About three years ago, Greg Avola, a New York-based software developer, needed a designer for a Twitter application, so he took to Twitter to ask for one. Luckily, Tim Mather, a graphic designer based in Los Angeles, was following the hashtag #CSS that day and responded to Avola.
A few freelance projects later, including Frederickwildman.com (a site for a New York-based wine distributor), the two knew they were an unstoppable team, which led them to work together on Untappd. Untappd is a social drinking application that allows users to check in from bars and pubs, and it integrates with Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter so users can check in and share activity, all in one application.
Avola works by day as a risk assessor. By night, this moonlighter spends a few hours a week coding, which is how he and Mather maintain Untappd. Working as part of a bicoastal team has had some challenges, but overall this social coding experience has been a great one, according to Avola. Mather does graphic design for the application, and both work on getting feedback to users via social media channels.
Social coding is a relatively new term, according to Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Forrester. “It is entrepreneurial. Developers create their own ideas and do it on their own time,” he said, noting that he not only sees early-career developers who are interested in making a name for themselves doing this, but also enterprise developers who want to perhaps transition out of their full-time roles or make extra money on the side. He referred to those who do this part-time as “moonlighters.”
The rise of moonlighters can be attributed to the combination of consumer application stores, devices, and the evolution of development and hosting practices to where the cost to innovate is a fraction of what it used to be, Hammond said.
There is power, he said, for those who can navigate the development cycle, and developers are starting to take advantage of this opportunity.
Some of the developers, like Avola, don’t even develop in their full-time jobs. He said he has always loved to code, and this was just something he continued doing after getting his computer science degree in college. He also prides himself on being able to give great feedback, something that is quite evident from the Untappd Twitter feed.
Innovation comes from freedom to work on what you think is important, something Todd Olson, vice president of products at Rally Software, noted when discussing Rally’s RallyON Hackathon that took place earlier this week. Rally employees were able to pick any project or portion of a project and work on it, without worrying about a backlog or business objectives, something Olson said has proven very beneficial in the past.