November 9, 2017

10 worries that should keep every developer up at night (2018 edition)

If you thought that 2016 was tough and that 2017 was a wild ride, get in your bunker and wait out 2018

We’re coming into the holidays and the end of the year, a natural time to think about everything that could go wrong in the new year. Here’s what I’m going to worry about in 2018, and what other developers should worry about too!

If you thought that 2016 was tough and that 2017 was a wild ride, get in your bunker and wait out 2018—because it is going to make 2016 and 2017 look like the dot-com boom years! (How seriously should you take my worries? Let my worries for 2017 be your guide!)

Worry No. 1: FCC chairman Ajit Pai

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai serves his masters at Verizon and Comcast well. I’ve written about some of his antics, which include rolling back net neutrality to letting Verizon (his former employer) and Comcast spy on you. If you work in software and not in infrastructure, this man is not working for you. Expect even more consumer-predatory deregulation and regulation next year due to Pai’s efforts.

Worry No. 2: Yet another hacking scandal

Hacking scandals always land on my worries lists. I do it to up my score, because I can depend on it every year—and every year it gets bigger, from Ashley Madison to Equifax.

At least with Ashley Madison we all got to shake our head at the poor slobs who deserved it and weren’t smart enough to use a dummy email account. But with Equifax you have half the country exposed.

The thing is, companies still treat security as an afterthought to be “audited” with a meaningless set of rules after the fact. (For example: Did you uselessly obfuscate passwords that can be easily cracked if I’ve already gotten to your filesystem anyhow?) Companies don’t think of security as a thing that goes into everything they do, including how they develop their software. (Did we create a centralized security service? Did we vet the developers we hired from that offshore company?)

I promise you there will be another big hacking scandal this year—because most of the big companies we do business with follow the same awful practices.

Worry No. 3: JavaScript

I confess, I think of JavaScript as that grease-monkey language for the under-30 crowd. Most of the time, I get someone else to write it for me. However, JavaScript is eating the world. Join me in making a New Year’s resolution to learn the modern dialect of it.

Worry No. 4: That woman you harassed

With accusations now leveled rom Uber to entrepreneur Robert Scoble, you can no longer get away with being “that guy.” Although it is about power and women can be harassers too, with tech’s hiring so skewed to men, we can statistically be very confident in saying in our industry it is mostly men who do this.

Your company needs better practices. You need to clean up your act and not get so raging drunk at conferences and parties. If you see this crap happening, you had better say something. Pretend your career depends on it. It probably does.

Worry No. 5: A massive new technology trend

There aren’t any major new trends right now; all the trends that get attention have been going on for at least a few years. NoSQL, cloud migration, microservices, machine learning, Javascriptization, Spark—it has all been has been all happening for a while. So I think we’re about due for a new upset.

Worry No. 6: Your proprietary search technology

Microsoft bought Fast in 2008, then basically discontinued it into SharePoint. Oracle bought Endeca in 2010 and basically let it rot while making its users pay the Oracle tax. Now Google has discontinued the Google Search Appliance.

The bottom line is that the search wars are ending and, although there probably won’t be only one winner, it is all but guaranteed the winner will be based on open source technology. Those that don’t get on board are doomed to wander from search technology to search technology like a modern Odysseus. You can read about Reddit’s experience and extrapolate it to your situation. (Full disclosure: I work for Lucidworks, a major open source search provider.)

Worry No. 7: The economy

Frankly, our current leadership is volatile. Whether it be the political climate, more war, financial deregulation leading to another bust, or just because “we’re due,” you can probably start looking for the next recession right about now. (And of course they’ll blame President Barack Obama!)

Worry No. 8: Your retirement plan and taxes

If you’re reading this on your yacht, there is good news for you in the next year! With a new tax plan (assuming Congress can pass it), you’re going to do great!

If you’re reading this from your cubicle or apartment, get ready to open your wallet. One key proposal will “Rothize” your 401(k) retirement plan, which means you get to pay more taxes now. This means you either need cut your current spending or plan for a more meager retirement.

Worry No. 9: Your overpriced smartphone

The higher the price of your phone, the more likely it is to blow up in your hand or go dark. The new Pixel 2XL has screen burn-in problems, and Apple announced the iPhone X’s OLED screen can suffer from the same issues. Of course, Apple did so in way that just blames your perception of “working properly,” not its decision to use burn-in-prone OLED technology in the first place, because that’s just how Apple rolls.

On all the “flagship” devices, we’ve also seen continued quality control issues and a dubious quest for full-width glass that makes the devices harder and harder to use as essential features get replaced with obscure gestures or moved to the back where they are harder to use.

The prices keep going up and the failures are becoming bigger. Let’s keep standing in line for the latest and most expensive smartphone, shall we?

Worry No. 10: The next wave of impersonation

With phishing, identity theft, and fake news, impersonating people and reality will continue to get worse.

The good news is that we have some of the technologies to combat this. But the bad news is that there will be trade-offs. For one, you’ll have to cough up ways to verify your identity. For two, the war against these sorts of fraud will be ongoing and never-ending.

November 9, 2017