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on March 11, 2010
One of my biggest gripes about the early reviews to come out about Rework is that they had no substance. Words like "inspirational", "brilliant", and "rethink" generally trigger my BS alarm, so I really didn't know what to expect with Rework. I've been reading Signal vs. Noise, the design and usability blog by 37signals, for a few years now, and I've had plenty of time to become acquainted with Jason and David's style. That I even refer to them by their first names should clue you in to their style. They come across in writing as they do in their live webcasts and presentations: familiar. Point is, I've been irked by the longest by those vapid early reviews to come out. They meant nothing to me. Hopefully you'll find this review more much helpful for determining whether or not Rework is worth your time.

TL;DR Version: Buy the book if you have no idea what 37signals stands for. If you do, expect SvN on paper.

Long Version: If you've never heard of 37signals or read Signal vs. Noise and you're a business owner or someone who needs to buy a book for an "entrepreneur" (Jason and David prefer the term "starter"), then this is a pretty good book to purchase. It's 273 pages, but most of that is filled with white space and somewhat relevant artwork (almost too much artwork, really), so it's an easy read. From start to finish I spent just over a few hours reading Rework, and I'm no speed reader by any stretch of the imagination. Don't expect to be blown away by any revolutionary ideas, either. One of the early reviews to come out said, "The clarity, even genius, of this book actually brought me to near-tears on several occasions" (Tom Peters, New York Times bestselling author). I don't want to bad mouth the guy, because I don't know him, but that's some wicked crazy rad hyperbole. This is a simple book that's just a by-product of the blog. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you are someone who is very familiar with 37signals and has spent a considerable amount of time reading the blog, then don't feel like you need to pick up this book immediately. Don't get me wrong, $12 (or however much it costs when you buy Rework) is entirely worth it, if even just to have some good night time reading material. But if you think that Rework will bring you any additional insight into 37signals beyond what is available online, then you are thinking incorrectly. Rework felt like a package of SvN blog posts from 2007 to 2009. I'll explain why in a bit.

The Major Takeaways:

If you're strapped for cash and still want to take away lessons from this book, just read the table of contents and then cross-reference those words with the 37signals blog. Jason and David do a heck of a job being straightforward about what they are writing about. For example, "Ignore the real world" (page 13) can be found on their website. In fact, a whole bunch of their content from Rework can be found on their website. To wit:

"Learning from mistakes is overrated" (Rework, page 16): "Learning from failure is overrated" (Feb. 3rd, 2009)(SvN)
"Planning is Guessing" (Rework, page 19): "The Planning Falacy" (Jun. 12th, 2009) (SvN)
"Workaholism" (Rework, page 25): "Fire the workaholics" (Mar. 7th, 2008) (SvN)
"Enough with 'Entrepreneurs'" (Rework, page 28): "The word entrepreneur and its baggage" (Apr. 22nd, 2009) (SvN)
"Scratch your own itch" (Rework, page 34): "What's your problem?" (Getting Real)
"No time is no excuse" (Rework, page 40): "There's always time to launch your dream" (Mar. 10, 2009) (SvN)
"Outside Money is Plan Z" (Rework, page 50): "Fund yourself" (Getting Real)

And that's just the first 50 pages! You see where I'm going with this. If you are an avid reader of 37signals and have kept up with them for 6-12 months, then most of what you read in Rework will simply be a regurgitation of what's already been written online. That's why the early reviews really irked me. Is this book insightful? Clearly. Is it legendary or tear-worthy? Give me a break! The grand language is really making me distrust books, and if I didn't already know the great work that 37signals does or if I were not already a long time customer with 37signals, I wouldn't have bought this book. The flowery language of the early reviews just made me expect the world from Rework, and all I really got was the hardcover form of Signal v. Noise, with better edits and word choice.

I wouldn't write this long, rambling review if I wasn't passionate about the line of work that 37signals is in. I owe much of my organization and peace of mind to 37signals products, so count me as one of the 37signals "audience" members. I think Rework is an exceptional book in that it serves as a reminder of many of the lessons and "recipes" that Jason and David have given us through the years. It is definitely worth the money if you have not already internalized much of the lessons contained in the Rework table of contents. If you have, and you are an avid fan of Jason and David already, then there's really no need to read Rework unless you have some extra time on your hands.

And to Jason and David, if either of you actually read this review, then I hope in your next book you'll ditch the early BS reviews. That's my main gripe. If you want to recycle SvN from 2009-2011 and turn it into a book called ENHANCE! in 2012, that's fine by me. I'll be the first one in line to read it; but know that I, and many other readers, will expect to see the same stuff that we've already read on the blog. I love the work you two do; I mean I REALLY love the work that you two do. But come on. Don't set me up for the stars and then throw glitter in my face.

