What Do You Need to Become an Elite Developer?

MarkedUp Analytics’s customers are developers and so are most of the people who work at the company, so I spend a lot of time thinking about and refining my answers to the following two questions:

  • What are the lowest common denominator skills and programming knowledge that my customers have?
  • What are the lowest common denominator skills and traits that the developers on my team need to have in order to best serve our customers?
    As I’ve been exposed to more customers and as I’ve turned over members of our team[footnote: developer turnover is a natural and expected byproduct of growth in a technology company, I’ve come to learn. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.] I’ve started refining my answers to these questions.
    Turns out that most of our customers are fairly sophisticated and thus I expect the developers on our team to be...

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How to Learn a New Programming Skill

I was really surprised with the positive reception 10 Reasons Why You’re Failing to Realize Your Potential as a Developer received after it got picked up on Hacker News and a few other places. One theme that became immediately clear to me in some of the feedback in the comments and in much of the feedback that was emailed to me privately was that there are a decent number of developers out there who recognize that they can do better, but don't know how to do anything about it.

As an autodidactic learner, I probably take the ability to teach myself things for granted - but I recognize that's not the case for every developer.

It can be really difficult to wrap your arms around a new programming skill when you have to learn it on your own without any outside help from an instructor or teacher, and my goal...

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Live by “Fuck you, pay me;” Die by “Fuck you, pay me”

I came across a blog post by Michael Halligan on Hacker News last week entitled “Benefits matter, or why I won’t work for your YCombinator start-up.” As a fledging entrepreneur trying to attract senior engineering talent to my startup, his post bothered me immensely. I spent about a week mulling it over before I decided to write this.

Michael’s attitude in the post is abrasive, needlessly cynical, and mercenary, but well-argued on its pure economic merits. He describes himself on his own blog thusly:

I'm just this guy who used to enjoy tech, now I would rather build bicycles. I still work in the tech industry, for the money, but I no longer call myself a "technologist".

And he ends his blog post with this call to action for other senior technologists like himself:

To all of my colleagues with whom I have been in...

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Migrating from RavenDB to Cassandra

Today on the MarkedUp Analytics Blog I authored a post entitled “Cassandra, Hive, and Hadoop: How We Picked Our Analytics Stack.”

In it I explain MarkedUp’s evaluation process for choosing a new database, how we selected Cassandra, and some benchmarks from our test. If you want to learn more, go read it.

I’ve written about RavenDB in the past on and I’ve spoken about it at code camp before. I think it’s a great technology for prototyping and it has some really interesting concepts not found in any other database that make Raven really simple and elegant to operate.

So I wanted to copy over a section from our blog post about building MarkedUp on Cassandra which explains why we ultimately needed to move away from RavenDB:

Looking back to what went wrong with RavenDB, we determined that it was fundamentally flawed in...

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10 Reasons Why You’re Failing to Realize Your Potential as a Developer

Since going full-time on my own startup 6 months ago, I’ve spent a lot of my time recruiting, evaluating, and working with a lot of different developers. My startup, MarkedUp, is an analytics provider for Windows 8 apps (and eventually, other platforms.)

Our technology is sophisticated and difficult even for large companies to master, so the bar is pretty high for developers who join our team. We’re selective about who we work with, but even with careful recruiting practices it’s still difficult to find developers talented enough to pull their own weight on a complex product like ours.

So I want to help average developers who want to improve by calling out 10 performance-killing behaviors that stagnate the careers of most developers.

Most developers stagnate both intellectually and productively after 4-5 years in industry; they adopt some tools, pick up some patterns, learn a language or two, and...

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Be Your Own Measuring Stick

Today was one of those days when it was nearly 1pm before I was free to sit down and make my daily to-do list. There was water damage in my apartment, one of our awesome engineering candidates took an amazing job offer with a top video game studio instead of us, and I was way behind on all of the PR / marketing stuff I’m doing because we haven’t hired someone for the position yet. Typical, stressful day in the daily life of an early stage startup CEO.

So I sat down at the counter of a diner near our accelerator and started writing down my daily to-dos in the nearly-full, leather-bound Moleskine notebook I’ve used to keep myself and my thoughts organized for the past couple of years.

I just happened to open my notebook to an entry from 11/12/2011 (about a year ago) entitled “Skills I Want to...

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Get a Grip

My regular source of entrepreneurial catharsis is watching Deadliest Catch.

If you've never seen it, it's a Discovery Channel show that follows four-six actual fishing vessels during two different Alaskan Crab fishing seasons a year (King and Snow.) “Bering Sea fisherman” is considered to be the most dangerous occupation in North America, hence the name.

Many of the crab boat captains are entrepreneurs themselves, being part or full owners of the boats. If the boat stops fishing, they go broke. If the boat breaks down, the fuel / parts / labor / time cost comes out of the crew and captain’s cut.

Deadliest Catch - fishing vessel coming down a 30-40 foot wave The captains are constantly put into situations that...

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5 Key Themes from Microsoft on the Future of Windows and WinRT from the //BUILD Keynote

I posted this originally on The MarkedUp Analytics Blog, going to put an excerpt here and then link you to the original post.

1. “Microsoft can only win by training consumers to expect consistent behavior, availability, and synchronized data across all of their different devices”

WinRT isn’t just about tablets – it’s also about fundamentally changing the way desktop software is consumed and unifying mobile / desktop / tablet and probably console apps all under one consolidated platform.

The unification of these platforms is the future of Microsoft; training consumers to expect consistent behavior and access to data across all of their devices is the only way Microsoft will be able to dethrone Apple and Google in mobile / tablet and protect themselves in desktop / console in the long-run.

Ultimately, Microsoft is really the only company that can execute well on native software, services, and...

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New Features We’ve Added to MarkedUp: Custom Event Reporting and Reliable Crash Logging for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Developers

MarkedUp - Analytics and Insights for Windows 8 DevelopersI haven’t posted much about my startup, MarkedUp, over the past couple of weeks on this blog (although I’ve been quite busy on the MarkedUp blog) so I figured it was time for an update on the company and product itself.

To recap, MarkedUp is an analytics service designed to help Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 developers manage and monetize their Metro applications in the Windows Store.

MarkedUp is the only analytics platform available for WinRT and Windows 8 developers...

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Thoughts on Recruiting Developers at Early Stage Startups: Determining Who’s Right for Your Company

I posted a little while ago about the job market for technical talent at early stage companies, and I promised a follow-up post on what you should look for in a developer when your company is at a critical, early stage. This is that follow-up ;)

Our company, MarkedUp, is still in the process of building out its early engineering team; however, we’ve had some success in finding the right type of people we want to work with – a process that wasn’t quick or easy, but will pay off massively in the long run.

When it comes to hiring developers for your early stage startup, here are the questions you need to think about:

1. What are you optimizing for?

At this stage in the evolution of MarkedUp, we optimize for changeability and reliability...

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