Engineering Effectiveness at Twitter

I’m quite interested in this space. Good developer tooling can bring in massive improvements to teams. Things like IDEs are quite critical to modern development due to the complexity in building systems, and have years of engineering and lessons learned put into them to make tasks easier, and safer.

But sometimes we forget we can build our own. Not necessarily our own IDEs, as that would be wasted effort in many domains. But maybe plugins, CLI tools, UIs for workflows, etc, that can quickly improve the developer and team experience. In an analogy with other work domains, it’d be like jigs and fixtures to get the job done right.

I like Seibel’s model, as it is simple and easy to grasp. Some science to it, too. It might be hard to prove in small orgs, but like all models “it’s not perfect, but it can be useful”.

My notes & takeaways (9)

As an industry, we really don’t know how to scale these kinds of tools.

We don’t really know how to measure it. It’s really hard to measure. What do you capture?

Twitter’s effectiveness motto is Quality, Speed & Joy (vs. Fast, Cheap, Good). Making choices on the parameters of this motto helps immensely increase the effectiveness.

There are many affordances possible. Small affordances scale.

On Flow

It takes 15 minutes to get into Flow state, but an instance to break out of it.
Good tools are fun to work with

Model for engineering effectiveness

  • E : Total effectiveness
  • eng : number of engineers you have
  • ee : number of effectivness engineers you devote to effectiveness work
  • S : how these ee engineers scale. (0.7)
  • b : the boost (2%, 5% …)

Like all models, it is wrong, but can be useful.

An example

At 1000 engineers (eng), by devoting 256 (ee) to effectiveness activities (and considering boost (b) of 2% and s of 0.7), you actually make the org equivalent to one with 1465 engineers.

At 10K engineers, a third of the org would be devoted to EE to maximize effectiveness.

Standardization is required though - effectiveness work needs to benefit as many engineers as possible.