Welcome to The McDonaldification of Web Development
When I was a kid I remember McDonald's as having some of the best food and providing the best experience ever. Just the thought of going there was exciting. Breakfast, lunch and dinner; it didn't matter what meal it was. They went out of their way to, at least try, to make the experience fun for the kids. Yes, this was part of a plan to get the kids hooked to bring in the family (which it did in spades) but it was one of those rare strategies that was win-win for both the customer and company.
Fast forward 20 years (sigh...) and McDonalds and it's ilk are the lowest of the low when it comes to quality of service and product. It's been years since any fast food restaurant has provided me with an experience worthy of my money; the food is always horrible processed shit, and the service (even at the most basic of basic levels) is completely nonexistent. Hell, I can't remember the last time I was given ketchup with fries without having to ask for it...
Having worked in web development professionally for the last eight years I'm starting to notice a similar pattern in this industry. What was once an industry ruled by high profits for a job performed by professionals (mostly anyway) has quickly become an industry full of amateurs and scammers (mostly) trying to make as much money with as little thought to quality as quickly as possible. I've spoken before about the lack of quality I find in a lot of programmers I work with, and while I'm not saying it's the complete cause, I do think there's a link.
Oddly, I’m in the minority here. In my, limited, exposure to other programmers I can say definitively that the majority just plain suck; mostly because they refuse to grow and learn.
I’ve heard all the arguments before, “My weekends are mine”, “I work hard enough; I don’t have the energy”, and the best ever, “My employer should pay for this like Google does. Whah!!”. (I know Google doesn’t, in fact, do this but people still say it.) All just pure crap excuses for maintaining a level of competence just high enough to not get fired.
Bottom line: working 8 hours a day is just not enough to matter. If you think you’re a programmer and you don’t spend time improving your skills you’ll quickly, really quickly, become obsolete. It just doesn’t matter if .Net is going to be around forever and your employer won’t ever upgrade from 1.1; you’re a hack (and not in a good way).
Now that I'm an active freelancer I'm really, really, starting to see the differences. Time and time again I end up taking a meeting with someone who has just been worked over by others in this field. The stories some of these companies and people have are just appalling and I've heard some doozies. Worst of all, behavior like this tends to skew their perspective and they view all freelancers as suspect. Too much of my time is spent building confidence in me as a professional it's really starting to become laughable.
It was all really quite the mystery until I recently reached out on craigslist to find a designer for a WordPress theme (I need to update this site BAD). I was pretty explicit that all I was looking for was a PSD file that I would personally turn into a WordPress theme but 4 out of 5 responses to the ad indicated that the respondent hadn't even read the post. Frankly, it was irritating wading through the crap and, obviously, automated responses.
This is troubling for a couple reasons. For one thing it basically indicates, to me anyways, that the person (company, freelancer, whatever) had very little regard for what I wanted, instead opting for a fastest gun approach. The number of emails I received immediately after posting my ad was around 20 and after reviewing each one it was obvious they were automated. I pity the individual or company who entertains these people.
The long term harm this can cause for other programmers (much less themselves) is completely short sighted. Crappy work begets a crappy experience for the client. Simple.