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Openers vs Closers

I've read an article in the past about the 2 types of developers: openers and closers. I can't remember the exact link, but this distinction is weighing on my mind lately.

In my mind these are roles, not developer types. A developer might be filling either role, depending on the circumstances.


The openers are the developers that are on the front line, taking feature requests from managers and customers, and turning them into real applications that can be interacted with. The openers are free to use whatever means necessary to get the job done. They aren't concerned with performance or scalability. Their job is to make the app work.


Once the app features solidify, the closers are the ones who fix the performance and scalability issues. They care deeply about runtime performance, about efficient algorithms, about profiling tools, memory allocation, all all the deep technical issues. While all developers are typically nerds, the closes are typically the uber-nerds. They understand systems at a deep level, and figure out systems that they didn't take part in building.

I've been developing software for 15 years. I'm finding myself falling into the closer category as of late. I'm digging into technical issues that the openers don't have the time, knowledge, or patience to dig into. And I enjoy it.

Sometimes I wish that the openers would spend a little more time thinking like closers :).

The key point about openers vs closers is that they are completely different mindsets. Openers are thinking in terms of features, user interactions, what should be built, and how to iterate quickly. Closers are in the mindset of how can we make this work for our user base, how will it scale, how do we monitor it, and a whole lot of other minutiae that the openers don't want to get bogged down with.

This reminds me of the Lean Startup approach to building software. Openers are testing ideas, iterating as quickly and cheaply as possible. Closers are thinking long term, and how to maintain the system, and keep the lights on.


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