Will 2009 be the Year of the Hacker?

Kevin Kelleher wrote an interesting post the other day on emerging technology blog GigaOM, entitled 2009: Year of the Hacker.

Kevin’s theory is that members of the growing ranks of unemployed professionals will choose to apply their “spare cycles” towards new and innovative projects after being released from the daily grind of full time employment.

Kevin writes:

I wonder what kind of creativity could be unleashed by workers who, though deprived of a steady paycheck, are freed from such tedious tasks. Some could come up with new ideas that help vault the web to a more advanced stage. Others may make micro-contributions that are equally powerful in aggregate. Such creativity could then foster an entirely new generation of startups, which would eventually lure away some of those who had remained at steady jobs all along.

I agree with Kevin because I have seen the beginnings of this trend firsthand.   Several of my colleagues in San Francisco left or lost their jobs this year, and not a single one sat at home eating potato chips.  Why?  Kevin quotes Chris Anderson, who writes:

… I think you’ll see a boom in creativity and sharing online as people take matters into their own hands. Today, if you’re in-between jobs you can still be productive, and the reputational currency you earn may pay dividends in the form of a better job when the economy recovers.

This reputational currency is real, and it is a direct result of the ease of collaboration and the almost zero barrier to entry in software (and increasingly hardware) development.  The tools are cheap or free, high speed internet is everywhere, and somewhere out there someone is interested in helping to bring your project to life.  It is becoming easier than ever to innovate in your own garage.  Don’t have a garage?  Use someone else’s instead.

The dividends have yet to been seen, but I am optimistic that efforts today will be repaid tenfold tomorrow.