We’ve all heard the stories of how everything went belly up in 2000. This is not news, in fact most would go so far as to say that it’s ancient history, yet saying that would be something of a over statement I’ve found out lately.
For those of us that were around, it was quite a time to behold. It was nuts in San Francisco then. The rent on my (currently) $1350 a month apartment was a staggering $2700 a month and people were happy to pay it! Salaries were nuts. The future was nuts. You get the idea.
Once it all came down, things got a tad more normal. You could get in to restaurants again. Starbucks weren’t popping up every two blocks. Rents became affordable only in the sense that they weren’t higher than New York City. And of course the job market seemed to stop shedding jobs.
It’s this last point that is most important because it effects we, the common people the most. It is true that we’re not seeing the wild layoffs and company closures that we saw in the first couple of years after the fall. One interesting thing is that Red Herring is publishing again, which was such a dot-com magazine that I thought it would never get a second wind. But here it is, putting itself out in a weekly format now. Other companies that floundered remade themselves and some were bought out by bigger companies such as keen.com by Ingenio, homewarehouse.com by Walmart, even Red Herring by Dasar.
It seems that despite all the leveling off and the grand movement towards some kind of solidification in SF we’re still in a very odd state. This was shown recently to me by a client I was initially going to freelance for. I asked three different people what they did and I got three different answers. I realize that the days of everyone (including a four person family) needing a mission statement are gone, but isn’t it good for a company to have some kind of focus? Then it hit me. They don’t have a focus. They go wherever the money is. They’ll hire whomever they need to hire to do a job if they manage to win the bid on it. Needless to say, I decided not to get involved with them.
This may seem like a free market economy at it’s most virile, but in the same notion, it’s the sign that the craziness of the dot-com era hasn’t really ended. Instead of people finding funding from Venture Capitalists by doing a song and dance for them, they do that same show for whatever client is willing to pay the price of admission. This has ended up creating a lot of companies in town with the name “Data Architects”, “Information Experience”, or just a generic title to the business that does nothing to allude to what they actually do. Why pigeon hole yourself in to one area of expertise when you can meander through them all and kill yourself to make a living.
This is the point that I think a lot of people are missing. They don’t want to settle down in to one area because they’re afraid that in an “ever changing new economy” nothing is going to stay around long enough for them to be able to support themselves in the long term. That is the dot-com still doing the talking though. You can work in publising, or systems, or data management and pick a certain area, yet be sure of work years from now. I know people that are still programming in COBAL and that language has not been the “it” language for many, many years. We are going through a lot of changes now with the digital age reforming audio, film, and many other previously staid forms of media, but I think if people found a niche they could carve out, they would find stability. I wonder though if people are still able to do that or if that spirit has faded with the vapid, senseless era of the dot-com which has long past by?