Joel hitting his High Notes

In Hitting the High Notes, Joel Spolsky tells us that good software is not the result of just putting enough resources into the development process. It is the result of employing the best programmers.

Best Working Conditions Best Programmers Best Software Profit!

For the Rock Star programmers among us, he has some advice:

“Internal, in-house software is rarely important enough to justify hiring rock stars. Nobody hires Dolly Parton to sing at weddings. That’s why the most satisfying careers, if you’re a software developer, are at actual software companies, not doing IT for some bank.”

My previous job was at a software company. We did not deliver Best Software. My working conditions weren’t Best either. We probably weren’t Best Programmers too.

With this conclusion in mind, I have two questions for Mr. Spolsky,

  1. What to do with this Best Software knowledge, not being a Best Programmer?
  2. Can one learn to become a Best Programmer?

2005-08-04 15:05: KC pointed me to Career Calculus by Eric Sink.


7 Responses to “Joel hitting his High Notes”

  1. Riesch Says:

    It’s work thought up by humans and executed by humans. So of course you can learn to be a rockstar, however it just requires the same time it took to think up the concept as to thoroughly learn the concept. So take your time and strive for perfection …

  2. nederhoed Says:

    Concerning q2:
    Does Joel believe being a Best Programmer is the result of
    A. Talent,
    B. Own initiative, good teachers and maybe some luck along the way?

    You Richard, seem to opt for B.

    Me too, to some extent.

  3. Riesch Says:

    Talent is only the ability to learn something in a short enough amount of time, which keeps you from getting bored and quit. However to become best in something is the ability to keep going long enough to learn something so thoroughly that it becomes second nature.

    These are essentialy two separate things! Although of course talent helps … but in essence anybody can learn anything they desire, if only they invest the (for that person) required amount of time.

  4. Swergs Says:

    I think yes, you can learn to be a better programmer, and thats better than the programmer you are now, so keep reading and using your mind. Some people will rise faster and farther than others, just remember, the “best” is entirely subjective so forget about trying to measure up to others expectations. I’ve found many people hiring at companies can’t recognize top tier talent when its in front of them. Ussually they have alterior motives or different perceptions of what they beleive a “best” programmer is. Keep moving on in situations like that, its probably not a good fit. It takes a lot of patience…

    Greetings from Holland, Mi
    PS visited the Netherlands a few years ago and loved it!

  5. nederhoed Says:

    Merci Swergs, I like your attitude.

    Maybe my questions sound a bit as if I feel lost not being a Best Programmer. The truth is that I decided some months ago that I did not want to be a programmer.

    Since then, I’ve been a better programmer than ever. I’ve read more books on programming and development and have learnt new techniques (Python, Zope3, DocBook XML, XSLT)

    greets, Robert R.

    PS – Where have you been in NL?

  6. Swergs Says:

    I thought you were discussing the topic intelligently and it’s fascinating to see what you learned given your experience after choosing you did not “want” to be a programmer.

    I am still aspiring to become a great programmer. I studied hard sciences before college, switched course and became an Art major, and since graduation studied design, information architecture, and computer science mostly on my own. I think I’ve nearly mastered Java, though every 6 months I discover a new perspective and realize how little I knew before.

    I visited freinds of my wife in Apeldoorn, then we went camping north near Groningen. I also visited France and Switzerland. It was an unforgetable trip and I hope to visit again.

    Ben S

  7. Rolf Says:

    Hi there cousin,

    just wanted to say hi, and I definitely do not want to interfere in a discussion about programmers 😉

    BUT, maybe I will…

    After you decided not wanting to be a programmer, you pointed out to be a better one now. The obligation to be a programmer left, and since then you have started to read more books about it.

    Maybe it says something about your character, OR about people in general.
    For instance, look at how many people detest reading (obligated) novels when going to high school and therefore don’t. But after graduation many of them start reading again in there spare time, mainly because the obligation has gone. Interesting, isn’t it?

    Just my two cents…



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