Massively increase your productivity on personal projects with comprehensive documentation and automated tests

Oct 17 4:40 PM PDT :calendar: to 5:05 pm

About This Talk

When I worked for a company that grew to have an engineering team spanning three continents I learned that the only way to keep things productive was to embrace comprehensive documentation and automated tests.

Then I decided to see if the techniques that worked for software development at large team sizes could scale down to my personal projects with a team size of one.

I expected that embracing comprehensive testing and documentation for my personal projects would slow me down. To my surprise, they had the opposite effect: I have found that my productivity has increased by an order of magnitude through my embrace of testing and documentation.

This has worked even for projects where I am the only maintainer and the only end-user. I find myself able to actively maintain dozens of projects by acting like I’m part of a much larger team. I can return to a project a year later having forgotten everything about it and be up-to-speed and productively hacking on changes in just a few minutes.

I’ll talk you through my test and documentation-driven development process, and give you a whole bag of actionable tricks that you can apply to both your personal projects and your work in larger teams.


    Photo of Simon Willison

    Simon Willison

    Simon Willison is the creator of Datasette, an open source tool for exploring and publishing data. He recently completed a JSK journalism fellowship at Stanford, during which he focused on building open source tools for journalism based on his experience working as a data journalist at the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

    Prior to the fellowship, Simon was an engineering director at Eventbrite. Simon joined Eventbrite through their acquisition of Lanyrd, a Y Combinator funded company he co-founded in 2010.

    He is a co-creator of the Django Web Framework, and has been blogging about web development and programming since 2002 at