Written May 2007, still flush from having dived into contracting full time.

Note: The pictures for this piece come from the Japanmanship blog. In that piece he describes using the Hollywood model to change the games industry. The diagrams are also extremely relevant for web design - just replace the 'publisher' shown in the images with 'customer'.

… the idea that we need to move from a craft model to an industrial factory model https://twitter.com/telecomattorney/status/347792709068652544

Now studios have large structures with their logos on them. They have permanently staffed marketing, sales, and accounting divisions. When I refer to the Hollywood model I'm not referring to a Universal or Paramount. Instead I'm referring to the organizational make up of the creative teams behind the movies that we enjoy. These would be the directors, cinematographers, costume designers, etc. These creative types aren't staffed by one shop in side by side cubicals. The teams are extremely ad-hoc; they come together because their talents are uniquely suited for a project, they do their jobs, they have the wrap party, and then are off to their next thing.

That brings us to the second diagram, this time of a firm structured to the 'Hollywood Model' way of organization. It still has an agency at the center. This firm, like Vox Pop, serves several purposes:

  • Provides a consistent point of contact.
  • Serves as project oversight assigning tasks, integrating work, and ensuring quality.
  • Evaluates talent and determines compatibility.
  • Acts as unifying 'public face' for free agents.
Many developers for whom this model appeals to have traditional 9-5 employment. Yet they are looking to make some extra cash, scratch a creative itch they aren't getting during the day, or want to try something new while maintaining the safety of a day job. This model allows them to contribute their considerable talents to fulfilling projects as they are able. It provides a variety of work that they might not get during their day employment. And the customer gets an extremely high quality product because we're not using just whoever has some free man-months at the moment. Experts are brought in to do what experts do and when the job is done, they're off to their own thing.

Are there problems with this way of organization? Absolutely. The amount of time one needs to spend growing their network to have an expert on hand is considerable. Even if you do have someone willing to freelance, there is no guarantee that they have the availablility when you need them. Third is the lack of assets or equity this model creates; the work is owned by the client. The time is owned by the creative staff. While there is something to be said for understanding and executing on a predictable basis for this model, it does not grow an audience or build a product. Work follows the unfortunatle feast-or-famine cycle conflated with contract work. The saving grace is that there isn't the overhead of permanent staff. Fourth, a firm organized in this way is NOT ideal for any work that requires a degree of security (government, military, health care, etc). This is because the freelancers are using their own equipment in their own spaces and communicating back over (likely) unsecured channels. Fifth is the lack of any kind of health care benefits for for freelancers. Many 'agents' that I've worked with yearn for the freedom of freelancing but are tethered to a beige prison because they cannot afford health care at the same level they've previously enjoyed. It's not just a problem that I face. However, if this model has any shot at scaling there needs to be some form of affordable coverage available to allow the best and brightest to pursue projects at their leisure.