All in all I give Rework a 7/10. It's worth a read if you have no clue what 37signals stands for. Even if you do, buy the book for a friend or out-of-touch boss.
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on March 12, 2010
This book is filled with some great advice for those who want to start their own business, have their own business, or are just interested in the subject.

As a fan of 37 Signals the company and a frequent reader of their blog, I was excited when Rework was first announced (so excited I pre-ordered it). From the initial descriptions, I was excited to read a full-length book from Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson. My hope was that they would expand on the ideas frequently discussed on their blog and elaborate on some more of their personal experiences in running a very successful small company.

Unfortunately, if you are familiar with the authors, their blog, or their previous book "Getting Real", then very little of the content in this book is new. All of the lessons and chapters feel like retreads of previous material, even down to some of the analogies such as "be like a chef" or "be a curator".

So while I think some of the lessons in this book are great, I feel that it deserves a 3 star rating because so few of these lessons are new material.

On a similar note, I think my biggest gripe here might be with the length of the book: it may appear to be 270 pages, but there are only about 100 pages of actual content in Rework. The book is really about 100 or so one-page essays, separated by a full page illustration between each section.

I really wanted to be excited by this book but having read their previous output, unfortunately I found very little new material to digest and the illustrations between sections feel like nothing more than filler.

So if you are not familiar with 37 Signals or their blog, and you dream of one day starting your own company, then this book is filled with great advice. But if you are familiar with the company, their blog, or "Getting Real", there is almost nothing new here for you.
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on April 16, 2010
SECOND REVISION: 37Signals is now ACTIVELY MANAGING the comments about this horrid book. They sent a barrage of fanboys to this page to "unlike" this post to move it down the page. There it is in a nutshell folks. Everything I said in this original review -- about 37Signals being an empty suit -- is proven true. Apparently, 37Signals' advice to "pick a fight," means to pick a fight with anyone but them.

REVISION: Have you noticed that every time a negative review is posted about this book, the book is magically bombarded with positive one- and two-line reviews that "move" that negative review down the page and keep the book in the four- to five-star range? There's your 37Signals pathology. We don't have to have a good product as long as people THINK we have a good product. We can be paper-thin content-wise, but as long as we keep our four-star rating -- and keep negative reviews buried -- we'll continue to be "successful." Classic.

ORIGINAL REVIEW: I had high expectations for this book. I really wanted to like it. But, let's face it: this book is not operating in the real world; it's operating in the 37Signals world. I'm happy they developed their company from scratch and have managed to keep it small and profitable. It is true what they say in the book that your company is more nimble and flexible when it is small. Growth is not only difficult to manage, it's difficult to maintain and even more difficult to sustain. They claim that the reason they've managed to stay small is because they won't compromise their principals and add things to their products THEY don't think their customers need. What they call the "simplicity" of their products, most people call the "limitations" of their products. But, if you look at the 37Signals products, you will see that they are horrifically over-priced. You get far less for your money than with many other comparable products. I should know. I've tried them all.

And let's get something else out of the way too: this book IS NOT 288 pages long. Oh, there are 144 sheets of paper folded in half and glued into a book with writing on them to make it LOOK like there's 288 pages. But this book is really about 100 pages long. I read the entire book in about two hours -- and I'm a "meticulous" reader. Almost every other page is some sort of graphic. All the chapters end abruptly and within four or five pages (with the exception of one or two chapters).

Yes, I teach at a business school. And, yes, business school theory is pretty much the antithesis of what is in this book -- or, rather, what is in this book is the antithesis of business school theory. That appeals to some people for its heretic value. But I can tell you that I also counsel budding entrepreneurs, and the theoretical foundation established in business school works for more people than the devil-may-care-let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may laissez-faire attitude purported in this book. It's common knowledge that the way to sell books is to buck conventional wisdom. Take the opposite point of view. That's fine if you want to write a book bucking conventional wisdom, but MAKE YOUR CASE. Don't fill a book full of platitudes, opinions and unsupported, unsubstantiated evidence (and using your own company as an example most of the time) and then expect us to swallow it without questioning it.

In all fairness, one of the tenets of this book is to keep things simple. This book unabashedly attempts to make the case that the more you can simplify, the easier your life will be. Undeniably. But complexity and details are what the real world is made of. Following their own advice, everything in the book is stripped down to bare bones. They even say in the book that there was a wholesale reduction in the size of the book just before it went to print. I would have liked to have seen what they threw away. There might have been more substance, more detail -- and it might have been a more likable book.

Instead, this book attempts to make the case for the following:

* Don't work hard
* Don't plan for anything
* Don't have meetings
* Charge more (for less)
* Above all else, limit growth as much as possible
* Emulate drug dealers (not kidding)
* Follow your heart, not your customers (huh?)
* "Underdo your competition" (that's a direct quote)
* BAD-MOUTH YOUR COMPETITION (this might be the dumbest advice I've ever read in a book. Try this experiment sometime: go into a job interview and say extremely bad things about your former boss. Watch how fast you're shown the door).

