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You're counting South American developers? Me! Me! I'm Uruguayan. ;)

Yuri Takhteyev wrote:
As Luiz Henrique mentioned (and as I said in my introduction last
year), I do research in this area, writing a dissertation about
software developers in Rio, which I hope will do a good job of
representing their experiences and perspectives.  (Note the
plural on "perspectives" - there are more then one.)  I also
happen to be the author of the study mentioned in the third
quote, though the conclusion about "rigid national boundaries" is
Michael Swaine's, not mine.

I am not sure if this is the right forum to discuss those issues
(and one should be careful when using Lua to take the pulse of
software development in South America), but when my dissertation
is ready (sometime in the next 12 months), I will gladly share it
with anyone who wants to know more about software development in
Rio de Janeiro.  (You can also reply to me off the list and I'll
put you on the list of people to email the link to when its
ready.)  Also, if anyone is interested in looking at
not-quite-final drafts of chapters, email me.  Finally, if anyone
has any questions, email me off the list and I will try to answer
them as best as I can.  (If some questions get repeated, I'll
might an "FAQ" to the list later.)  Those who will be attending
the Lua Workshop can look for me there to ask questions in
person.  (And if anyone in SF or Berkeley who wants to meet and
talk Lua, holler.)

Now, let me make a few brief caveats about the first two quotes
that John mentioned and a longer one about the third, since my
study is implicated in it.

 "Nearly one professional developer in ten worldwide is working and
 living in South America ... IT spending [in Brazil] is growing at a
 double-digit rate. As an exporter of software, South America generally
 is a player and is growing at a double-digit rate.

As a ballpark estimate, "1 in 10" is not unreasonable, but such
numbers should be taken with tremendous caution.  I am actually
working on counting up software developers right this week, and I
can attest that it's tricky business given the differences in
counting and classification methods.  E.g., according to one
official source, Brazil has ~2,000 "computational engineers"
("engineiros de computação") and ~150,000 "system analysts."  (In
US the ratio between "computer software engineers", "computer
programmers," and "computer system analysts" is about 2:1:1.)
You also never know when the numbers cited in press refer to
actual software developers or people employed in the software
industry.  (The two groups overlap but are not the same and
differ in size, and the ratio between them differs from one
country to another.)

 Linux, dropping all proprietary software ... Past protectionist
 policies in Brazil, now more or less abandoned, nevertheless led to
 today's self-supporting and well-educated community of knowledgeable
 software developers."

As Roberto pointed out, there is disagreement on this topic, both
among software professionals and social scientists.

 "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.'

The embedded quote is from a paper that I wrote based on
interviews with software developers in Rio de Janeiro in 2005,
but the article greatly over-simplifies my argument.  It would
not be accurate to say that people I interviewed are "isolated"
by "rigid national boundaries".  Rather, software developers
outside United States may be really connected in some ways and
quite isolated in others.  (And some of them are connected in
more ways then others.)  National boundaries may matter in
certain contexts.

National boundaries (as social boundaries in general) are
contextual.  They don't just exist out there in such a way that
their rigidity could be measured; rather, specific people draw
boundaries in specific contexts, and choose to ignore them in
others.  Boundaries are often negotiated: people who interact in
certain contexts may choose whether or not to draw them.  Of
course, some of the same people may draw such boundaries in
different contexts, and may have boundaries drawn for them in
others.  For example, national boundaries may be almost invisible
on this mailing list (because the members choose not to draw
them).  On the other hand, when Brazilian members of this
community will go to the US consulate to try to get visas to come
to the Lua Workshop, the national boundaries will be drawn for
them very clearly.  So, the question of how cultural, linguistic,
and geographic differences are _negotiated_ in different
technical communities is a fascinating question, but it requires
very nuanced treatment.

A note on the term "cultural factors".  Some researchers use
"culture" as an explanatory variable and do studies that try to show
that "Brazilians" tend to do certain things more often than
"Americans" or "Russians" with an implication that "Brazilians"
and "Russians" are just somehow different.  More troubling, this
approach often assumes that "Brazilians" (or "Russians") are in
some ways all the same.  I avoid such explanations.  I see
culture as a matter of an asserted or attributed membership in a
particular type of social group that we can call "cultural
group."  "Cultural" groups are different from other groups (e.g.,
"national" groups) primarily in what it takes to assert
membership in them: one does it by demonstrating "cultural
competency," showing that one can act and talk like other members
of that group.  Note that people can be competent in multiple
cultures, which gives them choices of how to act in particular
situations.  For example, I can often choose whether to act
"Russian" or "American" (or "international").  In other
situations I might not have this choice: for instance, I might
have to be "Russian," act within certain boundaries, and perhaps
even provide somewhat of an explanation for my "un-Russian"
behavior in a different context.

 - yuri