How will you make it if you never even try?

June 23, 2011

Analogies for 1000 Mediocre Programmers vs. 5 Great Programmers

Filed under: C# — charlieflowers @ 5:30 pm

Recently, there was an article and a corresponding Hacker News discussion on whether you’d rather have 1000 mediocre programmers, or 5 great programmers. To me, the choice is so blindingly obvious that I can’t believe there’s a debate.

To help illustrate why, here are some fun (and pretty darn accurate) analogies:

1. You’re on trial, facing the death penalty, for a crime you didn’t commit, but with a lot of circumstantial evidence that makes you look guilty. You are given a choice — have a team of 1000 mediocre lawyers, or a team of only 5 great lawyers.

2. Would you rather buy a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition with 5 incredibly gorgeous models, or one with 1000 mediocre models?

3. You’re in a chess tournament. You don’t get to choose your moves directly … rather, you must select a team to choose your moves. All moves must be made in 30 minutes or less, and your team must reach consensus on each move. You may have either 5 brilliant chess players, or 1000 mediocre ones.

4. You’re going on a 18 hour road trip. You must drive straight through, with no more than 4 30-minute breaks. You must listen to music from an iPod the entire way. Do you want the iPod filled with music from 5 distinct, excellent musicians, or do you want it filled with music from 1000 distinct, mediocre musicians?

5. You’re going to read a novel that is over 1500 pages and then take an extensive reading comprehension quiz. Do you want the novel that is written by a collaboration of 1000 mediocre authors? Or would you prefer the novel written by a collaboration of 5 excellent authors?

6. Your wife is in the hospital, giving birth, but there are complications. You can’t be there for some strange reason, and you’re a nervous wreck. Which would you rather hear from the hospital:
a. “Unfortunately, sir, we have only mediocre doctors available right now. However, don’t worry, we have *1000* of them on the case!”
b. “Don’t worry sir, we have 5 outstanding doctors on her case.”

Think about it! (And let me hear your analogies too!)

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