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Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity [Paperback]

Joel Spolsky
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 2, 2004 1590593898 978-1590593899

Joel Spolsky began his legendary web log,, in March 2000, in order to offer insights for improving the world of programming. Spolsky based these observations on years of personal experience.

The result just a handful of years later? Spolsky's technical knowledge, caustic wit, and extraordinary writing skills have earned him status as a programming guru! His blog has become renowned throughout the programming worldnow linked to more than 600 websites and translated into over 30 languages.

Joel on Software covers every conceivable aspect of software programming—from the best way to write code, to the best way to design an office in which to write code! All programmers, all people who want to enhance their knowledge of programmers, and all who are trying to manage programmers will surely relate to Joel's musings.

Table of Contents

  1. Choosing a Language
  2. Back to Basics
  3. The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code
  4. The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!)
  5. Painless Functional Specifications Part 1: Why Bother?
  6. Painless Functional Specifications Part 2: What’s a Spec?
  7. Painless Functional Specifications Part 3: But . . . How?
  8. Painless Functional Specifications Part 4: Tips
  9. Painless Software Schedules
  10. Daily Builds Are Your Friend
  11. Hard-Assed Bug Fixin’
  12. Five Worlds
  13. Paper Prototyping
  14. Don’t Let Architecture Astronauts Scare You
  15. Fire and Motion
  16. Craftsmanship
  17. Three Wrong Ideas from Computer Science
  18. Biculturalism
  19. Get Crash Reports From Users—Automatically!
  20. The Guerilla Guide to Interviewing
  21. Incentive Pay Considered Harmful
  22. Top Five (Wrong) Reasons You Don’t Have Testers
  23. Human Task Switches Considered Harmful
  24. Things You Should Never Do, Part One
  25. The Iceberg Secret, Revealed
  26. The Law of Leaky Abstractions
  27. Lord Palmerston on Programming
  28. Measurement
  29. Rick Chapman Is In Search of Stupidity
  30. What Is the Work of Dogs in This Country?
  31. Getting Things Done When You’re Only a Grunt
  32. Two Stories
  33. Big Macs vs. The Naked Chef
  34. Nothing Is As Simple As It Seems
  35. In Defense of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome
  36. Strategy Letter I: Ben & Jerry’s vs. Amazon
  37. Strategy Letter II: Chicken-and-Egg Problems
  38. Strategy Letter III: Let Me Go Back!
  39. Strategy Letter IV: Bloatware and the 80/20 Myth
  40. Strategy Letter V: The Economics of Open Source
  41. A Week of Murphy’s Law Gone Wild
  42. How Microsoft Lost the API War
  43. Microsoft Goes Bonkers
  44. Our .NET Strategy
  45. Please Sir May I Have a Linker?

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Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity + More Joel on Software: Further Thoughts on  Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, ... or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity + Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent
Price for all three: $48.06

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Announcing a new book from Apress: Read Joel Spolsky's unique and humourous insights.

About the Author

Joel Spolsky is a globally recognized expert on the software development process. His web site Joel on Software ( is popular with software developers around the world and has been translated into over 30 languages. As the founder of Fog Creek Software in New York City, he created FogBugz, a popular project management system for software teams. Joel has worked at Microsoft, where he designed Visual Basic for Applications as a member of the Excel team, and at Juno Online Services, developing an Internet client used by millions. He has written two books: User Interface Design for Programmers (Apress, 2001) and Joel on Software (Apress, 2004). Joel holds a bachelor's of science degree in computer science�from Yale University. Before college, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a paratrooper, and he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Hanaton.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Apress (August 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590593898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590593899
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
121 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Attitude on parade February 27, 2005
There is a fair bit of hard-won wisdom here. It covers every aspect of the programming world, from praise of hardware, through product management and economics, back to testing and coding style, and on and on. There are a few real gems among these 45 essays (plus intro and appendix), untrammeled by the need for consistency. He's certainly unabashed about bucking current fashions, including all the silliness seen under the revival tent of the eXtremists.

At several points, Joel rails against the false economies of making code smaller and sniggers at the people to whom it matters so much, then (ch 39) he rails against the size of a Microsoft runtime support package. He also points out that antialiased fonts, other than things like headlines, are a bad idea. That was already common knowledge around DEC by about 1980, since the visibly blurred margins of characters led to eyestrain as the focussing muscles fruitlessly tried to find the edge. Modern display technology with far smaller pixel sizes seems to have reversed that decision, however, except possibly at the smallest character sizes - a blow-up of a screen capture will often show antialiasing on body text that looks quite good. If he came on a bit less strong to start with, these annoyances would be a lot less annying.

