Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Researching the indie mac developer community

Is there something in the air? A social scientist should always ask questions and do research before attempting to formulate answers, but there is certainly something happening in the world of independent mac sofware development. The number of visitors to WWDC seems to grow each year, the mac platform has gained enourmous popularity with consumers and telling from several blogs, there seems to be a vibrant discussion on the internet on topics like macheist or how to deal with the recently updated Apple human interface guidelines. So it seems like there is something happening in the mac indie world. But who are these 'indies'?, how big is this phenomenon? what does Apple Inc. have to do with it? These are the kinds of questions we've been asking ourselves and we are currently travelling along the US West Coast looking for answers.

My name is Michiel van Meeteren an I am a student in human geography at the university of Amsterdam. The indie mac developer world will be the research subject of an important part of my studies. This topic is fascinating in a lot of respects: Scientifically it touches on the debate of the creative class, the influence of techies in the contemporary world economy and the opportunities of small entrepreneurship in a world of big multinational computer firms. But it's also culturally relevant: who are these people that start their own independent companies and what makes them thrive?

These ideas first came to me witnessing the new life my friend Dirk Stoop fell into after co-founding madebysofa in Amsterdam. Soon it became more and more clear to me that the indie mac world is quite different from what an outsider like me has come to expect from the clich├ęs often used to describe software developers. Eventually Dirk and I started making crazy plans and committed ourselves to research it, which brought me to a hotel room in San Francisco, writing this first post. We feel it's time to put our own impressions on the net. Over the coming months we'll use this blog to keep you up to date on the progress of our research project. Don't expect overly juicy details; we are bound to privacy regulations regarding who we interviewed and what they confided to us, but there will still be plenty of impressions to read about.

I hope the end result will be a thesis in which the indie mac community can recognize itself, but which also assesses its significance to the wider world. If you think you can contribute, please chime in in the comments or drop us an email.