The mythical 10× programmer is just a good leader

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2021-07-20 23:00:08

There is some truth to the idea that some programmers are more productive than others. In practice, this is mainly a function of the breadth and depth of their experience, rather than an expression of innate talent. Under the right circumstances, the difference between two programmers can be significant, though a single programmer who is 10× more productive than the average is quite rare.

The difference between a one-person project which takes 5 years to complete, and a 10-person project which takes 2 years, is nine people. The ability for a maintainer to sell their project to potential contributors and inspire people to get involved is a major productivity hack. With 10 more years of experience, you may find yourself a 10× better programmer, but with 10 more programmers, you can get results today. This is especially true in FOSS, where attracting volunteers is often a key competency of successful projects.

Organizing the work is the most important task in this role. You need to hold a vision of the project in your head, and an actionable plan for executing it. This need only have enough detail to ensure that (1) you know what needs to be done, and in what order, and (2) you have enough work to keep everyone busy.

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