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Smart, get things done, too much appreciated?

I love the joel site from the first moment I discovered it,
there's to my knowledge nothing like it under the sun.

Also the guerilla guide to interviewing is quite convincing.
Simple requirements for the candidate, smart and get things done.
Of course the charm of the guerilla guide is that it is not a 800 page book leaving you clueless about what to do and what not in an interview.
But is it really that simple?
Aren't for example intellectual honesty and good temper equally important?
When you are a star and also a great communicator which I saw somewhere else mentioned as a good quality, are you willing to do only development?
After all Joel, you went away from Microsoft and started your own company, although Microsoft gave you lots of good things. Now you are the CEO travelling around the world.
Aren't the qualities that are appreciated so much in a good candidate not the same that will cause that person to spread his/her wings and leave the company after not so long period?
After a great amount of time has been invested to get that person familiar with the situation?

I followed the links to Philip Greenspun, also a quite impressive person when I read something about him.
To me Philip Greenspun is also a kind of a superstar. But would it be a wise idea to add such a talent to your development team?
How long will it take for such a character to get bored with developing and maintaining two applications?

So what about the following candidate: not a brilliant superstar but reasonable intelligent, modest, friendly, reliable and super-motivated to add value for years to your company? (It is not about me, I am a brilliant superstar myself when I am alone with the mirror)

Maybe my thoughts about this topic have been fed by the team I have been in recently.
Rather big ego's with IQ 160+, debating like razors (very high level, little oxygen), but after more then a year, the project is quite a mess. Their brilliant ideas and big mouths did not really added that much value to the project. I can not say they did not get things done,
they were just too much in love with their own little things.
To turn their opinions around just required so much effort, not to speak for the time it will take to clean up the mess they left behind. Mayby their ego was to big and the Guerilla guide has to be extended to that 800 page book that nobody wants to read.
Or maybe the Guerilla guide can be extended a litle bit: look the person in the eye and ask him/her the 60.000 dollar question: "Are you an ***hole?". When you don't know: No Hire!

keep up the good work, it's much appreciated
John Fisher

John Fisher
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The thing that strikes me about this thinking is if everyone adopted this policy, where would I work?  I guess the productivity would be so high that social programs would provide for me and mine.

Who really considers themselves a "C" ?


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"...IQ 160+..."

Just a quick comment about this: Is it just me, or is there an "IQ inflation" going on -- Not one because human beings are getting smarter, but because of a proliferation of "feel good" IQ tests that are more about making the testee feel good about themselves. If one were to believe these results, then 100% of people would have an IQ above 120, with about 50% above 140. Of course this sort of goes against the whole "an IQ of 100 is the median" basis.

Getting back to the actual discussion, I would consider the actual proliferation of real "160+" persons to quite rare (and I would also argue that the average software developer's IQ is only marginally above the norm). Of course this all relates to the whole abstract ridiculousness and complete lack of comparison between IQ results: Some measure primarily series and mathematical skills, while othes gauge linguistic skills or spatial orientation skills. Some people have excellent correlation skills that allow them to make leaps of perception (that lead to new inventions and solutions), while others are extraordinary technicians along a very specific linear progression.

Each of us is a complex mixture of skills that I've yet to see be adequately turned into numeric values -- Some people have unbelievable linguistics, but they can't do simple math without a calculator, and their spatial orientation is horrible. Others have a tremendous memory for triviality (i.e. Jeopardy type experts), while others of us have an extremely poor memory ,yet tremendous problem solving skills and research skills.

Just a mini rant there.

Dennis Forbes
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

There are several things that matter in a developer:

A. smart

B. self-discipline, high work power

C. knows the needed technology

Problem is, the people who are very far above average in A tend to be bellow average in B.

So, for an efficient team, you need:

1. a superstar (very smart, medium to low self discipline)

2. several people with high self-discipline / working power, and average smarts

People of type 1 will provide the team with brains and guidance. They are the brains of the team.

People of type 2 will provide the team with lots of raw work. These are the "heavy tanks" of the team.

In my experience as a software entrepreneur, this kind of team is very successful.

Jack Klein
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Simple requirements for the candidate, smart and get things done."

And this philosophy seems to work well for FogCreek. The "smart and get things done" philosophy probably doesn't apply to every hiring situation under the sun.

"...After all Joel, you went away from Microsoft and started your own company, although Microsoft gave you lots of good things."

Well, Joel did make a pitstop along the way (I believe he worked at Juno for a while after leaving Microsoft).  I don't remember if he wrote anything of consequence about his work experiences at Juno, but this might have been the so-called "straw that broke the camel's back" that motivated him to start his own business.

"Are you an ***hole?". When you don't know: No Hire!"

Actually, this already happens quite a bit in all industries. Of course, there are many variations to this theme, such as, "Does this candidate share many of the same values that I do?"  Technial merit is rarely the only factor taken into consideration when a hiring decision needs to made.

B# wrote, "Who really considers themselves a "C"?"

I do and I always will.  There is simply too much stuff to learn about developing and maintaining software for me to think otherwise.

