Cheap, Fast, Good

One of the “rules” of software engineering and contract work that there are three features you want out of any SE work you order. You want it done quickly. You want it done cheaply. You want it done well. You can pick any two of those, but you can’t have all three.

I recently* was involved in a contract project that seemed to defy that rule. I have a friend who hired myself and some other contractors to do some work for him. I like to think that we all do good work, or at least we do good work by this friend’s standards. The rates involved were pretty low compared to industry standards. And he asked us to rush the project because his own salary was dependent on it. It seems like he was getting cheap, fast, good work.

Upon thinking about it for a bit, I realized that this project actually was following the rule though. It was just taking an unconventional route. The work was still going to be good and fast, but it wasn’t going to be cheap. We were all doing this project out of good will for a friend. He paid in friend equity and requesting favors. Now obviously, as our friend, I hope he’s not so mercenary to be thinking of it in those terms, but that’s how you would explain it from an economic perspective. He spent years building that relationship, doing favors, and being friends with us, and that is how he paid for this work.

Sure, from a pure numbers perspective, it seems like we’re breaking the rules. From a holistic, TANSTAAFL perspective though, we’re all doing just fine.

* Like, a year ago.

p.s. Also, you should buy a copy of Fluxx. It's a fun game.

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