Saturday, October 25, 2008

Technology Downturn

According to TechCrunch's Layoff Tracker 19,683 people have been laid off from technology companies since mid-September (TC). And 13,809 have been laid off in the past week alone. The job losses are highly concentrated: 5 big firms like Dell and Xerox account for about 90 percent of this total. Only 573 were laid off from startup companies. The situation is clearly pretty bad, at least without knowing what the other side of the equation looks like. That is, firms often let workers go in one department while simultaneously hiring in another. It is the net that we care about. Despite this minor qualm, the picture clearly looks bad and the number TechCrunch reported is an underestimate (see their post for more.)

Coincidentally, cnet has a list of 14 things to do if you get laid off from a tech company (cnet.) Number 1 caught my eye:
1. Get involved in an open-source project
It's where the most interesting and influential products are being developed, and more importantly, many open-source projects are filled with people who are also connected to companies that pay their engineers. Plus, obviously, working on a development project will keep you sharp and expand your skill set.
A friend and fellow classmate just presented some research on social capital and the open source movement. I didn't attend the workshop but David Miller has the scoop along with a pdf of the slides (Campus Entrepreneurship). Slide 10 is particularly relevant, since it looks at the motivating factors for contributing to the open source movement. I think that the work by Lerner and Tirole best captures the cnet idea that open-source projects can be a fantastic social network that can help in down times.

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