David said something the other day about how people claiming 10x programmers don’t exist is the same as people claiming expertise doesn’t exist and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

My referent for “10x programmer” is Peopleware, which pointed to 80s-era research claiming that quiet work environments make programmers measurably more effective.

Which is not something people want to argue with, unless they’re managers making excuses for open plan offices.


I note that both expertise and quiet work environments are good things that make anybody better at whatever it is they’re doing, whether it’s programming or not.

Another observation: the organization around a person (team, management, culture) can put a hard ceiling on the quality of the work they do. You can sure turn a programmer into one tenth of what they could be.

Or a great team can lift up everybody in it.

Bad tools can put a hard ceiling on the quality of work a team does. Don’t tolerate slow deploys. Don’t tolerate no observability. Don’t tolerate slow builds.

Fix your foundations.

This rant was brought to you by the conclusion of some planning notes we wrote last week, in which we noted that the design of one part of the system we’re replacing is so broken that it limits everything done within the system. It’s a cap on software quality.

Do I have an inspiring conclusion? Uh. Systems thinking is super-useful? Damn those Ackoff videos are in my head right now?

I need more coffee.

My job for myself: build my expertise.
My job for my team: remove systemic limits on using our expertise effectively.

@ceejbot the problem with "10x programmer" is that it's always used with exact opposite premise: doesn't matter how our structure and conditions are, we just need a Profi who will solve everything

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