Adapters and Makers

Learning your Tools

It's up to you to learn your tools so you can adapt them to your needs. It's not up to the tool to adapt to your needs.

If available tools make it too hard to meet your needs, your alternative option is to make your own tool.

Frustration in available tooling is my theory on how things like Rails and Laravel get created.

That being said, I think the more interesting question is why some of us seem to always adapt available tools while others seem to always create their own tools.


I know some of those who have made very popular tools. I've always wished to be one of these people. However I've never reached the tipping point where I went to make something new. I've always been able to adapt current tools to suit my needs.

I've noticed that those who make their own tool are different here - they get frustrated at the process of learning someone else's tool.

Over time, I've come to divide this distinction of personalities into adapters and makers. It should be noted that I imagine these to be on a spectrum, not binary positions.


Adapters learn their tools and adapt their usage so they can complete their objectives.

Adapters tend to work through the frustrations that come with learning a new tools, either because they enjoy the learning process or sheer determination to not be defeated (apologies if "sheer determination" is a tad hyperbolic).

One thing of note, however: It is common for the ideal solution to suffer compromise due to limitations in available tools. You know this is happening when you need to explain why your code won't be a stakeholder's (your?) exact vision. This is a trade-off of not spending the time on making something bespoke.


Makers are less willing to suffer the frustrations that come with learning a tool. They have a vision of how something should work. While learning a tool, they see how compromised that vision becomes. Rather than pushing through, they make their own tool.

They may spend countless hours on this. Many of us would see this as a waste of time; Indeed it ultimately might be.

However, those with extraordinary (read that as "above average", not "god-like") vision may make something great.

This, perversely, often involves some deep learning. While makers may not have the perserverence for deep learning of someone else's tool (we call this "human nature"), they are more willing to shoulder that burden in the building of their own thing.

While not necessarily directly related to building a tool, this seems to be a trait shared amongst entrepreneurs.


It's easy to glorify the makers. The very successful ones are few and enjoy the fruits (and labors) of minor to major internet celebrity.

Conversely, successful adapters are more likely to have a better job relative to their less-successful peers in adaptation. This might mean doing better within a company, or doing better in finding new employment. I imagine this is due to a network effect, where their success positively effects the success of what they work on, and thus they themselves become respected within their social/professional circles.


However, I fear that conflating the maker personalities with the celebrity version of success is damaging. I can just imagine the Hacker News response, each commenter desperately trying to prove how they are victoriously fitting the Maker Mold.

Not that I give my opinions that much weight. Just as the HN crowd try to see something of themselves in others' success, I often find myself imagining my ideas as read and respected by "the masses". Reality is appropriately harsher than our rosy imaginations.

That is not my point - both of these personality traits Get Shit Done™. One, however, may be more profitable, if you win that particular lottery.


Cynicism aside, I don't see any one extreme of the spectrum as being more intelligent than the other. I view makers as being more stubborn by nature. I view adapters as being more easy-going by nature.

These are not a measure of intelligence, or even of perserverence. Instead it's a shift in focus in where you feel most comfortable putting effort.

And don't forget it's a spectrum.