Army of One

If this is your first time here, I should say that I am the lone software developer in both my day job as well as in my company.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s like what Uncle Ben said in Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility”.

What’s Great About Being a Single Developer
Freedom
-You pretty much have the ability to do whatever you want.  If you don’t want to follow a methodology, you don’t have to!  You can build the system any way you want.

Ownership – You own the application.  You know its ins and outs, all the dark places with the twisted code that you took you forever to get right.  It has your stamp on it.  It’s your baby.

Pride – When it’s working and doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, you can sit back knowing that you were the one and only person responsible.  You can enjoy the kudos that your application receives and you think “Man, I’m a great developer”

What’s Horrible About Being a Singe Developer

No Guidance – When you start a project, it’s a little like being pushed out of plane (with a parachute…most of the time) over some wilderness.  When you land, you have to find you’re way back to civilization.  If you’re lucky, you know the terrain or at least have a compass.  Other times, you feel like you’re stuck in the wilderness, just struggling to survive until you can find a trail that will send you back to civilization.  And since you’re alone, there aren’t even kindly strangers you can ask on your way.

Responsibility –   You own the application.  But suddenly, instead of being the paragon of software development, it’s started acting like Frankenstein’s monster crossed with HAL.  And it’s ALL…YOUR…FAULT.  Remember that twisted code in the dark places of the program?   You get to fight that monster all by yourself.

Demoralizing– When you feel like the bug reports are coming in at a rate greater than you could even create them in the first place, you’re saying to yourself “How could I have missed that?”.  With each new bug report, error, or complaint that it doesn’t do what the user wants, you begin to think “Man, I am the worse software developer in the world!  Maybe I should take up a different line of work…”

So Is It Good, Bad, or Somewhere In Between…

My personal feeling it’s neutral to somewhat bad to be a single developer.  The biggest problem for me personally is not being able to bounce ideas off anyone else.  And when you’re treading new technical ground (at least for yourself), it can be frustrating and demoralizing.  When I went to college, object oriented programming was not widely used in industry.  Now, I find myself playing catch up.  I’ve been working on learning object oriented programming because I’m work in languages that require it.  But there are lot’s of things I don’t understand.  I need a mentor or at least someone I can go to for advice.  That’s one of the reasons for this blog; not only is it my chance to document my learning, but to make contacts and learn myself.

Another reason I think that being a single developer is tough is that you can get pegged as being someone who wants to work by himself/herself and can’t work in a group.  I’ve had two interviews where I was asked if I could work other people.  I didn’t get either job, so I have no idea if that was part of the reason or not.  But in my heart, I think it was a factor.  In both my current job and my business, I would LOVE to not be the only one.  But management at my job decided otherwise and I don’t have the money to pay anyone else. 

So Now What?

I plug along.  I follow the best advice I can get from the Web, from books, from magazines, just about any source I can find.  I look at new technologies (.NET with LINQ, Windows Presentation Foundation), new methodologies (Agile), and just good old rules of thumb and I try to adapt them to my own use.  I really think that someone should work to adapt some of the widely used methodologies like Waterfall (yes, I know it’s evil) or Agile and strip them down to what’s manageable to a single developer.  Because I’m sure that I’m not alone out there.  I’m sure there are many developers stuck by themselves, either at a regular job or their own business endeavor.  It can be lonely out there, but to me, in the end, the result is the reward.  Seeing that shiny application in use and hearing a heartfelt thank you from the user is the best result.

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One Comment on “Army of One”

  1. Letta Says:

    I continue to support all the great stuff you are doing. I don’t understand it all, but you know that the work that you are doing is beneficial…and who knows…you could very well discover the next breakthrough software of the next generation. Onwards!


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