There are many negative consequences in the world of software development from the current poor economic conditions. Some of the most obvious negative consequences include the massive layoffs in the industry, elimination of conferences such as the SD West and Software Development Best Practices conferences, unused IT equipment, and potential reduction of investment in software services and support. In trying to find the silver lining until things improve, we can identify some positive consequences of these troubled economic times. By taking advantage of these advantages resulting from the bad economic times, we can hopefully better weather this storm.
There are some specific areas of the software development world that might actually benefit from these difficult times. For example, many believe that the bad economy is leading to increased interest in open source (such as Linux). Similarly, some also believe that these tough times will be good for lean and agile development. Others believe that Software As A Service (SaaS) business has higher 2009 projections in some estimates. Others believe that recession drives return to built-in, standards-based approaches rather than mixing of various libraries and frameworks. Still others see this leading to a new level of interest in cloud computing and mobile development.
Difficult economic times have been known to lead to increased innovation and entrepreneurism. This is often attributed to the understandable aversion to taking risks when one has a stable job that is overcome when that job is no longer available. Similarly, many people return to school or other types of training to improve their skills. Again, this is something that may have seemed too time consuming or difficult to do while working a full-time job, but seems more doable when unemployed. Furthermore, one often has more motivation to learn new things and new skills in the tougher times.
Another silver lining of unemployment can be the realization of (or remembering) the importance of networking, friends, and acquaintances. This is when sites like LinkedIn can be particularly valuable. It is best if these are kept to some degree before the period of unemployment, but it better to start late than never with the social networking. In addition, there are often many other lessons learned from unemployment as well, including greater appreciation for interesting work.
One advantage of these times is the availability of products and services at a discounted rate. An example of this is FlexBuilder being available free of charge to unemployed developers (you must accept terms including agreement that you are indeed unemployed and will use the tool only for personal use and not for production or commercial purposes). For those who have the misfortune of being unemployed, one silver lining here is the opportunity to spend time learning Flex and the availability of FlexBuilder for no cost to learn on is certainly welcome.
While FlexBuilder is now available at no charge specifically for unemployed software developers, other great tools are or have been available for no charge for the same type of use (non-commercial personal use only) and often are not limited to unemployed developers. These include most open source products (including IDEs Eclipse and NetBeans as well as application servers like GlassFish and databases such as MySQL and PostgreSQL), but also include some closed-source products and tools such as Oracle's JDeveloper IDE and Oracle Database Express Edition (XE) 10g, and SQLDeveloper.
In addition to the many blog postings with lessons learned regarding unemployment, there are many stories of people digging themselves out of unemployment, reinventing themselves or their careers, and succeeding beyond their level before the unemployment. Hopefully we'll all look back at this time in the not-too-distant future and be able to say the same about this current period whether we are currently employed or not.