Joel hits a high note himself documenting the 1:10 productivity difference between crap and rock star programmers in Hitting the High Notes.
But whats even more interesting about his argument is the thesis that
its not just about productivity, its about making a different class of
software. The best programmers dont just make the same software
faster, they make a different kind of software:
The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a
couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never
produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce.
Five Antonio Salieris wont produce Mozarts Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years.
going to liberally extend the argument to include the difference
between small and big teams in general (which Joel already kind of
alludes to). Small teams working under healthy constraints can simply
produce a different kind of software than the big teams working without constraints can.
They can dare take productivity-enchancing drugs,
they can say Most things actually work! and give a hoot about pissing
off the easily offended, and they can release less software with fewer
features and still be bullish about it!
When Philip Greenspun took on the VCs that would eventually destroy his company, he thought that he had
to do it or someone else would enter his domain, outspend him buying
programming muscle, and beat him out of business through shear force.
In hindsight, he would probably see the correlation that Joel makes
about Winamp vs Windows media player teams:
If you threw
a bunch of extra programmers onto the Windows Media Player team, would
they ever hit that high note? Never in a thousand years. Because the
more people you added to that team, the more likely they would be to
have one real grump who thought it was unprofessional and immature to
write Most things actually work on your website.
thats of course why small teams that embrace their constraints dont
need to fear the big guys nearly as much as they think. Theyre playing
a different game that produces different software and can simply do and
move like no 800 lb gorilla ever can. [Signal vs. Noise]