Get coding, before obsolescence bites you
The break-neck speed of acquisitions today rival the heydays of the dotcom era, before the dotcom era crashed. While we dance with many social and mobile media technologies, we must also be prepared for the inevitable.
As a social media and mobile developer, I have to be up to speed with many of the available technologies and platforms today. At the very least, I have to at least try the viable and prominent platforms and technologies once, to discern if they are indeed worth my time and investment, either to use for our own needs, or for clients.
Back in 1996, when we first developed Internet websites for clients, we dabbled with Macromedia Shockwave (Director and Flash). We determined that they would be nice to have, but not essential. Nonetheless, we equipped ourselves with in-house development capabilities, so that we were able to provide our clients with those extended capabilities, if needed. Macromedia got acquired by the giant Adobe, and up until recently, Flash was still very much in use. Then HTML5 took over and Flash got on the kerb of the road. I have tried for example, timeline animation with Flash (before) and with HTML5. I must admit HTML5 is much simpler to learn and use, and compatible with modern browsers on desktops, tablets and smartphones without the need for plugins.
Again, in the same era of the Internet dotcom boom in the late 1990s to early 2000s, Java was "the" programming language. Everywhere we turn, we had to deal with Java in one way or another. Many enterprise to web-enablement apps ran on Java, and we too, had to learn Java to be able to provide that capability for our web clients, if needed. Although frankly, as a developer since my teens (BASIC, FORTRAN, C, HyperScript, Java, Perl, PHP, HTML, etc), I didn't like Java at all.
Over time, more competitive languages came into prominence, especially with the popularity of Apple's iPhone®, which required XCode (zero connection to any Java - it is Objective C). With the recent documented security vulnerabilities, web browsers can be configured to disable Java. I have since removed the Java plugin entirely on my office network, just in case. One less worry on my mind as a sysadmin.
Now we are in the social media boom, rivaling that of the dotcom boom in the 2000s. But of course, to every technology boom is the crash soon after, so you and I, as practitioners, we are surely aware of that and preparing for the inevitable. The signs are there. You know it when acquisitions get white hot again.
Oracle just acquired Involver, a nice social media platform I have dabbled with briefly. It was on the back of my mind for projects, but this morning, I received an Oracle mass email. It talked about its acquisition of Involver, and that the "legacy" social management platform and apps will be decommissioned on July 1 2013. I haven't the opportunity to get fully acquainted with Involver yet. What a pity. But no worries, there are other paid social management and monitoring tools I have already signed up with.
So, the crux is, I have taken great pains to learn development and programming languages, from low level to object oriented, perhaps partly out of interest as a geek, but also from a necessity to be equipped. If you learn to code, you can build your own tools, and obsolescence becomes something you can control.
One of the revelations I have read in a book, which resonated with my life philosophy, was "Who moved my cheese?" by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It is a must read for this generation, where the economic climate is shaky, employment is at best shaky, and the future uncertain even by the most optimistic analysts.
There is even a nice website code.org (a non-profit, with some technology luminaries on the advisory board), which aims to equip kids to code. Start them young like I did. It will really help them.
Therefore, be equipped. Learn as much as we can. In a technologically enabled world, learn to code. And yes, even CXOs should learn to code, as I have written before.