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Team or Solo: Which Path Leads to Project Success?

Let's weigh the pros and cons: working on a project with a large team versus flying solo as a developer. Both approaches have their own unique perks and challenges. So, if you had to choose, would you rather work on a project with a lot of collaboration or go it alone?

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Top comments (11)

ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

I love to work and decide alone most of the time, and I remember how stressful some pair programming sessions have been. On the other hand, without any regular team mate, assistant, or reviewer, I have to make an extra effort to get inspiration, feedback, and code review before going astray and wasting too much time following fallacies.

But working in a team does not guarantee code quality and productivity either. Teams can waste their time in meetings, insist on following unhelpful advice, or distract each other with unrelated tasks or personal problems. So it depends a lot: on the colleagues but also on team leaders or company policies.

There is a lot of discussion about AI and other kinds of automated assistance. I have not found anything useful from chatGPT (yet), and even GitHub Copilot seemed to get in my way and distract me with unhelpful advice in too many lines of code, but then again I have a lot of experience and developed strategies to search and find on Google, on StackOverflow and bulletin boards, and in GitHub issues.

What helps me a lot when working alone: taking and reviewing notes, creating codepens, template repositories, and writing DEV posts to get my thoughts in order and publish my knowledge so that I can find it again when googling the same error message one year later. I also use automated tools below the current "AI" hype, like tabnine, which also used machine learning, but restricts its output to short snippets with different options aligned with the IDE's code completion suggestions, and static code analysis like eslint, stylelint, and phpstan. I also get better code suggestions and documentation excerpts thanks to TypeScript, JSDoc annotations, and better tooling built into IDEs like PhpStorm / WebStorm.

Conclusion: working alone is fine for focus and peace of mind, but one brain is not good enough to ensure high quality software and web development.

jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy πŸŽ–οΈ • Edited

Ultimately, programming is a solitary task - and pretending otherwise is a recipe for lowering devleoper productivity.

That said, working (not programming) together is definitely a beneficial thing on larger projects: discussing + coordinating ideas, approaches, strategies.

It very much depends upon the project and tasks being worked on. Personally, as I greatly enjoy writing code - solo work is definitely my preferred mode... it's all but impossible to get into 'the zone' in any other way.

thomasbnt profile image
Thomas Bnt

Both for me.
But most of my time, I work alone. Because I can edit without permissions, and can write my code without restrictions or obligations about the project. Like the language used, the configuration.

pcjmfranken profile image
Peter Franken

This well known African proverb immediately came to mind:

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Tangent: I've always wondered from where exactly this originated from as Africa is an immensely large and diverse continent. Perhaps any of you might know?

vulcanwm profile image

I definitely prefer working alone.
That way I can easily plan a project, configure it the way I want and code it the way I want.

Working in a team has its perks though. I'm not that creative so working with a creative person definitely helps.

kareemhatem profile image
Karim Hatem • Edited

I don't have a problem with working alone, by the way so far all of my projects are done alone, anyways working in a team definitely saves time, and also the team might have knowledge that you don't, and sometimes it helps improve the quality of the product, although that depends on the team members themselves, it also doesn't give that stressful feeling when you are working alone, but working alone makes you understand exactly how should the product look like, maybe the team doesn't get your point of view.

jamesbright profile image
James Ononiwu

I love working as a team even though i can also work solo. while working as a team helps to get the work done faster because of contributions from other team members, you also get to learn a great deal on every project.

clericcoder profile image
Abdulsalaam Noibi

I love to work in a team because it really makes me more productive.

d_inventor profile image

Anyone talking about the responsibilities that you have towards your coworkers? Saying you like to work solo because you can make decisions more quickly is like saying you like to drive over the speed limit because it gets faster where you need to go. It works when you don't make any mistakes.

The thing is though: we do make mistakes and bad decisions from time to time. I've seen several "solo developers" who think themselves great coders, but when it's time to pass on the project to somebody else, all hell breaks loose.

While I prefer to do assignments by myself as much as possible, I try my best to have coworkers do sanity checks on my decisions before I make them.

As an example: I made the DRY-est of email sending logic I could ever imagine. It was extremely generic and could pretty much turn every model you pushed in to it into a proper email. Push a model into the machine and it would automatically map names, map addresses, map dates and more, as long as your models just inherited the right interfaces.
Then came the day that my coworker had to send an email using this system. Because it wasn't that simple. After several hours of trying to get my coworker to understand how to send a simple email, we pretty much gave up and found that this generic contraption wasn't quite as clever as we thought. It was all according to the programming principles, but I had forgotten the human aspect of coding: everybody has to be able to understand it.

So yeah, while solo working is cool, please consider your fellow devs while doing it.

mistval profile image

I find I can barely write code at all with someone looking over my shoulder, so that kind of pair programming isn't for me. The most fun I have while coding is when I can turn on the music and forget about everything else. That's also when I achieve the highest level of productivity.

Of course, sometimes a job is too big for one person to do alone. But even in those cases I think it's best to divy up the work in such a way that people can do it as independently as possible, and the need for meetings and such should be minimized.

fyodorio profile image

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