Hackers & Painters

Paul Graham wrote a fascinating essay based on lectures at Harvard and Northeastern. Couple things that resonated with me:

Big companies want to decrease the standard deviation of design outcomes because they want to avoid disasters. But when you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low. This is not a problem for big companies, because they don’t win by making great products. Big companies win by sucking less than other big companies.” — working at a company that writes software for other companies (read: I work as a consultant), I see this tendency alot. We’ll have ideas that we think could really be something, but end up getting shot down becuase you can’t stray to far from the beaten path for fear of sucking.

… a concept known to nearly all makers: the day job. This phrase began with musicians, who perform at night. More generally, it means that you have one kind of work you do for money, and another for love.” — how true!

and … “It seems surprising to me that any employer would be reluctant to let hackers work on open-source projects. At Viaweb, we would have been reluctant to hire anyone who didn’t. When we interviewed programmers, the main thing we cared about was what kind of software they wrote in their spare time. You can’t do anything really well unless you love it, and if you love to hack you’ll inevitably be working on projects of your own.

[via Tim Oreilly]

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