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South American Software Development

One Hundred IT-Years of Solitude

I referred to the relative isolation of South American programmers, and that needs explanation. It's primarily an issue of language and the scarcity of Spanish- or Portugese-language versions of commercial software and tools. But there are more subtle cultural factors at play here. A recent study on the use of online forums for software found that Brazilian programmers rarely join in global forum discussions, although they do mine them for solutions to problems. Not so, though, for Brazilian forums, which they participate in. The study concluded that "foreign conversations are construed as asocial 'sources of knowledge' while local forums are seen as spaces that bring together national or local communities of developers." This suggests that the software development community has more rigid national boundaries than might be thought. This is interesting, because when we ask programmers what tools they have found that make them more productive, they frequently talk about using online discussion to tap the collective wisdom of the community of programmers to solve problems.

Economics can be isolating, too: If a large part of your population can't afford computers, that isolates you. And the government's protectionist actions in response to this problem can be said to promote a different kind of isolation. Like in 1987, when Brazil banned MS-DOS. Or when, in 2005, Brazil announced that it was switching 300,000 government computers from Windows to open-source software like Linux, dropping all proprietary software. And Brazil's government is considerably more predictable than, say, Venezuela's.

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