I took the family last night to see Ellie Goulding at Oakland's Fox Theater. If you've never been to the Fox, the bottom level is standing room only, save for a few barstools. Knowing the theater can fill up, I scoped out a spot for my 5'2" daughter to be able to stand to watch the show without being blocked. The far left end of 2nd railing from front seemed to be a good choice, so I gathered everyone up and headed over to an empty area against the wall and about 8-9 feet wide across the railing.
As we strolled up, a shorter older woman who was standing to the right of this 'spot' announces to me that she's 'holding' the railing for two friends. Glancing at the space to the right of her and back at the giant space we were getting ready to claim I determined there was plenty of room for everyone, and maybe three or more to boot. So, in a calm yet assertive voice I said to her, "It's a railing. I mean, you can't reserve a railing for people who aren't here, right? We're here now." I then proceeded to claim my 'spot' on the railing next to the wall and remained silent on the matter. She didn't look very happy, but I dismissed it as a negotiation of resources and nothing more.
A few minutes later the woman's friends show up, and end up standing to the right of the lady where there was still plenty of space. Of course. Shortly after, the kids decided to leave and go wander around, which left quite a bit of room on both sides of my wife and I. As soon as the kids were out of earshot the woman leans in and announces to me, "I didn't want to say anything with your kids here, but you were a jerk to me earlier." Without skipping a beat my wife says to her, "You can't reserve a railing. It's standing room only. Stop being a bitch, clearly there's plenty of room for everyone."
Given we were dealing with someone who thought you could reserve a railing, I'm not surprised she said anything to me. I wasn't exactly warm and friendly to her either, but she might as well have said "go away" when we met. It was after this I thought to myself "I don't want to be bummed out about her. What can I do to take away something positive from this encounter?". I mulled on it a bit, considered a change in name calling tactics with my wife and then suddenly lighted on the real issue: Why did this lady assume she could save a swath of railing?
People save seats. Our society accepts "This seat is taken." without hesitation or retort. Seats, like spaces at railings, are a commodity in a busy market. Unlike railing however, seats are discrete. Exactly one ass goes in one seat at a time. Railings are, well, they're continuous. Run out of room on a railing? Squeeze in people! The more the merrier.
And that's when it hit me. The software application market today is just like a railing at the Fox. It's huge, continuous, and elastic. Sure there may be a handful of 'seats' which only a few companies can occupy, but the rest of the space is as wide open as the Wild West. There's plenty of room for companies to squeeze in! We have room (boom?) because the entry cost is so small and the opportunities are so numerous.
If you don't code, I encourage you to pick up a book and learn. Today. We're damn short of engineers out here in Silicon Valley. We could definitely stand to have more people on the railing with us.
Just don't tell me that little spot next to you is reserved. I'm taking it.