Stories about Software


Developer Hegemony, Revisited (And A Free Copy, If You Like)

In the “time flies” category, it’s been over four years since I announced the release of Developer Hegemony.

So I suppose it’s old enough that I need to start giving it away for free, right?  Like the way really old books and classical music are somehow free?  I’m pretty sure that’s how it works, but, whatever, I don’t make the rules.

Anyway, I’ll come back to the “have the book for free” part and explain in more detail a little later.  In the meantime, I’ll ask you to indulge me in some musing and the announcement of a new community initiative that you’re welcome to join.

Developer Hegemony: The Idea in Brief

If you’re not familiar, or you need a refresher, Developer Hegemony was a book I started writing on Leanpub and eventually published to Amazon.  It was, dare I say, my magnum rantus. And I’m flattered and bemused to report that it has sold thousands of copies in the last four years, in spite of my haphazard-at-best marketing efforts post-launch.

I suspect this is because, like the expert beginner, the beggar CEO, or the broken interview, this content taps into a smoldering populist rage.  Developer Hegemony is a lengthy answer to the question, “Why are corporate software developers the least influential people in software development?”

Unpacking all of the themes of the book here would be impractical.  But the book includes a methodical takedown of traditional corporate institutions, and it encourages a programmer exodus from the ranks of large organizations.

We’d be better served going off on our own.  We could sell our services (or SaaS-es) as individual contractors or small bands of partners in firms that I described as “efficiencer” firms.

And after releasing the book, I had grand intentions of helping people do just that.


My Post-Release Intentions and Subsequent Failure

When I released the book, back in 2017, the timing was interesting.  The launch coincided with a sort of “mini-retirement,” wherein I hung up my spurs after four straight years of 100% travel as a management consultant.

As I outlined at the time, I had a three-pronged approach for how to make a living from that time forward.  Here they are in descending order of what I thought would bring the most success:

  1. Codebase assessments as a productized service.
  2. DaedTech and content/coaching aimed at those of you trying to realize “developer hegemony.”
  3. The content creation side hustle that Amanda and I had just, at the time, formalized by incorporating.

Now, it wasn’t my long term intention to have three jobs.  With two of these ventures having a business partner and the third some traction and an audience, I resolved to see which one or maybe two had the most promise, and shift focus accordingly.

Hit Subscribe: Blundering My Way Into Business Success

Well it turns out, A/B/C testing my next hustle did work exactly as I’d planned.  It just didn’t work out at all how I had planned.

In a nod to how, like all humans, I’m terrible at predicting the future, it was number (3) — the content business — that really took off.

I once read a book entitled, “Everything is Obvious *Once You Already Know the Answer,” and, sure enough, in hindsight, it’s obvious to me that it went this way.  Practitioner content in the technical space is a way bluer ocean than it ought to be, and I’ve since figured out why services-based business who try to tackle this niche tend to clank their way unceremoniously towards an eventual stalling-out.  And I also understand why this didn’t happen for Hit Subscribe.

But that’s a philosophical story for another day.

Suffice it for now to say that Hit Subscribe grew a lot.  Far beyond Amanda and my expectation of a business that would provide a reliable stream of base income while I created content and did high-end productized consulting gigs around codebase assessments.

Neither of those endeavors failed, mind you.  I still earn royalties from the book and other DaedTech-y sources to this day.  And folks still reach out to me, asking me to consult (which I now always decline and offer to authors in Hit Subscribe’s pool).

I just stopped doing both of those things at some point because Hit Subscribe required more and more of my attention, until it required all of my attention.

Looking Back on Developer Hegemony’s Ideas as a Business Owner

Today, Hit Subscribe works with hundreds of contractors, 10 people that we’d consider part or fulltime staff, and five salaried employees.  My financial role is shareholder and my job title is CEO.  So of course at some point Hit Subscribe had to subsume my vision of Developer Hegemony content and even my consulting practice.

It occurs to me, years later, that I think I said something in Developer Hegemony (or in general) that I didn’t want employees or bosses: just partners.  And yet here I am today.  As Doc Holladay once said in Tombstone, “apparently my hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

It’s interesting to look back on this after a few years, to reflect on how I’ve changed… and how I haven’t.

I still don’t want employees.  Not in the “boss-subordinate” sense, anyway, and certainly not in the “opportunist-idealist-pragmatist” sense.  Wage employment makes sense as an arrangement for some folks, and as long as I’m cultivating a growing cadre of benevolent opportunists, I’m now sanguine about that.

I can say that I’ve never attempted to manufacture culture, nor will I create or even abide any kind of founder mythology bullshit.  Nobody should aspire to be like me; I left the U-Haul trailer open on the drive out here to Napa and my computer fell out, for God’s sake.

And perhaps most true to the messaging in the book, I’ve never conducted a single job interview as we’ve grown this company.  Nor will I.  Simply not doing job interviews works as well as doing them.

But again, a tale for another day.

So, apparently, my hypocrisy only goes so far.  I do believe that we can grow organizations, even to some scale, without pathological nonsense like Tayloresque management, corporate idealism and job interviews, opting for institutions like treating each other as adults and work to hire, instead.

I’m Now in a Position to Advance Developer Hegemony Again

Okay, so that’s great and all, I imagine you’re thinking.  You managed not to go full Napoleon-in-Animal-Farm, but what about the efficiencer vision and your implied part in helping bring it about?

Admittedly, my efforts here to this point have been lackluster.  At the time of writing, I created a Facebook Group for the book and then, eventually, a Slack at the request of members.

But I was an increasingly absentee community leader and not particularly good at that besides.  I’ve learned since that genuine community management is both a skill and a ton of work.  I bit off way more than I could chew and then slowly but surely dedicated more and more of what little time I did have to Hit Subscribe.

