Developing Perspective

#113: The One vs The Many.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:03   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of note in iOS development, Apple, and

00:00:07   the like.

00:00:08   I'm your host, David Smith.

00:00:09   I'm an independent iOS and Mac developer based in Herndon, Virginia.

00:00:11   This is show number 113, and today is Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

00:00:17   Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:20   All right, the topic I'm going to talk about today is—I don't know exactly how to phrase

00:00:26   But essentially, it's talking about the differences between doing something yourself and doing

00:00:32   something with a team.

00:00:34   And this is something that I've been thinking a lot about recently.

00:00:38   It's this recurring pattern that constantly happens in terms of if you're an independent

00:00:43   like myself and someone who works primarily by themselves, I think there's always this

00:00:48   tension that creates of is that situation the best?

00:00:53   Is it sustainable?

00:00:54   it the most sort of ideal situation to find yourself versus working with other people

00:00:59   in a variety of different contexts. And so what I was going to wanted to do was kind

00:01:02   of unpack some of that and then think of a few applications down the road. So first,

00:01:07   some of the sort of the obvious things that are some of the differences between doing

00:01:10   something yourself and doing it with other people. Being by yourself certainly has efficiency

00:01:16   benefits. There's only one person, there's only one, you know, it's one person able to

00:01:22   make decisions, to decide what's going to happen,

00:01:25   to communicate with.

00:01:27   It's not like, you don't have to be,

00:01:30   there's no need for a lot of these tools

00:01:32   for collaboration, for task management,

00:01:34   for all these kinds of things.

00:01:35   I talk to people and I hear about,

00:01:37   it's like, what kind of issue tracking system do you use?

00:01:40   It's like, well, I don't really need

00:01:42   an issue tracking system in the same way.

00:01:43   I don't need to have tickets

00:01:44   that I move from state to state.

00:01:46   It's like, I'm the one who's creating the ticket

00:01:47   and writing the ticket and testing it.

00:01:51   That kind of gets heavyweight,

00:01:52   end up with very lightweight systems that you can use to manage your work.

00:01:56   On the flip side, though, when you're working with other people, you always get the benefits

00:01:59   of things like collaboration, just sort of the ability to come up with something, send

00:02:04   it over to somebody else, and then have them say, "This, this, and this could be better.

00:02:09   This, this, and this is wrong.

00:02:10   I think it'd be better if we did it this way."

00:02:11   And as a result, the quality would likely go up.

00:02:15   You increase bandwidth, obviously, in terms of if you add extra people, you have the ability

00:02:18   to do more things at one time.

00:02:20   Now, that's not necessarily a one-to-one increase.

00:02:24   In my experience, certainly with small teams, whenever you start working with other people,

00:02:29   there's always some efficiency loss that you get there from a per-person basis.

00:02:34   But overall, you can certainly do more, even if you add one person, if you go from a team

00:02:39   of one to a team of five, and maybe if you only get an effective four people in terms

00:02:44   of work done, that still obviously an increase in bandwidth, if not necessarily efficiency.

00:02:49   And the other part of it, and this is kind of the more, I don't know, more emotional

00:02:53   part of it, or more interpersonal part is working alone is often kind of lonely.

00:02:59   And this is, you know, coming from somebody who has been working this way for a long time.

00:03:04   The thing that is probably like the non-technical or non-business challenge that I struggle

00:03:09   with most in the work that I do is the sense of loneliness that you get when you're the

00:03:14   only person who is working on what you're doing at a technical level.

00:03:19   There are certainly people who are involved in what I'm doing.

00:03:22   There are people who work for me who do non-technical work.

00:03:24   There are obviously friends and family, people who are interested in the outputs of what

00:03:29   I do, but who aren't really engaged on a day-to-day basis.

00:03:33   There is certainly something that's just plain lonely about, I go into an office by myself

00:03:39   for most of the time, and I sit down and I work.

00:03:43   And that has a lot of benefits to it in terms of focus and distractions, or if I'm distracted

00:03:49   it's, you know, they're all self-motivated distractions.

