Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

‘What next?’ he asks with trepidation


Much of my next few weeks will be dominated by book promotion and publishing the essays about generative AI that weren’t a good fit for the book.

As I plan, I start to think about what happens after that, and I worry.

Even though I’ve written a book about generative AI, and even though I have a lot to say about it, that’s because it’s an important topic that’s going to affect us all, and I don’t want to see companies shoot themselves in the foot just to chase a fad.

It’s not because I plan on making generative AI “my thing”. I have no plans of becoming a cookie-cutter “generative AI naysayer”.

That means I need to figure out what to focus on next in my career once I’m done with this book cycle, however long that takes.

That’s when I begin to worry.

I’m not worried about ChatGPT taking my job, but I am worried about where the software industry is heading and have been for a while. After all, the industry’s lack of direction, its pervasive dysfunctions, and how to get out of them, was the topic of my other book.

Those dysfunctions seem to be multiplying and accelerating. The lay-off waves keep coming, even thought they are directly harmful to the companies themselves and their products, which means that working as a freelance software development consultant is getting harder. Demand is both lower and competition is stiffer. Training-related projects were a decent part of my work last year, but big corporations that have laid off thousands of staff don’t seem likely to invest as much in training, which is going to take out a good chunk of that market.

Every company is now all-in on AI and nobody seems to be paying any attention to user research, interface design, or product quality in their quest to force AI into everything, everywhere.

Forcing a supercharged Clippy into everything and destroying what’s left of search engine utility does not look like progress to me.

I strongly believe that much of where software is heading is in the exact opposite direction of where we need it to go. Where they keep pushing hyper-complex software that only works on the server, we need apps to be more local; where they keep pushing automation and human replacement, we need software that supports humanity; where they keep loading more and more features, we need robust simplicity that can handle failures and disruptions.

We need software that works for us, on the devices we have.

But, it doesn’t feel like anybody’s doing that. It’s all React or whatever heavy-duty framework is popular that day. Our browsers now have amazing capabilities for offline tasks and work, broadly supported, but next to nobody seems to be building on it.

It all feels like a turning point, but I’m not sure where to turn.

The next few weeks will be dominated by book-related work, but what then?

Do I concentrate on finding software development gigs, very few of which seem likely to be doing what I think they should be doing?

Do I keep trying to land training gigs in a market where people are substituting education and training with ChatGPT verbiage?

I could go after the management consultant-style gigs I’ve occasionally done in the past, even though they’re mostly an exercise in frustration.

Or, do I try to do my own thing? Try to figure out ways to sell training products and gigs helping web developers implement framework-less offline support? Maybe even restart the work on Colophon Cards or something similar and see if I can interest people in my own software?

I could try to find another writing project, but generative AI seems to be undercutting that market as well.

I don’t know.

At the moment, I just feel tired. It feels like the world is completely disinterested in working software products.

Maybe I should just take a break over the weekend. Rest, and everything will be clearer.

That sometimes works.

The best way to support this blog or my newsletter is to buy one of my books, The Intelligence Illusion: a practical guide to the business risks of Generative AI or Out of the Software Crisis.

You can also find me on Mastodon and Bluesky