can, still, work from home.

    • Companies will start “growing” their own developer staff. (0.6) It’s not something that every company can do, but those that can are going to start thinking, “If I can’t buy the people I need, then I’ll have to grow them.” Rocket Mortgage was ahead of the game on this one, having put a program in place a few years ago already that was, for all intents and purposes, a developer bootcamp for people wishing ot make a mid-career change. Not all companies will have the resources of the nation’s #1 mortgage lender, but other approaches are available: partner with existing bootcamps, join a few companies together to sponsor one, hire a bunch of juniors and apprentice them to others within the company, or even do something a little more informal like a mentoring program or internal book club or something. Whatever it is, though, those companies that start thinking aggressively about growing their next generation of developers are going to see it pay off; if you take a junior or a recent bootcamp grad and invest in them, their gratitude and loyalty will more than pay off.

    • Automation tools and platforms will climb in use. (0.7) The more work we can pull off the senior full-stack developer, the more work they can get done that can’t be automated. As a result, managers and execs are going to start looking for tools and platforms that can automate all the things–well beyond the whole “DevOps” suite of things. Workflows, processes, emails, the whole enchilda, it’s all going to be “on the table” for anyone or anything that can cut the developer load down. This would be a good year to have an automation startup going.

      By the way, corollary to this: Tools to automate the use of online services–and the rampant abuse and fraud using those tools–will also climb through the roof. If you offer a website or an API (and who doesn’t?!?), spend some time in 2022 figuring out how people can abuse your system. (If your answer is a confident, “They can’t!”, you didn’t think hard enough. If your answer is a confident, “They wouldn’t!” then your business is clearly not diverse or interesting enough.)

    • No-code/low-code tools and platforms will surge. (0.7) Same song, different verse: low supply plus high demand equals high equilibrium price for that good/service, and supplementary (replacement) options will begin to become more attractive. For the developer ecosystem, that’s low-code/no-code tools and platforms. I expect there will be a ton of chaos and movement in this space, and probably by 2023 or 2024 these platforms will start to diversify as their various features commodotize. But that’ll take a while–for now, we’re just going to see a sharp rise in the use of these tools, mostly by companies that have never considered themselves “tech” companies. (And if you’re a consulting provider to these sorts of firms, you might want to think about how to tap into this world–and not just by selling services on top of somebody else’s low-code/no-code platform, because those vendors are going to be pushing the barrier-to-entry for use of their platform as low as they can reasonably get it–which means now you’re just selling labor, not expertise.)

    • Developer market will grow. Slowly. (0.7) The other thing that a high equilibrium price does? Attract more players to it.

    • Job descriptions will emphasize more about skills (including human skills) and less on degrees/certifications. (0.8) One interesting corollary to the tight-labor-market perspective is that companies who are finding it hard to hire are going to start paying closer attention to their job descriptions and tune them more effectively to attract talent. Five years ago, “5 years Java” wouldn’t have been really a great match against a senior C# development position; today, that’ll totally work, if the candidate is down to learn C#. So let’s not call it “5 years Java”, let’s call it “Comfortable with an O-O enterprise language”.

      The “laundry list” of “X years in Y technology” are going to start giving way to “(Feeling) in (category)” kinds of descriptors, like “Comfortable in object-oriented languages” or “Conversant with Web front-end development”. Companies might have been able to let their ATS (applicant tracking system) pick and choose which resumes to view back when the supply was higher and they didn’t have as many people they needed to hire; that’s gone for now.

      Smart companies are also going to zoom in on their interview pipelines and look for ways to trim costs (elapsed time and person-hours being two metrics I’d examine), as well as look at the overall efficiency of their interview pipeline (# of candidates against # of hires) to make sure their recruiting team is giving them the biggest bang-for-recruiting-buck.

  • Remote tooling vendors will look to improve. (0.6) Teams, Zoom, WebEx, they all have one thing in common: We routinely lament the fact that “they all suck”. (Anecdotally, which one you think sucks the most appears to be directly proportional to the amount of time you use it.) The fact that we can do this sort of virtual meeting at all is a pretty amazing thing (on the same order of, “It’s a chair, in the sky!", if you ask me), but there’s still some things that the meeting tools don’t really handle well (shared whiteboarding/doodling, for example, which is really important to technical conversations). The various players are now well-established–so long as we have hybrid WFA/WFO in place, these tools will be a part of our lives–so now they need to start figuring out how to differentiate from one another. (Which will commodotize over time, and arguably already has, but that’s another analysis for another day.)

    As a corollary to this, look for lots of other tools to figure out how to embed/incorporate remote aspects into their workflow. Visual Studio Code started this, and I imagine the other IDE vendors are hard at work figuring out how to duplicate that feature or something similar to it.

  • “Older” tech will start to see a surge of interest and rise in adoption. (0.6) This isn’t a knock on the “older generation”, per se, (particularly because I’m on the cusp of being a part of it), but the rise of complexity around all these tools and platforms and applications is just getting to the point that it’s becoming a mess to keep track of anything. Case in point: How many streaming services are there? How many of us have different streaming services that go to particular devices and aren’t available on other devices? (Or they could, IF we spent the time to configure something correctly. Maybe.) There’s only so much complexity people can handle in their lives, and they’re going to start looking for ways to claw some of that cognitive budget back by simplifying by going back to simpler tools. Case in point: I really prefer straight POTS (plain old telephone service) calls these days over video meetings.