Joel's incredibly high opinion of Joel wore on me after a while. Despite all the good in this book, I had to drag myself through the last half of his pontifications, repetition, and tendency towards the absolute. If you're already a fan of his other writing, that might not bother you. For me, Joel, in his role as high priest in the cult of Joel, became tiresome. I'm sure he's a skilled developer and savvy business man, but I really don't think I'd enjoy meeting him.

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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth the roughly 20 bucks you'll spend August 20, 2004
I've enjoyed reading for several years now. Joel has a unique down to earth view on computers, programming and business that makes his blog worth reading. He believes in using the right tool for the job, and not just always using a hammer because you have one handy.

There are a lot of books and web sites on how business, software, computers and programming should be conducted. Most fail to understand the basics of what they are talking about because the writer has a theory that he thinks will solve everything. But the theory takes on a life of its own, and becomes more important than observed reality. Just the trap many political, religious and self-help demagogues fall into. They become pie-in-the-sky dreamers and less attached to normal life.

He seems to have a similar, if slightly younger perspective, on the field as Richard P. Gabriel who wrote his now famous "Worse is Better" essay about 10-15 years ago. Another writer/programmer he reminds me of is Paul Graham.

Others I would compare him too, though each if very different in their own ways, are the writings and blog of Wil Wheaton, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and the rants of Fred on Everything (Fred Reed), Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor, and much that appears on /.Slashdot.

Joel has not tried to generalize his very specific observations into a unified whole theory of all programming and computer management. But that doesn't prevent you, the home reader, from making those generalizations yourself. You may have to prevent yourself from thinking too much of it, least the Law of Leaky Abstractions take over. Joel gives one a good place to start.

I've used his "Law of Leaky Abstractions" in discussions I had many times.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extreamly thought provoking. December 19, 2004
Joel is good a pissing people off! Weenie armchair quarterbacks and other fanatics that are easily infuriated probably won't like this book, or Joel's other writings.

A first glance at this book might give you the impression that Joel Spolsky is another bloging cynic with more opinion then experience. But don't be fooled. Joel is a very smart guy and this book is a great read. You probably won't agree with everything he says, I don't, but this book really makes you think.

An old coach of mine (Tony Blauer) told the "Good information doesn't displace OTHER good information."

Considering opinions that are the same as our own is far less valuable than opinions that differ from our own. Joel's book is full of opinions that have "growth opportunity.

Really good writers make you think. According to the chief blogger on my team at Microsoft (Rory Blyth) a great blogger is at least a but controversial, they not only make you think, they make you want to respond. Joel is on my short list of bloggers in aggregator.

The book is basically a collection of Joel's writing originally published on his blog at [...] though this is not his first book. As near as I can tell the writings span a time frame from 2000 to 2004.

Joel is an interesting guy, the kind of guy you'd love to debate. He was an Israeli paratrooper went to Yale, worked at Microsoft for a few years then Juno, and now owns Fog Creek Software in New York.

To begin with, the book is a FUN. Joel's casual writing style is almost conversational and makes for a read that's more like listening to a story than reading a manual. I read it cover to cover in two days.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars STILL worth reading in 2014
I've had this book on my shelf for a couple of years and finally tackled it and I'm so glad I did. I give the book an 8 out of 10 (or 4 Amazon stars). Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jason Tanner
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, absolute gold.
If you have been programming for more than 5 or 6 years or so then you are already party to a great deal of the very valuable wisdom that is imparted by this book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by T. Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking and eye opening
Perfect for someone looking for answers to some of the most important questions in development business. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Vasya
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just For Programmers
As a Project Manager in environmental engineering, I got much more out of this work than I do many of the texts standard to my profession. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Eric Seitz
5.0 out of 5 stars Over Ten Years On And Still Good
It's been ten years now since Joel Spolsky first published this book and it is still as relevant as the reviews that you will read from when the book was originally published. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Keith Hodo
4.0 out of 5 stars Articles by the guy you want to go to lunch with.
This is the first positive review I'm giving while still reading a book. First of all, to fully enjoy the book I feel like I have to read it in tiny tiny chunks to let the content... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Roy Klein
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Read
I've read Joel's blog for a while now, and it's great to have a lot of his great posts contained in a nice to read format. Read more
Published 17 months ago by T Quinn
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended for all programmers
A little out of date with examples but they still hold today. More designers and programmers should be forced to read this.
Published 18 months ago by Jason
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Joel
He expresses his ideas in clear text and has good ideas that are simple, yet not commonly followed in the companies I have worked for.
Published 18 months ago by David Lynch
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read
The articles are come from the blog site Joel host, but the printing material is feeling more better than the monitor~
Published 19 months ago by LIUGANNING
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