Techbert on Website development and marketing.

Planning to write various interesting notes on website development, website marketing and anything under the sun which is related to web.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

10 differences between Joel Spolsky & Paul Graham.

I am an avid reader of Joel Spolsky and Paul Graham. Both of them are an inspiration to people considering a startup. They have several articles which motivates people to do stuff they love and make money in the process. But there are differences in their approaches. Below, I try list 10 of them.

  1. Starting up
    PG: Get seed funding worth 3 months living expenses and start up! JS: Don't have enough to support you for 2 years? Come join my company. It is cool working environment here.
  2. Angels/VCs
    PG: Take further investment from Angels/VCs as and when required. JS: Don't ever think of VCs. They are morons.
  3. Magic formula
    PG: Start a startup. Work (really) hard for 4 years. Sell it to someone. Solve the money problem. JS: Build a BIG company little by little.
  4. Microsoft
    PG: Microsoft is evil. JS: Microsoft is good.
  5. Basic principle
    PG: Based on his principle that working with co-founders on a rented apartment is the most productive phase. ie., eliminate MBAs. JS: Based on his principle "built a company that is a great place to work".
  6. Specs
    PG: Prototype early. ie., Start with something. Then hack and hack. No need for a spec. (LISP foundation) JS: Spec it before you start implementing.
  7. Process
    PG: No mention of process. His approach is get the darn thing released. JS: Implement the processes early: "12 Steps to Better Code".
  8. Planning
    PG: Great hackers plan themselves when stuff happens. There is no need to plan stuff. JS: Plans for everything. Painless schedules, painless bug tracking to be followed at a very early stage in the company.
  9. Microsoft at Core
    PG: Start-up company founders building their company with MS tools for core things is doomed. (Since great hackers hate it/don't use MS tools voluntarily) JS: Use MS or any tools if you are comfortable and can pay the $$ to M$.
  10. Add your comments and I will put the best one I have missed here.

Personally, my favorite is (you guessed it!) Paul. But I like Joel's essays also because of the Software Engineering related stuff.

[UPDATE: Thanks everybody for adding the comments. I am afraid I can't pick the best one I from the comments as there are a few good ones. I think it is best kept in the comments column itself.]


At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PG: was lucky
JS: is good

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Dan McKinley said...

One thing that you forgot to mention is that they both spellcheck their posts.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Hermann Klinke said...

Both think that since they have been successful with one thing that other people can also be successful by immitating their way of working. Neither of them is right or wrong, there are many solutions to becoming successful at something.

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PG: You have to be original and take risks if you really want to succeed. If you're not the best, or at least excellent, don't even try.

JS: A steadily growing company is a healthy company. It's better to start training managers than growing hackers.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on "Hackers and Painters", somewhere you should say something like "PG: you can solve any problem (including world peace and who shot JFK )in 3 seconds, as long as you use LISP".

At 1:05 PM, Blogger David said...

PG: Company called YCombinator
JS: Company called Fog Creek

PG: Made $59 million
JS: Made less

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Chris said...

No reason to believe that there aren't multiple ways to be successful. I think both approaches can work.

In the big, bad corporate world, M$FT is not viewed as an evil force. Most of the country's businesses rely on MSFT products as part of their core technology, and most applications are built on the MSFT platform.

You should follow whichever approach feels right to you!

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest difference is that Joel was already a millionaire when he started FC. Getting rich quick is not his goal.

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Patrick said...

Nice comparison if rather harsh. You also have to consider the paths their lives have taken. They both did startups in their own way and in both ways it worked. Joel's company is doing well and Paul is definitely doing okay as well. I read them both and have a copy of each of their books but I'm with you in that I prefer Paul's advice and style more than Joel's.

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Alan Hylands said...

Personally I would have to say I get more insight and encouragement from Paul's essays than Joel's stuff but that's just me.

As both have proven that they know what they are doing (or have been spectacularly lucky to fall on their feet-I rather think it's the first option) there's no reason not to take advice from both and tailor it to your own situation.

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Experts often have snippets of proven advice - which are frequently of little practical value. The advice has lost all context and that is everything. So stringing them together to make a 'cookbook' is surely set to fail.

