The Best and the Brightest

Joel Spolsky, he of the “Joel on Software” site, has
a longish article on quality versus quantity
when it
comes to programming and software companies.

The common belief is that when you’re building a
software company, the goal is to find a neat idea that
solves some problem which hasn’t been solved before,
implement it, and make a fortune. We’ll call this the
build-a-better-mousetrap belief. But the real goal for
software companies should be converting capital into
software that works.

For the last five years I’ve been testing that theory
in the real world. The formula for the company I
with Michael Pryor in September, 2000 can be
summarized in four steps: Best Working Conditions –>
Best Programmers –> Best Software –> Profit!

It’s a pretty convenient formula, especially since our
real goal in starting Fog Creek was to create a software
company where we would want to work [Emphasis in
the original]. I made the claim, in those days, that good
working conditions (or, awkwardly, “building the company
where the best software developers in the world would want
to work”) would lead to profits as naturally as chocolate
leads to chubbiness…

What a concept: Having the best employees saves time and
money while, at the same time, increasing profits through the
creation of great products. In order to get and keep these
employees, management must create and maintain an environment
in which employees want to work. There are a lot of deep
psychological underpinnings to all this but the bottom line
is that it works – if, that is, what you want to produce is
the best. It doesn’t work if who you want to sell to are
Wal*Mart-type customers. His software is not free (other than
a free trial version) nor even cheap (but then, nothing from
Apple is cheap either). But there’s another old saying: You
get what you pay for.


One response to “The Best and the Brightest

  1. [quote]If students had unlimited time to work on the projects (which would correspond a little better to the working world), the spread could only be higher.[/quote]
    That makes me doubt. Has he ever been in the ‘working world’?