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What Happens if I Get Hit by a Bus

A fair question indeed.

I bill myself as an ultra effective development team of one, citing of course virtues like eliminated communication overhead, a shorter route from business vision to application design and implementation, nimble ability to adapt the application to changing business needs when they come up, and 100% accountability when it comes to turning out quality.

Oh, and it’s cheap to hire one person instead of six.

So naturally it has occurred to my clients on more than one occasion to ask me “what happens if you get hit by a bus?”  If I’m the guy who’s doing it all, naturally I represent a sizable single point of failure.

Here’s my answer.

You replace me.  Though I do have a publicly documented love affair with Classic ASP, Classic ASP developers are a dying breed, so it would be irresponsible to start any new substantial project for a client in that language. No, anything that’s built to last I would start in PHP or perhaps Ruby on Rails, languages that boast thriving communities of developer talent from which you could draw to replace poor old mangled (or dead) me.

Now then, when you replace me my successor will need to be trained on how to work on the code base I’ve laid down.  If I’m NOT dead I can guide them through to get them up to speed quickly.  I if AM dead the good news is that my code is quite beautiful and well organized, with perfectly uniform indentation and formatting, completely consistent conventions, and immaculately well factored.  Any developer who is worth their salt in the language I have laid down will be able to understand, trace, and build upon my code within one day of poring over it.  (If not, fire them.  Trust me.)

Furthermore, whatever I did manage to complete before carelessly failing to look the other way while crossing that hypothetical street will constitute a massive leg up on your project.  Remember, typical development projects tend to be heavily loaded on the front end with meetings, spec docs, planning, project management, and other such things that don’t get you closer to a usable piece of software.  Before that Greyhound sent me to a better place even a half-completed prototype done by me will have enabled you to shortcut through all of that, leaving you with a sensible solution strategy and design foundation already in existence.

So in conclusion: if I get hit by a bus, you replace me.  You’ll miss me as you move forward at not as smooth or fast a clip as before, but your project will have gotten the benefit of my precious last remaining pre-bus-hit days.

It’s kinda like getting Frank Lloyd Wright to draw up the plans for your house and then he can’t finish it.  It’s still gonna be a pretty snazzy house even if some junior architect needs to rough in details like which tiles to use in the bathroom.


This is Programmer for Hire, a series of essays and explorations on the art of being a great programmer doing on-demand custom software development.

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