Some reviewers (and the book itself) have stated that this book is for new entrepreneurs. If you start a business of any substance and you follow the rules in this book, you will fail.

And, $22? SERIOUSLY?? This book (and the pricing of it) is a metaphor for the entire 37Signals company: stripped down product, very little substance and a high price tag.

Again, I hate that I hate it, because I really wanted to like it when I first started reading it. Two hours later, I was done with it and no smarter than I was when I started it.
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on September 20, 2010
I'll save you $15.84 and 2 or so hours of your time. This book can be condensed from 27,000 words to just 3: Ignore conventional wisdom.

You can thank me later.
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on April 25, 2010
I love 37signals and I really liked their first book Getting Real, but Rework is frankly really bad.

The book contains a lot of wisdom, learnings, advice and some "cool" statements that tells you that you can be rock and roll and ignore "classical" ways of building business - but all of these gems are too short, without any concrete examples, and taken out of context. This book will not give you anything if you're not just looking for advice the quality of fortune cookies.
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on March 9, 2010
"Rework" is one of those books that doesn't take itself too seriously. It is a quick read. While I didn't uncover any revolutionary secrets, I did appreciate the authors' attitudes toward common business practices. They have built a successful small business. They've eschewed the grandiose plans for IPOs, org charts that cover entire conference room tables, and all the other BS that typically accompany the "modern tech company". Their advice is, that it's ok to do that. Build a business you can live with rather than one you can sell. You'll end up doing something that you find worthwhile, rather than always chasing smoke and mirrors. This book is somewhat light on substance, however, it provides a decent antidote to all the demotivating process and bureaucracy that plagues business. Worth a read to be sure, even if just for the distraction.
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on November 15, 2010
A very disappointing book. I've read Getting Real and that book was fantastic years ago. Since then, the 37signals lost its good arguments and started to be arrogant and simplist (both in Rework and its blog, Signal vs. Noise).

There is nothing new in Rework. This is book is full of obvious things. But the worst part is the arrogant tone included in all chapters. 37signals is a successful company using some techniques. And now they claim that ONLY businesses following their advices will succeed. This is very arrogant, mainly because they don't give arguments in this book. It's only "It worked for us. So it's the right way for everybody.".

Take the classic Complexity vs. Simplicity debate. Instead of saying that they discovered there is a big market in Simplicity, they say that nothing else works besides Simplicity. If your product is complex, you will fail. What's the reality? There are tons of successful companies approaching both sides. Maybe 37signals success has nothing to do with simplicity vs. complexity (and other vague arguments found in this book).

If you are going to read this book, my advice: be prepared to read many obvious things and to wisely filter the information you read. Don't be fooled by the arrogant and imperative tone of Rework. Select the ideas that may work for you and don't be afraid to discard many of them. And if you are looking for good arguments, practical examples and real foundation, buy another book.
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on May 29, 2010
This book appears to have been written for fanboys of the Signal vs Noise blog. It's essentially page after page of poorly written blog posts that can be summed up as "we disagree with everyone who's actually studied building a business".

There's never any substantiation as to why their ideas are the right ideas in this brave new world.

Example idea: "In the old world you bought advertising, now you write a blog" .. wow .. great. Got any proof that that works for anyone who doesn't already have a successful blog? Not in the book. And not even in the experience of the authors.

If you're a fan, you'll probably love it (after all, all the good reviews here talk about the blog and the authors like they know them). Otherwise, give it a miss. Spend your money elsewhere.
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on May 3, 2010
Truly a waste of the digital 'paper' it was printed on. I'll save you the trouble of reading it - The rework formula holds up every single aspect of starting or running a business against the Keep it Simple Stupid standard. Congratulations you're now as informed as all those who have given an hour or two of their life to this book.

For a group that centers itself on simplicity, they sure did take a whole bunch of words to beat this incredibly simple point to death. In the future, at least provide some contextual evidence to support the argument. Complete crap.
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on March 16, 2010
Download the free excerpt. Read it. You've just read the entire book.

I'm disappointed to find out this book is 10% content, 90% hype.

Most of the book is white-space or illustrations. I'd say about 1/3 of the pages are actual content.

Most of the content is a rehash of everything they say on their blog. I was expecting this to some extent, but there was nothing new presented in this book at all. They pretty much say, "Simple is better," 100 times over in a 100 different ways. You'll find entire pages devoted to phrases like "Meetings are toxic." By the end of the book you really feel they're just beating a dead horse to fill pages.

You'd be better off spending your time reading the 37Signal's blog archives.
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