By John Gruber
Flatfile: Never format messy spreadsheets again.
Last week when I wrote “Aperture Dirt”, regarding Think Secret’s scoop regarding the dispersal of the Aperture development team and the future of Aperture, I emphasized that the sources for my own information were second-hand.
Since then, I’ve heard from additional sources at Apple, including a first-hand source: one of the developers from the original Aperture engineering team. For obvious reasons, these sources have all requested anonymity.
So, here’s what I’ve learned:
No one from the original Aperture engineering team was fired or removed from the team. Yes, most members of the original engineering team left the project — but they did so on their own volition. Why? Because of what can only be described as spectacularly bad management.
Every one of these engineers easily found other work. One left the company, the rest found positions elsewhere at Apple.
The single biggest management problem was a “Mythical Man-Month” disaster. “The Mythical Man-Month” is, of course, the title of Fred Brooks’s seminal work on software engineering management, the basic premise of which is that, as Wikipedia says, “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
It is astounding that there are software engineering managers who are either unaware of the Mythical Man-Month theory, or who are but believe it doesn’t apply to their project. But in the case of Aperture, the product team grew from about 20 to 150 in just a few weeks, comprising about 100 engineers, 40 QA people, and the rest manager types. And not surprisingly, this is precisely when things went from bad to worse with regard to the quality of the product.
The 130 additional members were never meant to be permanent members of the Aperture team — they were borrowed talent from other “Pro app” product teams and were added during the homestretch of the Aperture 1.0 development cycle in an ill-considered effort to ship faster.
Aperture’s current engineering team was assembled before the original team left. Aperture was never without an engineering team, and the product’s future was never in jeopardy.
Now, before you suggest that of course a member of the engineering team is going to blame the management, allow me to add this: I’ve heard from two additional sources that the only person from the Aperture team who was fired from the company was the engineering manager. The project manager also left the company, after being “fired” from the Aperture product team. Not a single engineer was fired.
This additional information mostly clarifies what I wrote last week. More importantly, however, it largely contradicts much of Think Secret’s original report, which is heavily slanted against Aperture’s engineering team. E.g. Think Secret’s lead sentence alone:
Apple recently asked the engineering team behind its Aperture photo editing and management software to leave, Think Secret has learned.
is simply not true, and unfairly besmirches the reputations of what all of my sources regard as a group of very good engineers.
I’ll leave any conclusions regarding the identity of Think Secret’s sources to your imagination.