Lines of code: the best technique for identifying developers to cut?
Now that Facebook as well as Twitter is cutting engineers, and with Google likely to follow, the question of the moment is how you identify engineers to cut. At Twitter, as well as at some banks, the answer appears to be lines of code. - Good engineers produce a lot of them.
At Twitter, Elon Musk's first instinct (or at least the instinct of someone on his team) when it came to selecting who to chop, appears to have been to look at how much code developers had produced.
Here it is: Twitter engineers were told today to *print out* their last 30 to 60 days of code, so they could show it to Elon Musk himself.— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) October 28, 2022
Then they were told wait, no, actually, please shred all that code you just printed out.
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This technique for appraising developers was subsequently dropped, but some senior engineers in banking say it's not as bad as it looks.
One executive director in the engineering team of a US bank says lines of code (LOC) are an important part of the calculus when appraising a developer's competency and the value of keeping him/her. "Almost always, top performers have a high LOC count relative to the team or a high number of projects contributed to. Low performers tend to have low LOC relative to the team," he says.
Other methods of measuring the quality of engineers have been tried, but they haven't always succeeded. JPMorgan, for example, introduced a system called BlueOptima to monitor the efficiency of its developers in late 2019, but it was discontinued after complaints. After plugging in a 'productivity analytics platform' for its developers, Credit Suisse showcased the following chart in its long-forgotten 2017 investor day presentation. It suggests that a few top performing teams do most of the work.
Source: Credit Suisse
Nonetheless, when you move away from simple LOC measures of developer productivity, things can become complicated. The senior banking engineer says it's difficult to adjust or the complexity of projects and languages.
As technology jobs everywhere suddenly look precarious, LOC has suddenly therefore become a far bigger issue than before. Not everyone agrees, but at this stage it's something everyone should probably be aware of.
Here is a big co secret (esp engineers whose main job is to code) — People will look at lines of code written to decide if you’re in or out. You can cry all about how it’s gameable, it’s not efficient etc. But that’s a metric all big cos use to assess poor performers.— Apoorva Govind (@Appyg99) November 5, 2022
I wonder which big corps are exactly doing this. For example, Google, Amazon, Facebook are definitely not counting LOC. They are absolutely not doing it especially for staff levels. https://t.co/pu0W7EezBb— Jaana Dogan ヤナ ドガン (@rakyll) November 7, 2022
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