Notch’s superhuman productivity seems closely related to his incredible domain expertise and familiarity with the tools for creating a very specific type of game.
Similarly, Bret Victor’s shockingly good, interactive design guide is possible because of the personal tool he’s developed (as both skills and code) to facilitate the quick & easy presentation of living data.
The nature of highly specific, personal tools
With the caveat that this is a very early version of a thought, I will make a set of claims:
1. The development of these tools can’t be rationalised by beancounter style planning — the payoff cycle is too long.
2. The investment in both cases was driven by personal values. Bret has strong values about how information should be portrayed and Notch’s recent post on some of his favourite games makes it clear that he has something of a soft spot for the dungeon crawler genre.
3. The tools are useful insofar as their creator continues to work within the same space.
These tools are a unique advantage of those who chase passion
Not everyone who stays in the same space ends up with these sorts of tools. I would guess it thrives under a healthy combination of irrationality, passion, and introspection.
Continuously chasing the Next Big Thing makes this style of tool development impractical.
It can therefore occur and pay dividends when your field of work is primarily constrained by values/interests rather than opportunities/markets.
A personal toolset makes the passion-driven “lifers” increasingly capable of exploiting marginal opportunities.
Why would a developer invest time in your startup’s platform? Next Post:
You’re a startup. It’s okay to ask about money.