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iGold Rush

Bits are selling better than bites, and apps are selling better than hotcakes. From the FT:

More than 1.2bn apps were downloaded on to mobile phones and tablet devices during Christmas week, according to a new study, marking the first time that more than a billion app downloads have been recorded in a single week[…]

The bulk of downloads originated in the US […] accounting for 509m or 42.3 per cent of the total. The second largest number, 99m, were in China which is seeing rapid increases in smartphone use.

App production is a cottage industry gone viral. It doesn’t take a Silicon Valley pro to come up with a good idea. Any enterprising, smart, tech savvy adult can develop and sell an app from home. Compared to full scale business start-ups the thresholds for investment, time and talent are low. There’s also less drudgery involved: selling online cuts out everything from storefront shifts to being a street vendor.

If you’re young, the window of opportunity is especially wide open. You likely have fewer obligations, more leisure, are short on income and have prime familiarity with the market. If you’ve just graduated from university, job prospects are lean, student debt levels are high and further schooling may do you no good. All the better if you’ve acquired additional niche skills like another language. You can develop a Russian language app in Moscow, Idaho or an Egyptian one in Memphis, Tennessee. There’s even potential for film history and gender studies grads.

Apps are also low footprint: you can make the world a greener place as you come up with ideas that will generate enough cash to get you out of your parents’ garage.

For most people profits will be modest, but that’s the gamble of entrepreneurship. Fortunately the market is burgeoning. Many members of the millennial generation are going to get rich in businesses that didn’t exist when their parents were young.  It’s called progress and, on the whole, it’s a good thing.

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  • WigWag

    When are we going to see a “Via Meadia” or “American Interest” app to make it easier to read the site on our smart phones and I-Pads?

  • Jim.

    Mead’s right on the money here. The App is the new frontier of the Information Age.

    Go App, young man, go App!

  • John Barker

    “further schooling may do you no good.” This link was not working when I tied it at 9:50 EST

  • Damir Marusic

    WigWag, as a man in my late youth (ha!), I’m hard at work on some AI apps for this year. We’re developing them in-house, which means I get to learn a new programming language.

    I’m 100% behind the thrust of Walter’s post on this—it’s certainly a good path for many people to try out, and it’s potentially quite rewarding—but at the same time, I think most writers underestimate the hurdles involved. As a humanities graduate myself, I’ve been writing code for the web for years, and I can tell you that writing “real” code (for apps) is quite a different thing altogether. It’s not impossible by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s quite orthogonal to any skills I had coming out of college, and much more intricate and complicated than anything I’d managed to teach myself in the intervening years.

    The good news is that you don’t need to go back to school to learn any of it. There are masses of excellent free tutorials and classes online, some fine books that will walk you through the basics, and lots of great communities that will help answer any specific problems you might run into while working on your project. The latest fad-du-jour even promises to teach you how to code in one year, one lesson per week.

    They key is to have a specific project in mind and to devote adequate time to it. Doing this stuff is not like resolving to go to the gym for one hour three times a week. You really have to do it each and every day to make any progress. My biggest obstacles have been other life- and job responsibilities taking me away from learning this stuff for even a few days at a time. It’s very easy to lose momentum.

  • Kris

    Hallelujah! Forget your troubles, come on get app-y! We’re going to the promised land!

  • WigWag

    With you on the case, Damir, I am sure that the new American Interest app will be great. I get the magazine delivered on my Kindle and the format works really well and is easy to navigate. The Web design for the site, which I presume you are responsible for, also looks terrific.

    I look forward to the new app as soon as your learning curve intersects with its destination.

  • WigWag

    One more thing, Damir, I hope that you don’t spend so much time learning to program apps that you don’t have time to contribute your own essays and blogs to the site. I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts and I particularly regreted that you didn’t contribute your thoughts to the series on Kosovo that you had the team of young people write several months ago; I know that you have quite a bit of insight into what’s going on in the former Yugoslavia.

    I don’t envy you; with bloggers as erudite and well-respected as Mead, Berger and Fukuyama the thought of contributing your own content must be intimidating, but you can hold your own with any of them.

    Hopefully when the new apps are up, we will be using them to read more Marusic essays.

  • Luke Lea

    “Any enterprising, smart, tech savvy adult can develop and sell an app from home.”

    Ok, but what about the 70% of the population who find themselves in the middle of the bell curve distribution in terms of their native endowments? What are their prospects for a good life in the decades ahead?

    WRM readers are not in this middle group, but most of their fellow citizens are, as will be many of their children and grandchildren (regression to the mean).

    What kind of democracy adopts trade and immigration policies that hurt the majority, enrich a favored few (the top 7%) while making sure the really important issues stay off the political agenda?

  • Anthony

    “Apps are selling better than hotcakes” – for what purpose and to what end beyond contemporary gadgetry. Good luck to our enterprising millennials as progress, on the whole, is a good thing.

  • Luke Lea

    That should have been the top 1/7th, not 7%.

  • Luke Lea

    That top 1/7th, let me add, is composed of those who are more than one standard deviation above average.

    Most WRM readers are closer to two standard deviations above average, I would guess, and Mead himself is probably three. It’s hard for 3 sigma guys to have much sympathy for the life problems of ordinary people. Unless they look deep within their own kinship group or think about their posterity.

  • Damir Marusic

    Luke Lea, I guess my (not clearly stated) point was that you’re all overestimating the needs for “smarts” to get this done. If you’re starting from nothing, your main challenge is to learn to think a different way than you’re used to. Even the math you may have learned in advanced high school classes and maybe in college is next-to-useless. If you took some formal logic in the philosophy department, that might help a touch. Being methodical, driven, and able to concentrate for long periods without interruption are far more important than anything else.

