Chapter 96. Yes, Code Wins Arguments. But Why? And How to Be Polite About It

Joe Dunn

OK, so when to stop meeting and write some code?

This came up while working with a senior software engineer recently. He had diligently gone to the project meetings, tried to move things forward, tried to drive consensus, but things were stuck. He knew in his bones that more meetings wouldn’t help, but a week of him coding a prototype would. But he didn’t want to “take the project away,” or appear arrogant and pushy. (All good concerns…).

What to do?

“Code wins arguments” has been around for a while. This is from the Facebook S1 filing: “Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works.”

Classic! “Hackers would rather….” Of course they would! No more stupid meetings, we’re just going to build it and you guys can sort it out later! Cool! The implied context is an argument and the outcome is a win for the hackers—which means a defeat for somebody else.

Here’s the thing though: “Code wins arguments” is shorthand for a much more subtle process. Software is a creative act. When we’re thinking about building a piece of software, we don’t know how it’s going to turn out. We really don’t. We can speculate, sketch potential structures and collective outlines of what we think we’re ...

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