One big machine

The infrastructure I use in teams and those I use for my personal projects are quickly diverging and it comes down to this question: What can one person do?

When I'm working on solo projects like Transmutable Work or Science Saints the key word is "nimble". Each new technology has to earn its place by reducing demand on my most precious resource, time.

Science Saints has no database, no web app, and no compiled code. It's a set of static HTML and JS file that reads a hand edited JSON file holding the saints data. It's served from an AWS instance running nginx that I'm using for other projects but it could as easily be served from an S3 bucket. I don't manage it, I just make it.

Compare that to what I build with teams like the one I work in at Captricity. In order to support our customers' need to turn information on paper into information in a computer I've built a snazzy editor for uploading images, defining what fields they want converted, and then seeing the results. If we cut some corners, one person might be able to manage that. But then there's all of the machine learning and mechanical turk code, the ops tools, and soon we're looking at a dozen people working long hours.

The goals of those projects are radically different but the fundamental actions of the people aren't: Think a thought then make it so.

It's the acceptance of complexity which makes multi-person projects different.

My capabilities in one person projects are growing faster than my capabilities in multi-person teams. Tiny, comprehensible web engines like go-json-rest are combining with the complexity reduction of single-page apps and style foundations like Bootstrap to start one person projects far ahead of multi-person projects which feel the need to differentiate their tools and style.

On solo projects I don't even consider buying hardware, laying my own network, or investing in storage. I push from GitHub to Heroku via and deal with the occasional hiccup. Or I spin up a single, increasingly powerful AWS instance (One Big Machine) and rely on RAID and offsite backups to recover from occasional disasters.

More than just bringing new techniques into larger projects, I feel like we're heading towards a time when there are two, somewhat separate ecosystems: one for solo projects and one for large groups.

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