00:03:52   But at the same time, there is certainly a challenge to that.

00:03:54   And I mean, it's certainly something that it means that I've struggled with over the

00:03:57   years of kind of the sadness or depression that that can kind of engender in terms of

00:04:01   there's just not that sense of camaraderie, which is, you know, it's like you don't have

00:04:06   someone to share the downs, you know, when things are really, when you're struggling,

00:04:11   when you're really, you know, sort of hitting a wall and you're having trouble with something,

00:04:15   it's nice to have somebody who's like, you know, you know, I've been there, I've worked

00:04:18   through that. On the positive side, you know, it's like when

00:04:21   things go really well, and you're just like, hey, man, I

00:04:23   just wrote this awesome function, I just wrote this

00:04:25   great bit of code, or look, look what I just did, there's no one

00:04:28   to share in that joy. And so that's where you can get a little

00:04:30   lonely. There's things you can do to mitigate that. I mean,

00:04:32   obviously, that's that problem for me. Something like Twitter,

00:04:35   or those types of venues are places that are largely that's

00:04:40   where I'm sharing that. And that sort of helps to sort of solve

00:04:43   that a bit. But that certainly is a challenge that I have.

00:04:47   But it's also this is kind of that tension there. There's this tension between those

00:04:52   two states between being one and being many. And broadly, I would say recently, I've been

00:04:59   more and more inclined to that for most people, the the many is better in a lot of ways is

00:05:08   something that for most people, I think is probably going to be most sustainable and

00:05:12   most enjoyable. You know, it's carrying with it a variety of difficulties and challenges

00:05:19   that there are things that you can't do in a group that you can do on your own, you know,

00:05:24   and a lot of the economics and a lot of the business side of it, things get a lot more

00:05:27   complicated when you start introducing new people. But it's something that as I look

00:05:31   forward into the future in terms of the things that I do, I think it's the area that I'm

00:05:37   hoping most to, to change that it's the area that I think I

00:05:43   could benefit most from changing, that if I am confined

00:05:47   the right people who are like minded, who are like skilled,

00:05:51   who are who are in that same place of probably even ideally

00:05:57   are coming from a period from being working on their own, and

00:06:01   are just looking for opportunities for collaboration

00:06:05   or work from and they're in that same place, both sort of in

00:06:09   terms of their ability to be flexible about it, their ability

00:06:11   to, to, you know, get up, get up to speed really quickly. And

00:06:17   those types of things, my gut says, that ultimately be the

00:06:20   best place for me, that will be the place that I can get to the

00:06:23   most do the best work of my life, I guess, you know, in

00:06:26   terms of, it's difficult, if I'm the only one who is doing

00:06:30   something to consider that to expect that that work will be

00:06:33   done as best as it could be, because there's nobody challenging me. There's nobody making

00:06:37   sure that, you know, who's challenging all the quality decisions I'm making. And there's

00:06:42   some feedback you can get from customers, from audience, from whatever. But the reality

00:06:47   is, I think the best things come from kind of being in a bit of a crucible, who for having

00:06:52   that tension that forces things to be better. And so that's something that I'm looking for.

00:06:58   And exactly what that looks like, I'm not really sure. I mean, it's something that I

00:07:01   think about as an example, which is very similar, is about this podcast, about developing perspectives,

00:07:08   is it's a show who's at this point has pretty, for the most part, just been me. It's just

00:07:14   been me sitting down and talking into a microphone a couple times a week. For now, it's coming

00:07:19   up in almost two years. I've just sort of been doing this. And the interesting thing

00:07:24   about that is does at some point does that get stale? Does just the day, you know, me

00:07:29   just sharing my thoughts gets kind of stale.

00:07:33   And the thing that I, one of the examples of things

00:07:36   that I tried was, okay, I'll do some interviews,

00:07:38   I'll get some other developers on.

00:07:41   And that was interesting.

