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This is Rediculous
I Hope I Work with Mediocre People
by Rick Kitts
June 12, 2004
mediocrity, principle of: The notion that our evolution (biological, cultural, and technological) and our surroundings, including the Earth and the Sun, are typical rather than exceptional.


The CTO of the company that I work at periodically sends out an overview of what's happening on the geek side of the business. I'm more or less plugged into this already so I usually don't pay a lot attention to these, more of a scan and trash mail if you take my meaning. The other day one of these missives pops up in my box and while running tests or waiting for a compile, I forget which, I scan the thing and run into a bit which rather caught my attention. With permission and some slight edits here it is:

At the same time, I'm also aware that we're far from achieving our potential.  The iterative improvements that have come out of our sprint lessons-learned sessions, the willingness of people to try new things, and a lot of native creativity have taken us a long way, but it looks like there's a long road ahead.  One of our challenges is to continue to leverage the processes and values we have in place (systematized organizational learning, experimentation, and iterative improvement) to keep the innovation train rolling.  Our competitors have vast numbers of people to deploy - the only way for us to win is to be far more innovative, far more effective, and far more productive.  We were up against [snip] (a huge software consulting shop; they also make trucks) at [snip].  They can probably deploy a thousand engineers to build a system if they want to.  Ditto for [snip], [snip], and whoever else pops up over the next few years.  The good news is that most companies suck at building software.  We suck less - and one day, we might even get to the point where we're pretty good at it. 

They say that the first thing you have to do to stop being an alcoholic is to admit you're an alcoholic. You know, "Hi, I'm Joe and I'm an alcoholic" and like that. I maintain, despite the perceptions of others, that in a macro sense we write utterly embarrassing software (we as in the industry). It's too buggy and hard to work with, forcing users to adapt to it and not the other way around. It's not...hang on...damn, forget the word, but it's not friendly. Despite the suggestions of some I do tend to think programming, at least in the large, is quite difficult and doing new things has not become substantially easier than it was say 20 years ago. There is no certainty that any project will be successfully completed and I think that sucks. It is, as I say, embarrasing.

I've mentioned before I work with some frighteningly intelligent people. The last sentence of the mail makes me hope they're not at all extraordinary. I hope this sentence is rooted in mediocrity. I hope, in fact, that this CTO guy is pretty much like all of the CTOs in the world. I hope that we'll start getting out of the slump the industry appears to be in, reinventing the wheel time and time again, and start pushing the envelope a bit.

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About the Blogger

Rick Kitts has been making a living writing software for a little while. He's started a company or two, worked at bigger companies, but mostly at startups. Constantly on the look out for things to help him build better systems he's a bit of a tool and process slut, though he can't bring himself to try C# or get serious about UML. Go figure. He's convinced being invited to have a weblog on Artima is the result of some glitch in the matrix. He's keeping quiet about it though.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2004 Rick Kitts. All rights reserved.

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