Re-entering the tech workplace?

Following the tech boom in the 1990�s and the subsequent crash in 2000, many technology professionals ran for the hills looking for other professions. I have been asked many times if the technology industry is ready for a resurgence, and if so, how do we get caught up on the latest trends?

First of all, all of the evidence suggests that technology is indeed having a rebirth. The industry as a whole has been somewhat dormant for the first few years of this century. The dramatic slowdown seen in Silicon Valley is eclipsed by an almost complete halt in the rest of the world. Progress has happened at a snails pace, but even at that pace, some key innovations have defined this next phase of Internet growth.

For those of you that have left for greener pastures during the drought, know that there are opportunities once again as the next generation of the web (commonly referred to as Web 2.0) takes over. There are definately some things that have changed and you need to be aware of those changes before you start looking for your next web startup.

1. Changes in development platforms: Web development has moved into two main camps: ASP.Net and PHP. There are others that simmer below the surface (like Ruby on Rails and Python), but these are the main two. Both of these technologies have evolved to allow plenty of flexibility, high efficiency, and rapid development. Java has all but disappeared, mainly used in legacy applications.

2. Leaning on the Client: Client-side code using Javascript is more important than ever, allowing real-time interaction with the user without resorting to a round-trip to the server. As client computers in general have become more powerful, we can use that power to save users some aggrevation.

3. No more reloads: Surfing the web these days, you can�t help notice that the dynamics of the web have changed. This is primarily due to a technology called AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML), which allows content to update by using Javascript calls to the server behind the scenes, so that you can update your page without reloading. Take a look at Google Suggest as an example of what I�m talking about here (As you type in your search terms, suggested queries show up). Another great exampe is Digg which dynamically updates the count when you Digg a story (You�ll need to create a free account and log in for this to work).

4. Web Desktop: Bookmark pages such as Pageflakes and Google Personalized Home allow you to drag and drop content to rearrange your personal portal page (try it, it�s pretty cool). If you are logged in, you can go one step further and each time you move something around, a Javascript call behind the scenes notifies the server so that your changes are saved for subsequent visits. While these sites are relatively self-contained, it opens up possibilities for every new company, product or startup.

5. Content by the people: The days of �Big Media� are gone, well at least in Internet circles. Self publishing tools allow anyone to publish quality content without needing a contract with CNN, MSNBC or the Wall Street Journal. In fact, blogging has the ability to bypass the editorial process of these Media organizations and really effect change, as seen in recent elections and war coverage on the Internet. Social bookmarking sites such as Digg and make this dispersed content easier to find and filter.

6. Syndication through RSS: RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) is simply a specially formatted file (using XML) to provide a catalog of articles that are available on the site. The real spin off of this is that RSS readers are commonly available to allow users to be notified when content on their favorite sites change.

7. Bandwidth and Storage is cheap: Well, it still costs, but it is cheaper than it was and getting cheaper every day. Hosting providers offer tons of disk space, and most users have broadband connections to take advantage of this. Photo sharing (such as Flickr) and video sharing (YouTube) are the norm, allowing users to distribute their content through these standardized tools.

8. Content doesn�t neccesarily mean text: The Internet has fulfilled its promise to be truly multimedia, allowing content to be produced as Photos (such as photoblogs), Audio (podcasts) or Video (referred to as Video Podcasts or �Vlogging�). Combined with RSS, users can �subscribe� to these feeds to automatically download these �shows� or �updates� as they become available, and even synchronize them to your portable devices such as an iPod.

9. Sparse design: The new breed of web sites and applications make much more generous use of white space and combinations of bold and neutral colors. This new look and feel can give any new site a cutting-edge feel, while ignoring these trends can make a site look dated.

10. The Web is run by technologists: The biggest lesson learned from the last bubble is that Venture Capitalists can�t judge technology. In today�s boom, startup costs have dropped to the point where VC funding is less necessary, and startups are very weary of accepting that funding with the wrong type of investor. The myth of the �New Economy� has been dropped. In essence, it is no longer the dotcom�s vying for the VC�s attention, it is the other way around.

The Internet industry looks very different today than it did 5 years ago. It has matured. It has evolved. It has learned from its mistakes. In answer to your question, �Is the technology industry is ready for a resurgence?�, I say that it is, but don�t expect to to look like the 1990�s. That day is gone, and a new day dawns.


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