00:07:43   Those conversations I've had on that,

00:07:46   I mean, some of them are just really, really good.

00:07:48   And in some ways, the best part of that conversation

00:07:50   is even when the mic, you know, when we stop recording

00:07:52   and just start talking, you know,

00:07:53   talking to other developers, having that interaction,

00:07:56   and sharing experiences that a lot of independent developers

00:08:00   have, there's only a few dozen, I don't know,

00:08:04   probably a few dozen people who do kind of what I do

00:08:07   in the way that I do it.

00:08:08   And so to share it with those people is awesome.

00:08:10   But the reality is, like the interview series,

00:08:13   I don't think is something that I can do long term.

00:08:16   It's something that, and that's mostly just coming

00:08:17   from a scheduling perspective.

00:08:19   It's very difficult to, every week or on a consistent basis,

00:08:24   be trying to have, you know, trying to schedule and arrange things so that we, you know, I

00:08:28   can work two things together in a way that isn't just very cumbersome. And so I'll probably

00:08:31   still do a couple, but I don't think that's the way forward. It's sort of the model that

00:08:36   seems best in some light podcasting is to have co-hosts, to be having a conversation

00:08:42   with somebody about an interesting topic. And the result is often better. It's I think

00:08:46   about some of my favorite podcasts. It's usually somebody who is, you know, that there's a

00:08:51   a tension between the people on the show going back and forth about something that helps

00:08:58   raise the bar on the discussion.

00:09:00   And I think that's something that I don't know exactly what that'll look like, whether

00:09:02   that's a new show, whether that's a change in this show, whether at some point something

00:09:07   changes.

00:09:08   But that's something that I would look forward to.

00:09:09   And that's something that I'm thinking about how I could get to in terms of having that

00:09:15   kind of a venue to talk to and collaborate with somebody in a way that I think would

00:09:19   raise the bar on the work that I do in podcasting. And similarly, in development. There's something

00:09:25   that is missing, I think, that in the way that I work right now, in the way that I'm

00:09:31   the only person who's working on so much of what I do, I feel like that lowers my ability

00:09:37   to really do excellent work. And that worries me. That worries me in terms of my ability

00:09:44   to grow and develop as a developer.

00:09:47   There's only so much that you can do kind of on your own.

00:09:52   I always think about the experiences.

00:09:53   If you sit down and pair with somebody who's just different,

00:09:58   who has a slightly different philosophy, a slightly

00:09:59   different perspective than you, and they'll look at your code,

00:10:01   and they'll be like, why did you do that?

00:10:03   Why did you do that?

00:10:05   What are you thinking here?

00:10:06   Wouldn't it be better if?

00:10:07   Any time you can start getting into those kinds of questions,

00:10:10   I know that I'm being sharpened as a craftsman,

00:10:12   that my skills and my tools and the way that I'm working is getting better as a result

00:10:16   of that.

00:10:17   And so I'm always sort of thinking that's something that I should be doing.

00:10:21   And that's, I don't know exactly what that's going to look like and exactly who or what

00:10:25   that will be, but it's definitely something that I'm on the lookout for.

00:10:29   And I'm trying to set myself up to be open and available for those opportunities if and

00:10:35   when they arrive, if and when I have the ability to say, "You know what?

00:10:39   I think I, you know, it's like if someone's like,

00:10:43   you know, I've been thinking of doing this,

00:10:44   or I've been wanting to find someone to work with.

00:10:47   And obviously you have to find the right fit,

00:10:48   and you have to find the right match.

00:10:50   But I'm more and more open to those opportunities

00:10:53   because I think I'm a bit stale,

00:10:56   and a bit lonely in that way,

00:10:57   and that I think my work would be better.

00:11:00   And wrapping that around and making it

00:11:01   a little less personal, a bit more broad,

00:11:03   I think it's something that I hear from a lot of people

00:11:06   that they want to start making apps,

00:11:10   they want to go independent,

00:11:11   they want to do those types of things.

00:11:12   And how do they get into that?