Most of the developers that I have met who consider themselves to be superstars and who aren't afraid to let everyone around them know this fact are specialists.  That is, when it comes to their specialty -- the 100 yard dash for example -- they can beat just about anybody they compete against.  Require (don't ask) these same individuals to compete in a couple of decathlon events and see what happens to those indivduals who have a "I know more than anybody else" type of attitude.

"To turn their opinions around just required so much effort, not to speak for the time it will take to clean up the mess they left behind."

Whose fault is it when parents are told that they gave birth to a spoiled brat?  The parent's fault, the child's fault, or both?  I think most people would say that in many cases, the parents have to accept much of the blame.

Couldn't the same type of question be asked when discussing some of the team members you worked with?  Who's fault is it that these "little monsters" were allowed to run around loose without any adult supervision?

One Programmer's Opinion
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

When I said a "C", I meant as it pertains to Joel's evaluation of candidates and as far as I can tell, it means if they were any dumber they would be required to wear a helmet.  No offense intended to helmet wearers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Where DID I put my helmet?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Intelligence, for a reason I don't fully comprehend, is a hot-button topic with most people. Many will admit that they aren't good at golf or that they suck with numbers or that they can't tell a merlot from a cabernet. However, they get nuts if you suggest they aren't as intelligent as someone else. Many people think they are much smarter than they really are.

The truth is that you have the genetics you were born/blessed with plus what you have learned. That's it. You can't study for an IQ test and you shouldn't be ashamed of your results either. An IQ test has no bearing on what kind of person you are or how good you are.

For the record, standardized IQ tests (the only kind that matter) indicate that a person is a "genius" if they score above 136 or so depending upon the test. Societies like Mensa make this easier by saying that you must be in the 98th percentile or higher of a particular test. This allows you to take the kind of test you are good at (e.g., GRE, GMAT) and use that score if its sufficiently high enough. This also underscores the point that people think differently and that there is no single way to measure intelligence.

I agree that great teams are made up of diverse people. A high IQ may be nice, but I'd rather focus on having a team with the right match of experiences.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Smart and Gets Things Done is kinda like the golden rule (Do unto others as you would have done to yourself).  It's a really simple notion that allows you to hang more concrete ideas off of it.

Honesty and good temper are covered under Gets Things Done.  If you are smart and a good programmer but have a bad attitude, you probably won't be able to Get Things Done, long term. 

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

They go nuts because they can't, as you said, do anything about it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I think people go nuts about intelligence because they think of themselves as their minds and intelligence is a way of looking at the quality of a mind.  It feels similar to having one's soul insulted.

As for IQ inflation, I have read that IQ scores have actually been inexplicably drifting upward since the start of the 20th century and that the testers have actually taken off more and more points over the years to keep the average at 100.

As for everyone seeming to have an IQ of 120 or greater, it may be the crowd you run in.  An average IQ for the whole population is 90-110 so I wouldn't be surprised if the average of college graduates is 120 or so.

Name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Also, don't forget the self-selection bias of most online IQ tests (folks with below-average IQs aren't very big on finding out just how dumb they are).

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

From your description, I think the people you are describing fail the "gets things done" test quite spectactularly.  I think the implied qualifier needs to be made specific:  "gets things done, that advance the organization's goals".

Working on pet ideas and projects is not "getting things done".  It's piddling away your time on ego-reinforcing twaddle.  Arguing over esoteric questions your customers don't care about is not "getting things done", either.

In other words, anyone not advancing the goals of the organization fails the "gets things done" test.

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I always got through life by assuming I was dumb and had to work harder than others.  This worked out OK.  Then I did an online IQ test and was told I was a genius - this felt great.  I got suspicious when my friend got exactly the same score (not because I think he's stupid, I think he's just as smart/not smart as I am, but it seemed suspicious). 

The next stage was to conduct experiments on this test - we tried to choose what we thought was absolutely, categorically, the wrongest answer for each one.  We went through each question debating which one must be false.  We still registered about the 110 mark.  From this we can either assume:

a) both my friend and I were subconsciously trying to be correct despite our conscious intentions
b) the IQ test was a pack of lies

Tuesday, September 16, 2003


IQ tests are just a different kind of witchcraft, you can learn how to take them and you can maximise your score.  If you don't learn how then your score may be quite a lot lower.

There is nothing in an IQ test that gives an indication that the person taking it can cross the road on their own.

An IQ test result is as useful in recruitment as knowing their birthsign and whether their handwriting is appalling.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

There are a lot of IQ and/or personality tests used by one group of scammers to promote their agenda and otherwise make you more receptive to their scam.  If you are told that you are really above average, this lowers your defenses.

The average intelligence (not IQ) of the population can "go up" over time, simply because the large percentage of us are getting the proper nutrients, aren't suffering from a variety of childhood diseases that divert energy from developing the brain, are educated and challenged, etc.

The average IQ number of the population can increase with even greater ease, because there's almost always a bias towards what you already know.  Piers Anthony (the fantasy / science fiction writer)  talks about how he raised his score on the IQ test because he remembered a question he was wrong on in the previous test.  Education trains your brain, but it also increases your memories to draw on that would be useful for an IQ test.

