Education of a programmer

I was at Beyond Software when I really internalized the importance of having a singular leader over a project. The engineering manager departed (later to hire me away for FrontPage) and all four of the leads were hesitant to step into the role — not least because we did not know how long we were going to stick around. We were all very technically sharp and got along well so we decided to work as peers to lead the project. It was a mess.

In fact, one of our key approaches for managing complexity is to “walk away” and start fresh. Often new tools or languages force us to start from scratch which means that developers end up conflating the benefits of the tool with the benefits of the clean start. The clean start is what is fundamental. This is not to say that some new tool, platform or language might not be a great thing, but I can guarantee it will not solve the problem of complexity growth. The simplest way of controlling complexity growth is to build a smaller system with fewer developers.

This is one of the reasons I’ve always felt Remote Procedure Call, and especially “transparent” RPC that explicitly tries to hide the distributed nature of the interaction, is fundamentally wrong-headed. You need to embrace the distributed nature of the system since the implications almost always need to be plumbed completely through the system design and into the user experience.