Paul Graham, Joel Spolsky and Steve Yegge and the Law of Increasing Returns

I’ve read almost everything these three guys (PG, JS, SY) have written. I think it’s because I get an unshakable feeling of rightness and convergence when I read their stuff that I’ve been trying to pin down. Some fairly obvious commonalities between them include:

But most of all, I think the key tenet that binds them together is an awareness of the Law of Increasing Returns. They each buy into the idea that:

  • a really smart person
  • a powerful programming language
  • a beautifully-architected office
  • an uninterrupted 3-day period

is worth 10

  • Joes
  • Blubs
  • cubicles
  • half-hour slots between errands.

PG’s essay on taste is perhaps the most ardent tribute to the Law of Increasing Returns. He catalogues the hallmarks of good design, and though he doesn’t say it, the key point of all this is that they add non-linearly. I’m still thinking about this.

He doesn’t say much about how one can hone one’s taste. I think there’s a Vonnegut quote to the effect that the only way to learn to tell good painting from bad is to look at thousands and thousands of good ones, and it will become obvious to you.


Interestingly, while I was trawling for links for this essay, I noticed that the three of them read each other:

I feel a little less clever now that it’s clear that a lot of other people are reading all of them too:

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