Everyone knows what happened in the late 90's - the internet boomed, the Dot Com era came into being... Investors poured money into doomed companies, and those companies did ridiculous things like building desks made of lego blocks
to woo rockstar programmers. Money was everywhere and available to everyone. Demand was high and skilled supply was short. Anyone who could operate a computer suddenly became a programmer/developer/webmaster/designer.
Then came the crash. Companies went out of business, jobs were outsourced overseas, and demand for skilled software developers decreased. It was a painful time for alot of people. Skilled developers found other work relatively quickly, while those basic computer skills people who "jumped on the bandwagon" were weeded out, many going back to the career path they were following before VC money started growing on trees.
Several companies made it out of the crash, leaner and meaner, and able to withstand the down market. It was relatively easy for these companies to gobble up the skilled talent left jobless by the crash. They didn't have to woo developers with crazy perks, they just had to offer a job in a market where employers had the power and employees did not.
So that brings us to today. Alot of developers I know are still in those post-dot-com-bust jobs. A great many of them are completely miserable in the job they were forced to take after the market fell, and most of them are looking for other work. Some are in a lousy working environment, some have overbearing management, and some don't get paid what they feel they are worth.
But even those who are paid well are surfing the job boards in their spare time. When I speak to my friends who are in this situation, the following from Paul Graham's Great Hackers
essay comes to mind:
"Ordinary programmers write code to pay the bills. Great hackers think of it as something they do for fun, and which they're delighted to find people will pay them for."
But now the market is up, and jobs are starting to be posted more frequently. I've started to see an exodus of these miserable yet skilled developers from the companies which have come to take them for granted. And I think it's accelerating... Developers are shifting back towards companies who treat them fairly and with respect. Companies with uninteresting work are losing developers and companies with interesting work are gaining them.
Alot of the companies who learned to get lean and mean during the dot-com bust lost their compassion for their employees. Unfortunately for these companies, they are bleeding talent, and it's only going to get worse. For many, unless they learn to treat their employees well - soon the only ones left will be the least skilled, and only because they can't find another job.
Where will you be in a year?