I coulda been a contender

This interesting article talks about great hackers. I wish more companies would understand what programmers want and meet those desires. Specifically:

  • quiet and private work spaces
  • good tools
  • interesting work
  • few meetings and other distractions
  • flexible work hours
  • the option of working from home

One of the points the article makes that I particularly like is the bit about toolmakers and Duplo:

[H]ave the smart people work as toolmakers. If your company makes software to do x, have one group that builds tools for writing software of that type, and another that uses these tools to write the applications. […] [Then] the less smart people writing the actual applications wouldn’t be doing low-level stuff like allocating memory. Instead of writing Word directly in C, they’d be plugging together big Lego blocks of Word-language. (Duplo, I believe, is the technical term.)

I like this approach, not just because it makes sense, but because I like to think of myself as a toolmaker / toolsmith.


I have just read a second article by the same author and like it as well. Here he compares hackers to artists (specifically painters). I agree with this theory as well and especially enjoyed this bit:

If you want to make money at some point, remember this, because this is one of the reasons startups win. Big companies want to decrease the standard deviation of design outcomes because they want to avoid disasters. But when you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low. This is not a problem for big companies, because they don’t win by making great products. Big companies win by sucking less than other big companies.

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