Scaling Knowledge work …

Ron Jeffries has an interesting article on a project he is currently working on.

I read the article and responded to the XP E-mail list; here’s a copy of the response.

Ron Jeffries Wrote:

I wonder what would happen if Chet and I were putting in four or eight hours a day on this thing. Suppose we’re averaging two now, and we did eight. Would we go four times faster in elapsed time to a given feature?

This is a real problem in the freelance writing world as well. People think “Gee, I can knock out a story on a Saturday, I could knock out five a week … I can afford to go full time!” and it doesn’t work out that way.

Besides the obvious marketing and sales problem when you 5x your output, it turns out that nearly all humans have creative output go down when they try to do a lot of it at a sustained pace.

It might be possible to spend 40 hours a week programming CRUD database-backed web forms, but innovating, you find yourself doing … other stuff. And sometimes, you’re just plain blocked. (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a good reference; Wicked Problems, Righteous Solutions describes this anecdotally as well.)

I think pair programming helps with that because if one person is blocked, the second can “bring them along”, and the time spent not programming is probably going to be used to something more valuable than surfing the web.

The freelance world knows this (pick up any book on the business of writing), but in the software world we are just starting to realize that IP work doesn’t scale linearly.

Then again, there’s always those guys like Issac Asimov that could just sit
at a typewriting and type for days. But, I suppose that’s a different post, and for every one of those, there are a thousand Arthur C. Clarke’s …

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