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Tech decisions and developer guilt

Drew Bredvick
July 5th, 2019 · 1 min read
With the long weekend coming up, I'm sure many of you are starting side projects. I'm starting one this weekend, too. As usual, I got stuck on the "what tech stack should I use" question. Here's my updated take on that question with a little assistance from Seth Godin.

Getting stuck on tech decisions.

A lot of us are accustomed to working on large software projects. The main concern is always scale, readability, testing, stability, etc.

To start a project at work, I diagram everything out, write a Confluence post on my proposed solution, and solicit feedback. This stage normally takes a couple of days. I generally get really good advice here — I work with tons of smart people that have a lot of experience building software that scales. This is a really important step when building enterprise software.

This is because the outcome of my project is two things: the feature AND the code.

I work with plenty of other engineers who will be reading and interacting with my code. If it’s not easily consumable, it will cause plenty of pain for the business in the future.

Here’s the difference with side projects:

You might throw the whole codebase away.

Yes. The whole codebase.

You might not gain traction. You might pivot to a new idea. You might never work on this again. And that’s the point.

That’s why you don’t have to hold yourself to the same standards you do at your enterprise software job.

Put something out there. See if your users like it and pivot if they don’t.

The point is to be lean.

When you aren’t certain your project will be around in three months, don’t worry about:

  • Can this (code / infastructure) scale?
  • Does this code smell?
  • Is this the best tech?

Instead, focus on:

  • Does this work for my users?
  • Can I build new features in this system quickly?
  • Is this performant enough? (speed == conversion)

Most importantly: is this a viable solution to serve my customers?

I’ll leave you with a final point from Seth Godin.

Stephen King, one of the most beloved, famous and bestselling authors ever, often goes to writer’s conferences. After he talks for a little bit he says, “Any questions?” Inevitably, someone raises their hand—I’m paraphrasing here—and says“Mr. King, you are one of the most beloved, famous, and bestselling authors ever. What kind of pencil do you use to write your books?” It’s almost as if knowing what kind of pencil Stephen King uses will help them be more like Stephen King.

Link to Seth’s whole post

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