Thankfully, there's somewhat of a movement away from IQ-related numbering simply because if you tell a kid that his IQ is 60, it generally discourages him from actually obtaining a good education, because you've already told him he's dumb.

Intelligence is a deep notion that it's kinda dumb to try to rate.  I mean, do we put numbers on how personable somebody is in a general situation?  Sure you can rate somebody about how personable they are in an interview setting with a particular crowd of people, but they might be evaluated totally differently in a bar setting with a different crowd.  Do we rate people on attractiveness?  How does that account for various tribal body modifications?  ;)

Left to their self-evaluation, if somebody is in the "normal" range of IQ, they will generally self-evaluate themselves as above-average.  This was referenced out at some point on the forum some time ago and a scholarly reference was given.

So back to the topic at hand, it all boils down to trying to come up with a simple maxim that you can intelligently apply, not something that's as convoluted as a mission statement in a large company (which all pretty much boil down to "all babes must eat" themselves).  And it's all subjective.  If somebody completely doesn't grasp programming, they may be smart, but as far as you are concerned, they aren't "Smart".

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"There are a lot of IQ and/or personality tests used by one group of scammers to promote their agenda and otherwise make you more receptive to their scam."

You mean, for example, the personality test the Scientologists distribute as part of their recruiting kit?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

>"Some people have unbelievable linguistics, but they can't do simple math without a calculator, and their spatial orientation is horrible."

Some people are excellent mathematicians, working as professors or actuaries, but can't do simple math without a calculator. No joke.

T. Norman
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm not surprised.

I noticed in college that the higher the level of math course I took, the less I used actual numbers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

1. Take any real cross section of the population and administer even a "feel good" IQ test. Try to think back to a situation when you were in, say, public school. Customers at the local Wal Mart (who doesn't shop at Wal Mart?). I'd suspect you'd get a fairly normal bell curve with something approaching the normal standard deviations.

Something tells me that programmers do have a higher IQ than the norm. In high school I definately felt smarter than the average. In the advanced classes, still felt somewhat above the average, but not as much.

In different jobs I definately felt the average IQ change. I was a superstar at some jobs, and par for the course at others.

2. Any time you introduce numbers into the equation, you get into what I call "penis measuring." Guys do it any time they can... cars, computers, IQ, number of women you've been with, and yes, the size of your penis... any time you can put a number on something where the higher the number the better, guys start competing and showing of and pretending they're not showing off.

3. "Get things done" I think is the tricky part of the equation.

A room full of smart people can debate for hours the absolute best way to do things without getting anything done. Just look at this forum....

When hiring for any job, there's one thing you're looking for - an enthusiastic employee who will want to get up every morning and come to work. Someone who will attack each day with fervor.

Anyone see that show The Restaurant? There was a guy who showed up a full day or two early and slept on the street outside the door to get a job. Who wouldn't hire him?

The problem with this is that same person is as likely to bail when the going gets tough. This level of passion often comes with a certain unpredictability.

So my contribution would be level-headed, and dependable. I've met a few really sincere people at work. People who really appreciated their jobs and showed up every day and simply did what the job took. Even when they were looking for new jobs because of poor work conditions, they made sure that their job got done.

In a word.. maturity.

My 385 words worth.

Mark T A W .com
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

> Mark T A W .com

PS, this is really gonna screw up that thing that keeps track of who posts the most on this forum.

Mark T A W .com
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

>> "Are you an ***hole?". When you don't know: No Hire!

Too bad this can't be determined through urinalysis.  The problem with a**holes is that they're often masters of disguise.

This is where management can either shine or plummet:  As important as it is to hire good people in the first place, it is equally if not more important to get rid of the bad eggs who hamper others' productivity.

1 doofus = -2 * superstar

Tim Lara
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The problem is the productivity is hard to measure.

Thus, the guy who says "I am the most productive" the loudest and most effectively is credited with being the most productive.

We've all seen the guys who make a big deal about how complex, or important, or hard the projects they are working on are - or how much overtime they work, or whatever.

These guys are often inflexible, judgemental, and not teachable. 

Yet, in the arena of office politics, they tend to win, because people tend to repeat things they've heard.  Thus, the boss hears from -other- people that joe is smart, hard-working, working on a complex process, etc, etc.

Objective, Impartial measurement of the productivity of software developers would fix this.  Of course, if you figure it out, let me - we can bottle it and sell it and make billions. :-)


Matt H.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Jim made a good point about "Getting Things Done" not being ego-reinforcing twaddle.

On the other hand, people can be very passionate about stuff that reinforces their ego.

Perhaps one of the things to look for in a prospective team meber is someone who considers the project an ego reinforcement?

It also occurs to me that most organizations started out as someone's personal project. As an employer, you don't want to provide venture capital in bi-weekly installments. But as a developer, maybe your ego-reinforcing twaddle is worth quitting your job and working full time?

p.s. Yes, I quit my job to twiddle twaddle full time. I'll be back when the bread or the motivation runs out, whichever comes first...

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but the best thing for pounding down a nail is still a hammer. 

Thursday, September 18, 2003

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