Lowering the Barrier

Making programming (everything) more accessible

23 Aug 2022

Unsexy

At Replit we end our week with a Weekly Wins meeting. It’s what it says on the tin: people demo their wins. Clapping doesn’t translate well to video calls, so instead we roast (and praise) each other in the chat.

Not-so-random aside: stoking a lively chat is the one true way to make video calls with more than four people bearable and energizing.

A culture gets what a culture praises. We praise repls of all stripes, demos from localhost, Figma files of all stripes, demos from production, quotes from ~users~ creators, Looms, graphs, and even straight up log lines in a terminal. As I tell people when they join, whatever stage your idea is at, make it more real.

It is not so easy to demo “scales gracefully” or “lowers the cognitive load for other engineers.” So we praise those qualities less. And then wonder why we don’t see them consistently.

The obvious move is to seek out and praise unsexy work that keeps the site up and engineers happy (in that order). Jonathan hijacked the channel we used to use for monthly polish sessions and just started posting the small polishing that people do every single day.

Keeping an eye out for engineers eating their vegetables is unreasonably effective. We should all do more of it. But what about the people who save work, hassle, and interruptions by steering down an optimal path?

You should still reward fire-fighting and grunt work when necessary. But you can easily set up a treadmill. People spend most of their time reacting, new folks see that that’s what you have to do to be considered successful, they jump on the treadmill, and no one’s left to pull the plug.

You want to reward good decisions. Decisions that, with the information at the time, had a high likelihood of success and good downstream effects. When Lincoln hit a stable point during a middle-of-the-night incident, when there was nothing he could really do but stare at graphs waiting for them go wrong, he went to bed.

Validating ideas without building much is also always a good move. Hard to catch in the wild! Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look!