I think, often its the quality of the writing not the content is what inspires or makes the reader feel warm and fuzzy.

ps yeah i like PG better.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger The Aiped said...

Nice article, but I would have guessed Joel. Paraphrase:
PG Umm, just wing it!
JS Think about it.

And...waaaay too pink!

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your statements of Paul Graham as being anti-Microsoft and anti-Microsoft products in several of your bullets are off-base.

I think Paul says use the right tool for the right job - if it's Microsoft it's Microsoft. He also has out and out said that a good strategy for MS is to buy start-ups and that he thinks that's great for the start-ups too.

(at the risk of diluting my real point I wonder if you are adding a lot of personal bias, given your decision to abbreviate Microsoft as "M$" at one point in time. I personally am a right tool for the right job guy, I have boatloads of lines of Lisp, Perl, ASP, C/C++ and others under my belt.)

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Eric B said...

JS: is an engineer
PG: is a hacker

I mean, that's the fundamental distinction. I'd rather have Paul if I need a prototype the next week that will develop into the next big thing, but i'd rather have Joel for a product whose needs are known at the outset and will need maintenance by unknown programmers in the future.

The larger the team, the more I want Joel to lead it.

At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Big Fat Liar said...

Paul Graham: "While working for Viaweb, I didn't have time to have a girlfriend."

Joel Spolsky: "While working for Microsoft, I didn't have time to have a boyfriend."

At 1:51 AM, Anonymous anonymous coward said...

utter utter tripe

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous hhg said...

PG promotes disruptive ideas and wants to improve the world.

JS is, for the most part, content with the way of things and doesn't oppose the system.

At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Paul says use the right tool for the right job - if it's Microsoft it's Microsoft. He also has out and out said that a good strategy for MS is to buy start-ups and that he thinks that's great for the start-ups too.

If MS Visual Studio is the right tool, then what the hell was the problem? Honestly, MSVS is one of the most painful and ugliest IDEs that has ever existed. MS Windows sometimes must be used because of its large user-base, but it's certainly not any technical reason that makes it the "right tool".

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Cody the Destroyer said...

JS is scalable.

At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scalable, you have to be kidding. Look around at the projects that people are really working on. There is very little reuse of code in the real world, every jackass thinks he knows better than the last. I would rather go with the guy who can see the pattern rather than the one that documents it.

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find Joel insightful, Paul inspirational.

Both exemplary traits but when push comes to shove, I think I am going to go with Paul.

Plus I happen to think LISP is fascinating and that perhaps ARC may be the great breakout.

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Mike Gale said...

Follow the advice that works for you. If you (and your mind especially) are near clones of Joel or Paul they might have a lot to offer. If you're different go your own way, learning from them where you can.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Amr Malik said...

PG: Shit Disturber/Visionary
JS: Status Quo guy/Cautious Follower

Its not that you can't build companies the "old fashioned" way, PG is saying that is not the way of the future and therefore will decline as a practical (and thereby preferred) way of doing things, making a living etc.

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Franc said...

pg: philosopher
js: documenter

At 5:40 AM, Anonymous Beagley said...

PG: Posts to his blog regularly.

JS: Posts to his blog increasingly less often these days (shame).

At 6:25 AM, Anonymous JW said...

PG: Got a lucky break, so now he wants to help other hackers "stick it to the man."

JS: Writes articles to drive traffic to his site, so people will buy his bug-tracking software.

PG: Wants undergrads to start companies. Reward: blood, sweat, tears, and dollars.

JS: Wants undergrads to intern for him and write company-worthy products in a single summer. Reward: the best interns get a video and a full-time job offer.

At 12:17 AM, Anonymous ppp said...

in his last essay paul says ( ):

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That's the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn't suck, they wouldn't have had to make it prestigious.

while joel is doing that all the time (giving speaches/keynotes and writing forewords).

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous David said...

JS: is completely wrong but doesn't know it.

PG: knows he's wrong and just tells you to get going because there isn't anything he can tell you anyway.

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the main difference is:
* PG is more entrepreneur
* JS is more manager



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