A friend of mine collected and analyzed statistics on a six-month crash project involving some
500 programmers. At project end, fully half the code delivered had been written by just one
of them. This programmer, whom I shall call Per because that's his name, is humble about his
skills, because he knows someone else who codes ten times as fast, and wears out two keyboards
When the difference between a mediocre programmer and the best is three orders of magnitude,
it argues for (1) paying way more for somebody closer to the latter, and (2) figuring out some
way to identify him or her. Fortunately, our distinguished author, Ms. Henson has identified
herself for us. Others working in Free Software distinguish themselves, to varied but
measurably visible degrees, in their public work.
Curiously, the pay scale seems to be logarithmic; it is vanishingly rare to find a star
programmer of Per's or Val's caliber paid more than three times as much as an ordinary
programmer. I take that as evidence that software development management has not yet attained
a stone-age level of sophistication.