Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Open Blueprint Companies

Author:Joel Spolsky
Posted:8/30/2000; 6:36:41 AM
Topic:Open Blueprint Companies
Msg #:20531
Prev/Next:20530 / 20532

I've begun to notice a variation on Open Source, where people share code, which I'm going to call Open Blueprint, where people share plans and ideas for creating companies.

Here's an example. Many of you know that I'm starting a new company.

Fog Creek will be financed by doing custom software development for a fee, instead of using venture capital. I got this idea by reading Philip Greenspun, who has a whole blueprint for creating a company like his on the web.

I use a weblog to create a personal, human interface between my company and the rest of the world. We all know who is the inventor of this model, but looking at other people doing it like Dan Bricklin and Phil Greenspun inspired me.

Yesterday, I was trying to figure out how to make a fair compensation scheme for our programmers. I wrote up some ideas and posted them. Within hours, the responses started flooding in. In fact I got about 60 emails on that one topic within 24 hours: from my readers, from my sister, and from my business partners.

One alert reader (thanks!) pointed out that Construx has a ladder much like my own. Interesting! Construx is founded by Steve McConnell, who obviously copied the ladder from Microsoft, where I was trying to copy it from in the first place. Another reader recommended a book about how companies set compensation, which I devoured in one sitting.

By the end of the day, I was soaked. But this time I could rewrite the compensation policy from scratch based on everything I had learned.

It's just like the open source process, but it's not code I'm creating: it's a company blueprint. I get patches from all over. I get a few wrong, dumb patches from people who suggest that I should pay everybody what they demand, which I don't add to my blueprint. I get a lot of bug fixes, like the person who gracefully pointed out that I misspelled both Torvalds and Stroustrup. I get a lot of smart discussion about the hard questions, like equality within levels. I apply the patches that are good and ignore the ones that aren't with a polite "thanks for sharing".

Not a lot of companies have their compensation policies on the web. (ArsDigita does). In fact most companies seem to make it a secret; telling other people what your salary is can be a firing offense. That's outrageous. Fog Creek is an Open Blueprint company: the "code" for running our company is up there for anyone to see, copy, enhance, and tweak.

The cycle continues. Just yesterday, I got two emails from people who wrote to say they are using some of my ideas in creating a company. There's no better compliment than Vincent Polite, who writes from the bay area that they're "starting a group out here that could very well be Fog Creek West".


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