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The Golden Age Of The Solo Engineer Who Changes The World July 2, 2012

Posted by bernardlunn in Uncategorized.
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I don’t know how long this will last, but I think we live in unique times when a solo engineer can change the world.

 

This reminds of the old line “give me a big enough lever and I can move the world”, I think from Archimedes.

 

Two things that make the solo engineer so powerful have been true for decades:

 

1. programming follows a power law. I have been privileged to work with a few at the top of the power law in my career and I can see that a great programmer is not just some % better/more productive than the average, not just 2x but more like 10x or even 100x. 

 

2. breakthrough code is usually written by one individual. That person gets augmented by a small team to get it to market and when the company reaches behemoth status there are thousands of bell curve programmers maintaining what is now legacy code. But the original code usually comes from a few crazed nights/weeks/months by one individual. Decades ago, The Mythical Man Month explained why this is true.

 

But a few decades ago, the start-up team was usually a techie and hustler and the techie usually ended up as the junior partner/footnote in history – think of Steve Wozniak and Paul Allen. That changed with Google – two techies. Facebook is interesting – is Zuckerberg a hustler or a techie at heart?

 

Three things changed this dynamic – the three levers:

 

1. The programmable web – less code is needed.

 

2. Infrastructure As A Service – deploy immediately and pay peanuts while you are in the early days.

 

3. Proliferation of self service revenue options – adsense, Appstore and others. Who needs a hustler partner when your code does the hustling for you?

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