To his credit, Joel Spolsky has clarified the harsh comments he recently made about one-man consulting businesses, revising the sentiment to be more accurate. In his discussion forum, Joel writes:
It serves me right. By now I should have learned not to post in the discussion groups, because off-the-cuff things that I say without the full-blown multi-page article full of careful hedging and defining my terms invariably gets misunderstood.
So, I will make an effort not to post in the discussion groups any more.
But anyway, what I was referring to in that brief off-the-cuff comment was the kind of one-man contractors who do sequential long-term programming gigs.
SEQUENTIAL: not multiple clients at once, just one client at a time, 40 hours per week.
LONG-TERM: for the purpose of avoiding nitpicking, shall we say, 6 months or more. If you do 1 week gigs you have my permission to call yourself a startup. If you’re a plumber, ok, you’re in business. But if you work at the same big company in the same big department sitting at the same desk and reporting to the same person who treats you like an employee without benefits and you do the same kind of work for six months straight, that’s not entrepreneurship, that’s a job.
I did a gig like that at Viacom for a couple of years and never pretended that I was “Joel Spolsky Consulting, Inc.” or an ISV and I didn’t subscribe to Inc. Magazine. If you’re doing sequential, long-term programming gigs and you’re imagining that it’s entrepreneurship, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, it’s just that you’re not building a business, you’re doing a job. That’s all I meant.
In my original post I used the words “one-man consultant” when I meant “one man serial long term gig contractor,” because it was a quick post on a discussion group and not a thoughtfully edited Joel on Software piece (which, incidentally, takes a week or more to write and edit), and now all kinds of people are accusing me of dissing all one-man independents, people are writing elloquent thoughtful essays implying that my arguments are tantamount to racism or homophobia (ooo! you got me there!).
My inner cynic wants to tell me that Joel meant exactly what he originally wrote and that this clarification includes a certain amount of back-pedaling meant to get him out of trouble with the community, BUT – whatever the motivation, he is making an effort to soothe hurt feelings, and I can’t help but applaud that. So on behalf of all one-man consulting operations, I say : thanks, Joel. It’s good of you to provide a response; you certainly could have turtled and ignored the whole thing, but instead you chose to face the heat. I can’t help but regard the revision of your statement as a victory for the little guy, but all in all there are no hard feelings.
Handshake? Hug? High-five?
P.S. For Pete’s sake, don’t stop posting in your own message forum. That’s just drama talking. Remember, you designed the forum to lack an edit button specifically so people would be thoughtful when they posted – just follow your own design and you’ll avoid having guys like me coming after you with fangs bared. 😉