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#1 Chris McCormick: Freelancer and Indie Hacker

#1 Chris McCormick: Freelancer and Indie Hacker

Like a lot of great programmers, Chris is a polymath. We can't be sure if programming precedes talent in other domains or talent precedes programming ability, but as one friend told me over a hot chocolate, "programmers just solve problems better."

Chris subscribes to what I'd call the bootstrapper's canon: make many small bets. The argument goes, "if you're going to risk your time, risk a little, see what the market thinks, and only then risk more." Representing this ideal most famously, Pieter Levels set about making 12 startups in 12 months eventually landing on Nomad List and reaching over $1m/year in revenue. Chris draws a parallel between this philosophy and what Nassim Taleb calls convexity.

Chris's portfolio of small bets is vast. More recently he created Asterogue and a roguelike game framework leveraging his decades of game development. Also in 2020, PO Loopsync and Beat Generator which draws on his history of producing algorave music. There's also gitea as a service, an in-browser IDE, a clojurescript game dev library, an svg animator, and a host of cool and popular open source projects demonstrating a bias toward privacy, decentralization, and high level programming languages.

It's hard to call Chris just a programmer. This is why I prefer the term hacker, roughly in Paul Graham's sense, to describe Chris and future guests of this podcast. Chris isn't just making programs, Chris is trying to make software artifacts. While software is generally ill-suited to be an artifact (it interfaces with environments that are designed to change rapidly), certain software projects transcend maintenance more than others and it's this kind of meta-concern that makes programmers like Chris extraordinary.

I think what makes programmers good problem solvers is that they are trained to look for results. Programming also trains an addiction to creating value. Early in a programmer's journey they create value asymmetrical to their effort and are constrained primarily by two things: judgement and luck. For Chris, creating value began at 8 years old on an Apple IIe. I don't suspect he'll ever stop.


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Special thank you to Chris for being my first guest! If you're programming in public email me! I'd love to have you as a guest.