DHH (and Fred Brooks) on Twitter’s Headcount

David Heinemeier Hansson:

When WhatsApp was sold to Facebook in 2014, it had almost half a billion monthly users, but a team of just 50 people running everything. Compare this to Twitter, which today has a staff of 7,500 to manage half the number of users. Yet Musk is the crazy one here for suggesting that maybe Twitter could operate with a mere TWO THOUSAND employees? Please.

Being understaffed hurts any team or business in obvious, intuitive ways. You have more work to be done than people to do it. You can see it today, nationwide, in restaurants.

Being overstaffed hurts a team in counterintuitive ways. It feels like throwing more engineers at a project ought to make the work go faster. But it doesn’t, past a certain point. Fred Brooks published The Mythical Man-Month in 1975, wherein he coined Brooks’s Law: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” To my knowledge, there are no known exceptions to this axiom. It is always true.

WhatsApp circa 2014 — with 50 employees and 500 million users — is a good counterpoint.

Friday, 21 October 2022