  • Theranos will teach us something… but we’ll not be sure exactly what. (0.5) The story of Theranos may have sent some ripples through the Silicon Valley around overhyped technology and throwing huge amounts of cash into hot startups, but the lessons to be learned from the whole thing are less clear. Don’t invest in wild promises? Dude, that’s what the VC funds are built to do. Don’t fall for first-time founders' claims of what they can make happen? The VC funds are often made up of money from first-time founders who are convinced their success has everything to do with their “methodology” and little-to-nothing to do with luck. Theranos represents everything that’s wrong with the startup community… but we aren’t sure what that means. Much will be written, little will be done, and we’ll be having this conversation again in a few years around a different startup, because the Valley would rather lose billions than learn a lesson.

  • NFTs, crypto; corporate promotion of NFTs followed by a huge backlash/abandonment. (0.6) In the words of several of my schoolmates growing up, “ERmigawd, how GRODY”. Blockchain/crypto-based tech systems aren’t even trying to make sense anymore, they’re just throwing big words at investment funds and relying on the opacity of the words to convince people they’re the next hot investment. NFTs are just the latest in the Ponzi pyramid–you get to own a certificate that declares nothing more than the fact that you own a certificate. (No, you don’t own the image, or the original, you literally just own the certificate; see “NFTs are like those old ‘star registry’ scams” for an apt example and corresponding debate.) Big companies–Twitter, for example–are starting to get into the NFT thing, but let’s be honest, many of them have money to burn, and throwing a billion USD into this, against a 1% chance of it actually being something beyond just a huge pit into which you toss money, is actually a reasonable move. But average folks buying the NFTs are going to figure out the scam fairly quick, and those celebrity buyers even quicker, and that’s going to create a backlash and a hue-and-cry for regulation, and people will scurry out of them almost as fast as they scurried into them.

    Or not–some of those star registries are still operating to this day, so… shrug

  • More non-developer-sales companies will build Developer Relations teams. (0.7) This is one of my happier predictions, in that it’s one of my predictions that would make me happy if it comes true. :-) Developer Relations used to be “technical sales” to developers, something that Microsoft and Google and Amazon and other companies-who-sell-tech-to-development-departments would create and support, in order to have folks who knew how to talk to their principal customers–developers–about the things companies wanted to sell. But over the past decade, the definition of “developer relations” is shifting, becoming less sales/marketing-to-developers, and more “connecting technologists–both internal and external to the company–to their corresponding communities”. I’ve personally been a part of this twice, building DevRel teams for two companies whose principal customer base aren’t developers. It takes time, and it takes dedication, but let’s be clear: If your company has an API, you clearly expect developers to use it, and if you expect developers to use your API, you need a team to meet them on their turf and be there when they have questions and triage their bug reports and provide samples and so on and so on and so on. All of that falls under the general heading of “developer relations”, and if you don’t have one of those teams, you may as well shut down any expectations of people outside your company using your API.

  • Open-source backlash/flight/pressure grows. (0.7) One of the sadder things we witnessed in 2021 was the log4j security vulnerability debacle. I call it a debacle not because I blame the log4j team for having that feature in the library (although, honestly, I have long believed that diagnostic logs are way over-engineered for the problem they need to solve), but because companies' worst tendencies around open-source software came to full flower and fruition, and made it very clear that the FOSS ecosystem is inherently unsustainable in its current form.

    The current ecosystem is built, realistically, on a Communist economic model: “From each (developer willing to volunteer their time and energy), according to their ability, to each (open-source project), according to its needs.” In theory, the system works wonderfully well; in practice, it has no answer to actors who are willing to “coast” on the backs of the effort of those willing to volunteer their time and energy. When a given community is small, and social pressures can be used to ensure fair distribution of effort, this model can work. (Think families, or startups, or even apartment co-operatives.) When the community grows large enough that we aren’t faced with the disapproving stares of our peers for coasting…. And here we are.

    Open-source project maintainers, particularly those projects that aren’t the most amazing/sexy thing of the year, do tremendous amounts of work, and get zero recognition when they get it right, and all the media focus and scorn when they get it wrong. That isn’t going to change any time soon, and the contributors will slowly drain off, creating more pressure on the remaining contributors, until something kicks in to start replenishing the pool. (My bet is companies will eventually face up to the fact that they depend on these FOSS projects like other companies do their supply chain, and start investing in it, but it’ll take a while, and even then there will still be that temptation to coast.)

    All of this is going to create greater instability in this community, and cause some serious soul-searching amongst the people upon whose backs it’s built.

  • New programming languages are going to start the R&D cycle on languages again. (0.6) They may be “service-oriented”, they may be something else, but languages like Ballerina, Jolie, and Dark are basically suggesting that there’s a new level of abstraction to be sought as a linguistic first-class citizen. Frankly, if you’ve been doing any sort of service development (micro- or otherwise), you’ve felt the costs and pain (in terms of complexity and the number of moving parts you have to track) of doing so. Cloud vendors are trying to suggest that “serverless” is the way to go, but in a lot of ways it just trades the complexity off to other ares of the app; a new paradigm is what’s needed, to bring the complexities back down to human-manageable levels.”

    I wrote that for the 2020 Predictions, and I still believe it to be true. Ballerina is starting to build its hype, but more importantly we’re starting to see people exploring languages as ways of approaching low-code/no-code kinds of development. I think this is only going to increase as the year(s) move on.

  • Some company is going to be really happy they took me up on that hypothetical in the second paragraph. (0.8) The one about contacting me about figuring out a leadership role within the company. I build some strong teams that can do some really interesting things….

Talk to you all next year… if not sooner.