My tiny side project has had more impact than my decade in the software industry

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That’s a heartwrenching title from Michael Williamson. I believe it though. It’s kinda like a maximized version of the blogging phenomenon where if you work on a post for weeks it’ll flop compared to a post that’s some dumb 20-minute thought. Or how your off-handed remark to some developer at the perfect time might cause some huge pivot in what they are doing, changing the course of a project forever. For Mike, it was a 3,000 line-of-code side project that had more impact on the world than a career of work as a software developer.

I’ve tried to pick companies working on domains that seem useful: developer productivity, treating diseases, education. While my success in those jobs has been variable – in some cases, I’m proud of what I accomplished, in others I’m pretty sure my net effect was, at best, zero – I’d have a tough time saying that the cumulative impact was greater than my little side project.

Impact is fuzzy though, isn’t it? I don’t know Mike, but assuming he is a kind and helpful person, think of all the people he’s likely helped along the way. Not by just saving them minutes of toil, but helped. Helped grow, helped through hard times, helped guide to where they ought to go. Those things are immeasurable and awfully important.

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