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Good vs Great (or ack Average)

originally uploaded by btallman.

I read a post from JoelOnSoftware that got Slashdotted about great programmers and it really got me thinking. I’ve ALWAYS been a proponent of hiring great programmers.

The rule of thumb is that a good programmer is 10 times as productive as an average one and a great one is 10 times more productive than a good one. We won’t even begin to bring up what happens with bad programmers. It isn’t only the programmer’s fault though; it is also about what happens when you have larger teams and the coordination and management that have to occur as well.

BUT. BUT, I say. Joel articulated something new for me. I have always felt this way, but when I read it, it “clicked!” His point is that a good programmer might be productive, and he might, given 10 times as long, produce as much, but he is NEVER going to produce the same thing. All the good and average programmers in the world, together, aren’t going to have the creative flash that creates a great product. They aren’t going to have the backbone to stand up and fight for the creative simplicity that makes a great product.

I only disagree in one area though. And that is that I know that it doesn’t only affect shrinkwrap software companies. I regularly fly Continental, and those guys have it DOWN! I fly enough to get upgraded and they still give GREAT service. Not one but two meal options. Drinks before takeoff. They are ON it.

Now I was on my way home from Minneapolis last Friday and that is a Northwest flight. These guys are GOOD. Once again, I get the upgrade, but this time, not quite the service. They are polite, but not quite there. One meal option. Water before takeoff and I have to say that I miss the hot towel that Continental gives me.

Sound like not much? Well, maybe not, but it truly does figure in to how I travel. Do I fly on Alaska? Well, they don’t give me the upgrades. In fact, they would rather sell upgrades for $50 than give them to their own frequent flyers. And if I do pay the $50, I’m not guaranteed the meal. Apparently they don’t spring for enough meals for the entire first class cabin, which implies that they don’t really care about me.

What am I saying? Maybe I’m just flapping in the breeze, but really, why are CostCo’s customers so affluent? How does Target beat Sears/Kmart? And isn’t my daughter the cutest?


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