That may not seem like the precursor to any kind of win for the community, but it actually is.  Because now Hit Subscribe is big enough and has enough resources not only to create and maintain a community, but to dedicate staff to it.  And that’s just what we’re going to do.

We’re creating a Hit Subscribe community designed to deliver my Developer Hegemony vision to the best of our ability.  And the main way I know how to do that is to help you achieve optionality.

Join the community to learn about business, moonlighting, side hustling, freelancing, and starting businesses.  Stay to have opportunities to side hustle, full-time hustle, and grow your non-salaried options for autonomy.

Come Join The Community

Seriously.  Come join.

Here’s a link to join, and it is currently and will always be free to you.

There isn’t a ton of content in there just yet, but we are actively working on that.  And we do have our first official event this Thursday — an interview, Q&A and AMA with Jonathan Stark.  So come on in, introduce yourself, poke around, and add the event to your calendar, if you’re so inclined.

What’s In It For Me, the Community Member?

Let me explain a little further about what, specifically, we have in mind for the community so far, including what’s current and what’s planned.

  1. Guest speakers 1-2 times per month, in an talk/Q&A/AMA format.  Q&A is for those on the call, and AMA will be in our Slack, for those that can’t do video calls.  This already exists.
  2. Resources for aspiring freelancers/business types, such as invoice formats, tool recommendations, tutorials, etc.  This also exists, though it’s a work in progress and anemic in the early going.
  3. Discussion forums where you can chat or bounce ideas off of each other.  This also exists and will hopefully become more lively as folks join.
  4. Mastermind rushes, wherein you can get in a mastermind with folks that have a similar short or long term goal to your own.  This is planned, but not implemented.
  5. Social events.  Not implemented yet, but Gaby, our community manager, has a lot of really good ideas once we get things off the ground.
  6. As I alluded to in the opening of the post, you can have a free e-copy of Developer Hegemony in whatever e-reader format you use.  That’s live as we speak.

That’s for starters, anyway.  Community member suggestions are welcome, and we’ll keep iterating as we learn and get better at this.

Wait a Minute, Erik, What’s in It For You?

Now you true opportunists out there (in this sense of the word) might find yourselves narrowing your eyes at me suspiciously, wondering what my angle is here.  Why spend Hit Subscribe’s money and staff time doing such a thing?

Well, first of all, it never really sat well with me that my momentum with the book just petered out over the last four years.  That felt like an implied promise made and then a slow breaking of a covenant over the course of time.  I just never really had a way to reconcile Hit Subscribe’s interest (or my erstwhile consultancy’s) with my interest in building this community.

So I’m doing it because I’ve genuinely wanted to for a long time, and now I can.

As for what Hit Subscribe’s interest here is, that’s pretty straightforward.  Our model is to enlist side hustling engineers to create various forms of content (and occasional other opportunities, like consulting, training, etc.).  It’s a lot easier to find people if they’re coming to us than if we’re going out, doing outreach, advertising, and generally begging on the metaphorical street corner.

So, it’s like content marketing for a workforce.  We’re creating a community that you’re welcome to, free of charge, in perpetuity, with the understanding that Hit Subscribe is a “sponsor” and will have a channel in the community where we post about the work we have available.  And while I won’t go into this just yet, we’re contemplating a new line of business that might increase your opportunity and our mutual interest even further.

And, finally, building an audience and a community has its own optionality and monetization play.  In this sense, you could think of it the same way you think of DaedTech — a thing I’m building with the general sense that it’ll probably somehow, someday, be a good idea to have and a thing that I’m glad I did.

Why Should You Believe I’ll Do Any Better at Community Management This Time?

Last up, here, I think it’s worth addressing a small elephant in the room.  Why should you trust me, a failed community builder, to build a community?

Well this one is a little simpler — skin in the game and additional help.

I tried to build the last community in my very limited spare time, by myself, with no idea how to build communities and no specific plans to monetize it to incent myself.  In other words, it was a pure hobby for which I had almost no time.  So the outcome was entirely predictable.

This time around, I’ve learned a lot about what goes into community management by, among other things, having meetings with someone who works as a community manager for developer tools companies.  So, while I can’t say that I’m better at it, per se, I have a much healthier understanding of the work and how to attack it.

On top of that, as I mentioned, we have staff on our end who are helping out with building and administering the community, including Gaby, our community manager.  So we have dedicated people and a straightforward business incentive.

And, generally speaking, value-for-value is a much more blue chip play than “value-for-nothing-but-hopefully-probably-something-later-before-I-run-out-of-money-or-change-my-mind.”

A Thanks For Reading

So that is the current state of developer hegemony the concept.  In spite of some momentum, it existed in a book and some dusty old blog posts on this blog.

I know that folks have been executing this in their own right here and there — I don’t somehow own the concept of developer optionality.  I’ve seen actual live efficiencer firms, including some prospective Hit Subscribe clients (BTW, these do a lot better when they have some kind of niche).  So it is happening, even if not exactly how I might have predicted.

But I haven’t been contributing to it much until, hopefully, now.

Still, I know a lot of you reading this post have kept on reading my blog anyway over these years, and I very much appreciate that.  So thank you, for reading this blog, for watching my YouTube channel, listening to the podcasts, and, for reading this very post.  And I’m looking forward to seeing you in the community!

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Jacques Ledoux
Jacques Ledoux
2 years ago

Read the book 3-4 years ago, Found it inspirational, wanted to start efficiencer pool, fell sick, hospitalized many months, released at beginning of pandemic, here I am.

Erik Dietrich
2 years ago
Reply to  Jacques Ledoux

Sounds like the world has been a pretty long-standing health ordeal for you with that timing, but glad if you’re feeling better.