  • Jim.

    @Luke Lea:

    The worst part is, in this self-appointed government by experts that the Left tries to force upon us, there is a pernicious culture of having nothing but contempt for their kin groups, particularly those whom they believe to be academically under-credentialld. Pile on that the pressure (particularly among women) to reproduce as little as possible, and thus have no posterity, or at most few enough that they can be hovered over and invested in such that academic success is assured, you end up with a whole “ruling class” who are totally and willfully divorced from most Americans.

    Then is it really any wonder that the age-old battle cry of independence movements, “We will not be ruled by those whose manners and customs are strange to us!” is heard loud ad clear even in the political discourse of the United States?

  • Luke Lea

    This is not a left-right thing, Jim. Most of the victims here form the base of that Jacksonian pyramid Mead likes to write about, which is the main support, voter-wise, of our military strength and a muscular foreign policy. Reagan Republicans in other words. Their support is being taken for granted.

    Meanwhile we import a new servant class of color, which is accustomed to lower status and wages, and export our industrial base to an ethno-nation state overseas which shares none of our liberal democratic values and makes no bones about it.

  • Toni

    Damir wrote, “If you’re starting from nothing, your main challenge is to learn to think a different way than you’re used to.”

    At some point in my career, we switched from IBM PCs to Macs. Our part-timer from college told me cheerfully, “You just have to learn to think like a computer.” I thought, “Hmph. For this kind of money, it ought to think like me.”

    But I also think, for programming, some people have a knack. I have a friend who’s a MechE but didn’t like that field. He made (and may still make) a handsome living forcing Microsoft software to do what corporate clients needed it to do.

    I have another friend with, I think, a Master’s in nutrition. And she’s now a consultant for IBM. I can see how engineering of any sort could be related to working with software. But nutrition!?

    Perhaps a person doesn’t have to be exceptionally bright to write apps, if or she has that knack.

  • Toni

    Luke@14, I think you underestimate both the GOP and the American people.

    If big government programs could rescue the poor and the uneducated from their plight, they would have done so by now. We’re the third most populous country on the planet, and all ~310 million of us grew or are growing up in unique circumstances. Even within one family, even with both mom and dad in the home, each sibling’s experience is different. But people grow up in all kinds of households; being taught various belief systems, or none; learning from their parents’ examples, good and bad, or not; in a plethora of different physical settings.

    This is also the world’s third largest country in geographic area. I believe rural children are as apt to grow up poor as inner city kids.

    There’s just not enough money to create ideal conditions for each American. More important, people grow up and live in so very many different situations that no government program, or set of programs, will be able to create a good life for every one.

    Especially because getting ahead requires effort. I believe African-Americans have suffered horribly from a black political establishment that, five decades after the great civil rights acts, tries too often to stay in power by insisting that white Americans are as racist as they were in the 1950s. It just ain’t so. That’s why Detroit is dying. It’s a black city run by blacks, too many of whom keep insisting that it’s all [white people’s] fault.

    Meanwhile, black people, and especially black males, have grown up with cultural messages that say sex is more important than marriage, and that, because of past or current racism, a criminal career is justified. Well, single motherhood — or fatherhood — or a criminal record is likely to impede getting ahead economically.

    After flash mob violence last summer, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter made an impassioned speech in a black Baptist church about what young black men need to do to succeed, and it’s not blame [whites]. You can see it or read it

    I say you underestimate Americans because many people raised in bad or at least non-ideal homes — including blacks — escape their circumstances nonetheless. America is a place foreigners come to to remake their lives, and that’s available to the native-born as well.

    I wish I had time at the moment to correct you about the GOP, but I don’t. Consider the Democratic Party. In 2006, the liberal Nancy Pelosi wing took control of the House, and despite the 2010 rout by Republicans, Dems still voted to keep her as Speaker. Republicans, despite what the NY Times, MSNBC, the Huffington Post, etc., may tell you, are ideologically far more diverse.

    I daresay you think the GOP is racist and anti-immigrant because of, say, Arizona’s law enabling police to check drivers’ immigration status. Look two states over, at Texas, a very red state. Texas has had Hispanics since before there was a Texas or a U.S. Here, the top 10% of every high school graduating class is guaranteed a spot in college, as long as the student’s courses and grade point average meet certain threshholds — no matter whether he or she is undocumented. Yep, this is Rick Perry’s Texas.

    My housekeeper was born Salvadoran and is now a citizen. I went to her two daughters’ dance recital last May, and saw girls onstage of every hue from pale peach to ebony. I’ve started college funds for them. Whether they make it through depends mostly on their efforts.

    The U.S. is a very large, very complicated place. Simple solutions don’t exist. Clearly you care. Please reconsider your biases about who else does.

  • Anthony

    Apps – new social force? However social forces require the conscious guidance of men who understand the different forces at work in all their essential qualities and differentiations; which brings me to AI: Policy, Politics, and Culture – Focus and Themes subsume proportion and contemporary place ancillary given specific historical and contextual American condition (contemporary predilections/changes notwithstanding – for some a reflection of unsolved American identity problem contributing to psychological malaise masquerading as culture understanding/analysis).

  • Luke Lea

    @ Tony – “If big government programs could rescue the poor and the uneducated from their plight, they would have done so by now”

    I am not referring to the poor and uneducated but the broad middle spectrum of working Americans.

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