00:11:15   Or do they need, sort of like the

00:11:16   do you need a co-founder question?

00:11:20   And I'm not sure if you necessarily need a co-founder.

00:11:22   And a lot of things, going independent,

00:11:24   starting out especially,

00:11:26   the economics and the reality of it

00:11:30   is much simpler if there's only one person.

00:11:33   And so if you're just sort of toying with something,

00:11:35   I think going independent in terms of working on an app

00:11:38   just by yourself, on your spare time kind of approach,

00:11:42   I think there's a lot of value to that,

00:11:43   that you can just kind of pick it up and start it,

00:11:45   and you own 100% of the upside,

00:11:46   and you own 100% of the downside,

00:11:48   that there's not these complicated dynamics.

00:11:51   But for something that's long-term and sustainable,

00:11:54   I'm more and more inclined that there's certainly

00:11:57   a benefit of working with somebody,

00:11:58   and working with somebody who's very like-minded,

00:12:00   who is like-skilled.

00:12:03   It's different, I think, probably a fair sidebar,

00:12:06   that there's a difference too between hiring somebody

00:12:08   and working with a peer,

00:12:10   and that there's just sort of a difference in the,

00:12:15   the nature of that.

00:12:17   Like, I don't think I want to have employees

00:12:19   or people working for me in the same way going forward.

00:12:23   There's a, you know, I'm an engineer, that's what I do.

00:12:26   I'm not a manager in that way.

00:12:28   And the effort and the pressure that it put on me

00:12:32   to have people who I needed to manage was difficult,

00:12:36   was something that I struggled with,

00:12:37   that was something that I think slowed me down a lot

00:12:39   in the work that I could do.

00:12:41   And so if I was looking to work with somebody,

00:12:43   though, who is a peer, who is someone who I'm not

00:12:46   having to bring up to speed, who can kind of finish my sentences

00:12:49   or who has had similar experiences than mine,

00:12:52   so we have a shared vocabulary, it's

00:12:55   something that is probably much more productive.

00:12:57   And that's just a little sidebar that I

00:12:58   think that's where you can get a lot of value

00:13:01   from trying to find somebody. And so if you're starting out, if

00:13:04   you're a beginner, there's no harm in looking for a beginner

00:13:07   who is learning it at the same time as you or if you're someone

00:13:10   who's advanced, you're looking for somebody who, you know, for

00:13:12   looking for somebody who's just as skilled as you are, that

00:13:15   there's a intrinsic value in that I think, kind of being

00:13:18   brothers or being, you know, that's a very gender specific

00:13:22   way of being being comrades in it and being able to talk to

00:13:27   somebody about what you're what you're doing and not have there

00:13:31   be communication slows down from not being it being inefficiencies that are introduced

00:13:34   by that. And so that's, I think, you know, an interesting thing. It's something you should

00:13:38   you have to find for yourself. But I know for myself, this is kind of, I think, where

00:13:41   I'm heading. And I don't know exactly what that'll look like. I don't know what it will

00:13:44   be in terms of if there's, you know, other people who I'll end up collaborating with

00:13:49   on a podcast or something like that, if there's people who I'll end up collaborating with

00:13:54   on an app or an app update or those types of things. But I know that I think that's

00:13:58   something that I want to be open to and to be exploring more

00:14:03   actively. Because I think I want to ultimately my goal in all of

00:14:07   what I do is I want to get better. I want to keep getting

00:14:09   better every day. And I don't think being myself at this point

00:14:14   at this level, it's becoming harder and harder for me to feel

00:14:18   like I'm honestly getting better every day. Alright, that's it

00:14:21   for today's show. As always, if you have questions, comments,

00:14:23   concerns, complaints, I'm on Twitter at underscore David

00:14:26   I'm on appnet@davidsmith.com.

00:14:28   You can email me, david@developingperspective.com.

00:14:31   And that's it.

00:14:32   Have a good week.

00:14:33   Happy coding.

00:14:34   And I'll talk to you later in the week.