- Paperback: 328 pages
- Publisher: Apress; 1st Corrected ed., Corr. 2nd printing edition (October 21, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590595009
- ISBN-13: 978-1590595008
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky 1st Corrected ed., Corr. 2nd printing Edition
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About the Author
Joel Spolsky is a globally recognized expert on the software development process. His web site Joel on Software (JoelonSoftware.com) 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.
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The best part is how wildly strange some of the opinions in the book are. Consider an essay where the thesis is that check-styles should through compile time errors. I mentioned this essay to some of my colleagues and it clearly sparks debate, most people disagree with the statement and have great arguments.
Zeal is bountiful in the software industry yet many people are shy to start or don't know what good writing looks like applied to this field. So if you are a developer or manager in the industry do yourself (and teammates) a favor and read/share this book. If you enjoy this book, you'll definitely enjoy the author's own blog joelonsoftware.com and other writers on the topic. It's the good kind of rabbit hole.
I've been a regular reader of Joel's site for many years, and many of the themes Joel has been writing about (social software, outsourcing, the dangers of measuring the performance of individuals using simple bug metrics, and sales and marketing of software) are reflected in the included essays.
Many of the authors have already published books of their own (Bruce Eckel, Paul Graham, Mary Poppendieck and Ron Jeffries come to mind), but regardless of whether they've been published before or not, the writing is consistently good. This isn't surprising, since according to the back cover, the goal of the book is to show-case good writing, and since Joel himself is a very good writer.
I had read a few of the essays before the book was published (and in the case of "Great Hackers" by Paul Graham, I had actually listen to it, thanks to ITConversations), but most of them were new to me. They cover a lot of different angles on software development, from how to format your code, to forced overtime.
The best essays in my opinion are "The Pitfalls of Outsourcing Programmers" (a short but well argued piece on why outsourcing many times isn't such a good idea), "Strong Typing vs. Strong Testing" (on the benefits of automatic unit tests) and "Style is Substance" (why not standardizing on one coding style - why not indeed).
Actually, as I look through the contents to pick which essays I liked the most, it is hard to choose. Many of them are really good. I have to pick a few more: "Measuring Testers by Test Metrics Doesn't" (with a great example of exactly how this can create a lot of extra work without adding any value), and the cleverly named "How Many Microsoft Employees Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb?" (explaining how a seemingly small change ripples through a big company).
Also, honorable mentions to Clay Shirky's two entries about social software (I had read both before, but they are very insightful and worth re-reading) and to Eric Sink's about software sales and marketing.
The least interesting for me were "Processing Processing" (musings on the nature of the web) and "Passion" (about passion for programming, which is a good subject, but this essay just didn't work for me).
There are also a couple of entries in the "Humor" category. The second essay is a hilarious send-up of the crappy Windows search, and the last essay made me laugh aloud several times. It's a quick tour of Ruby (the programming language), but with lots of stream-of-consciousness side tracks. And cartoon foxes! Not to be missed.
Joel's introductions are generally good and add to the experience. There is also a liberal sprinkling of footnotes, where Joel explains certain names and terms. Mostly this is OK, but it goes over-board sometimes. Given that this presumably is a book the will mostly be read by software developers, do we really need explanations of API-call, iTunes or Skype?
I suspect this collection will be followed by a "The Best Software Writing II", and I'm looking forward to reading that one too. By the way, since all the essays were culled from the web, you can probably find all of them just by surfing. But for me, it was worth it to have them all collected in book-form.
To summarize, a varied collection of interesting and well written essays on software development. Recommended.