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Yesterday's unintentional drug theme

March 7, 2007 @ 6:06am

Maybe it was because I'm so old now, I'm not sure, but yesterday's posts all seemed to contain drug references: doing lines of code, more lines of code and paying for your habit. I must be hanging out with a bad crowd.

Well, lost is the shuffle was a point I didn't even make: I liked Kevin's article about building (and compensating) teams of developers. He gives two methods for putting together an all-star team.

The first is to keep getting developers to do startups with you for next to nothing so you can vet them, but that won't work these days since they already have startups that they're doing for next to nothing.

The second is to "call up the five best engineers you know and convince them to join you. Then, if you still need a few more, get them to call the five best developers they know. In short order you have a very strong team." That sounds a lot like how we built Blogsmith and Netscape. Neat.

He also explains why the bad programmers will still make a decent living and the stellar ones will never be paid what they're actually worth to a company:

A five or six person team of 99.7th percentile developers can write a project like this in less time than any team of 40 average coders. Who wouldn't gladly pay them each $300,000/year each to get it done?
In practice, this turns out to be pretty hard to do. First, most companies can't tell a 66th percentile developer from a 99th percentile one (some can't even seem to tell the difference between a 50th percentile one and a 99th percentile one), so that makes this strategy pretty darn near impossible for them to carry out. Second, many of these companies haven't the slightest idea how to use a top developer. They find ways to dump them in meetings, bother them with continual interruptions, and drown them in useless unproductive tasks. This is part of the reason they can't tell them apart: they have an almost insidious ability to bring everyone back down into the big pile that is "average". In these environments other engineers generally know the great developer is better than everyone else, but they have almost no idea just how much better they really are.

I read his bio and was surprised that he doesn't work for a major Internet company in America -- at least not directly. He currently works in Bangalore, India as a private software contractor. So maybe he does.

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