April 25, 2012

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

Entrepreneurial Programming - The Sixty Four Challenge

All this talk about "lean start-ups" and "bacon entrepreneurs" (or whatever... TBH, I wasn't really paying attention) has got me thinking...

It seems that a little experiment, in the form of a challenge, might be in order. Many people - including people who should know better - continue to assert that quality and getting something to market quickly are a trade-off. It's the old "quick and dirty" school of thought.

If quick-and-dirty is the best short-term solution, then it stands to reason that in a short-term endevour, quick-and-dirty would give you an advantage over Clean Code.

I'm not at all convinced that it would. All the evidence I've seen suggests that the opposite is true.

But I'm not here to tell you ghost stories. How could we put it to the test? Asking a sample of people to start a real tech business and run it in a certain way just for an experiment doesn't seem reasonable. We've all got better things to do with our time. Well, maybe.

But, for a big enough sample, it might be worth investing a chunk of time to answer this question - along with potentially lots of other questions about what is the least we can do to start a successful tech business?

Here's a rough outline of an experiment in entrepreneurial programming I've been kicking around. I'll be interested to know what folk think.

This experiment would be called THE SIXTY FOUR CHALLENGE:

We would create an artificial tech business economy. 64,000 people will be given 64 tokens to spend on tech products and services created by one or more of 64 "tech businesses".

Each tech business is a team of people who get together to create a product or service out of software (e.g., a web or smartphone app).

Each team has no more than 64 person-days (64 x 8 hours) to design, build, sell and support their product or service.

The challenge lasts 64 days from a standing start to the final reckoning. At the end of those 64 days, we would tot up how much money (tokens) each startup has made from our artificial market.

Each start-up has a seed fund of 64 tokens, which they can use to buy things like hosting and professional services from other start-ups (at a negotiated value in tokens/hour or day - so a team made up entirely of web designers could potentially win just by doing web design for other teams, which many would argue is what the web is anyway). Hours worked for other teams would not count against the maximum 64 hours alotted to your team.

We would create special payment gateways and other tools for processing token payments and exchanging tokens between teams, sitting behind which would be an artificial bank that holds all of these accounts and provides transparency to the whole endevour.

You can change - and even completely re-write - the code as many times as you like over the 64 days.

At the end, the final accounts would be totted up and also the source code would be evaluated, and we'd see whether cleaner code = slower start-up. My guess is we would see no clear correlation, and that taking care over code quality would not be a significant disadvantage.

What do you reckon? Answers on a postcard, please.

Posted 8 years, 9 months ago on April 25, 2012