Indie Fever

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Michiel van Meeteren (University of Amsterdam) has published a study of the Macintosh independent programming community as a PDF. It looks like it might be interesting to anyone involved in programming, but also has wider implications for the studies of communities of practice and how people share knowledge to improve their own skills – in other words ‘design thinking’ in general.

Excerpted from Michiel’s website: “

‘Indie Fever’ is the first result of a multi-year human geography research program to investigate the social and economical world of so-called ‘Indie’ developers on the Macintosh platform.  ‘Indie’ is the self-chosen nickname of software developers that serve worldwide markets from the Internet, hold their artistic values in high esteem and celebrate their ability to make high quality software as small companies.  […]

Indies have organized themselves informally but strongly in a virtual community.  Although they are scattered over several continents, they continuously interact over the Internet, share rumors and code, and discuss business and private interests as if they were coworkers while –technically– they are competitors.  They share a common culture which is intertwined with the history of the platform they develop for and the Cocoa programming environment in particular. […] it analyses how Indies sustain and reproduce their particular culture primarily through online means, something that is argued to be rather difficult in the social-scientific discourse.

Almost 50 hours of interviews were recorded for Indie Fever.  These interviews were combined with the results of extensive data mining of blogs and other online resources.  The resulting thesis focusses on both the cultural and economical aspects of the Mac Indie world and the ways these reinforce each other by applying theories of, amongst others, Pierre Bourdieu, Michael Porter, Norbert Elias, Chris Anderson and Malcolm Gladwell.”

Bourdieu and Gladwell, eh? That’s basically my reading list for my first years…

Check out the site for a link to the PDF (I would link here but I suspect Michiel would like to track numbers). There’s also a blog related to the research project.

Coincidentally, at the same time I heard about this I also read several reports about a new website launched by developers of iPhone apps for whom the Non-disclosure agreement they effectively signed with Apple means they are forbidden from sharing knowledge and tips – precisely one of the things that defines the indie culture. When you see the title of the site you’ll see they’re not best pleased with the restriction. According to a publisher (I forget the link, sorry) the NDA is also holding up publication of books on iPhone programming.

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