Monday, March 25, 2002

This thought ocurred to me while reading Eric Alterman's screed agsint Andrew Sullivan, primarily based on Sullivan's lifestyle and the fact the he has a weblog.

The blogging phenomenon has proven one thing -- we are all writers now. Almost all white collar jobs require some degree of effective written communication, and many blue collar jobs as well. Reading and writing effectively is always listed as the primary goal of education; schools that make it a lower priority open themselves up to criticism. Even for "techie" jobs like mine, communication skills are more highly valued than technical skills.

This is scary for people who make their living by writing. If almost everyone has developed the same skill, then how can professionals charge a premium for their services? They can't -- they'll have to distinguish themselves with a uinique perspective, cleverness, or information. Mere competence in composition skill won't cut it any more.

I've thought of this with regard to my own career in software development. I hold a computer science degree from a Top 20 university, but that's becoming less and less relevant. As generations become more and more proficient with technology, and the techonology becomes more accessible, there won't be as much need for "professional software developers" anymore, since that skill won't be so uncommon. This has already started, with the rash of "script kiddies" who quickly became proficient in technologies like HTML, Visual Basic, VBScript, and JavaScript. These skills will become less unique, and professionals will have to find new ways to distinguish themselves.

This is good news for quality, as the works that gain prominenece will be those with unique insights, not those who had the money, time, and inclination to sit through a bunch of classes. But it's bad news for those who have been resting on their degrees and the fact that they've "paid their dues."

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