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Releasing on Fridays, organization principles, side projects tech 💡
Monday Ideas — Edition #73
Hey, Luca here! Welcome to the Monday Ideas 💡
Every Monday I send you an email like this with 3 short ideas about making great software, working with humans, and personal growth.
Paid members also receive a long-form, original essay on Thursday, like the last one:
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1) 🔥 Should you release on Fridays?
This is a complicated question that has no singular answer.
My take is that the wellbeing of your team should be your #1 concern, so if your folks don’t feel confident, you shouldn’t release. Full stop.
But if you find yourself in this situation, you should investigate why it is so. You can and should work to build that confidence, knowing that the best engineering teams make no difference between Fridays, Mondays, or Thursdays.
To get you closer, here are a few things you can consider:
🌅 Release in the morning — with good observability in place, you can catch 95% of issues within a few hours.
🚩 Release behind a feature flag — push the code but keep it disabled.
🔒 Release to a beta group —make the update available only to a subset of users, dramatically reducing the risk.
🐛 Do quality Fridays — use Fridays to squash bugs and do some maintenance.
So, your mileage may vary, but know that never deploying on Fridays has hidden costs:
You will batch more stuff together and have a riskier deploy on Monday, and
People will have lost some context and debugging will be harder.
More on maintenance and feature flags 👇
2) 🎽 Principles of Team Organization
Within each company, there are groups of people who are more likely to work together than others. Creating teams means defining processes that make it easier for such people to interact on a regular basis.
Team structure shapes how communication happens, which, in turn, shapes how software gets made. As by Conway’s law 👇
Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure. — Melvin Conway
The main takeaway of Conway’s law is that if you create a good team organization, software will largely take care of itself.
But what makes a team organization good?
I have a personal heuristic that looks at three things: Autonomy, Cognitive Load, and Responsibilities.
1) Autonomy 🏃♂️
You create teams to be autonomous.
What makes a small startup go fast is how cohesive and nimble the team is — people can work quick and without overhead. In a larger org, you most likely want to replicate this by creating many of such teams.
2) Cognitive Load 🧠
A good team should own an amount of software that can fit in their head.
Engineers and teams are able to bring the most value when they sustain the right amount of cognitive load for their work: not too much, not too little.
Optimizing cognitive load is one of the main lessons by Team Topologies — one of the most influential works on team organization, which we reviewed earlier this year 👇
You should spend most of your cognitive load budget on domain and business knowledge, which creates actual value, and minimize the load that comes from extraneous stuff like bad DX or convoluted tech.
3) Responsibilities 👑
In good teams, all the bases are covered. You know exactly who is responsible for what, and people have the right skills for the job.
In a modern software team there are three main responsibilities:
🎨 Product — owning the roadmap, feature requirements, and communication with customers & stakeholders. Creating alignment and removing obstacles from the way of the team.
🔨 Tech — owning the technical direction of the product. Making design decisions and guiding the development.
🌱 People — taking care of people’s growth and wellbeing. Working on processes, hiring, and career tracks.
Should these responsibilities belong to separate people or can they partially conflate on the same ones? I wrote more about this in a full, extensive guide I published this summer:
3) 🕹️ Tech choices for side projects
What tech should you use for your side projects? It depends on your goal.
Is your goal learning? Try some new shiny stuff.
Is your goal shipping an MVP asap and making some money? Use the stack you are most comfortable with.
Not rocket science, of course, but it is still easy to fuck this up when you start a project with conflicting goals in mind, like: “I want to create a good SaaS and also learn some new tech”.
While doing both is not impossible and can even be good for your motivation, think about McFunley’s innovation tokens and choose wisely where to use proven tech, and where to take some calculated risks.
To accelerate development, then, consider two things:
🍱 Keep a boilerplate of your favorite stack — My friend Vic maintains a Github repo with everything he needs to start a new SaaS instantly, complete with payments, auth, backoffice, and UI scaffolding.
🪄 Use no/low-code tools — there exist plenty of handy tools to lift coding weight from your shoulders. I wrote a full article about them a while back 👇
Feel free to read the full article, but I am also going to give you a hot take: if you are serious about shipping fast, the #1 component to low-codify is probably your database, by replacing it with something like Airtable or Google Sheets.
I know, this looks insane, and it also goes against everything I have written in the past about choosing boring / exciting tech 👇
Your database is arguably the most important component of your stack, and the one with the highest lock-in — Luca wtf?!
However, consider this:
Data needs to be edited, and with Airtable/GS you get an awesome admin UI for free.
Data needs permanent, paid hosting (as opposed to functions and frontend these days) — which you get for free on Airtable/GS.
Airtable/GS can express an awful lot of business logic via formulas and references, all of which you should code otherwise.
Airtable/GS give you CRUD API for free.
Airtable/GS play nicely with plenty of other tools out there, including workflow ones like Zapier, for even more automation.
So think about it!
I wrote a full edition about side projects one month ago 👇
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I wish you a great week! ☀️