Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those ... Ill-Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity Kindle Edition
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Some of the articles on interviewing, incentives, wireframing, and engineering were thought-provoking and still relevant, but the self-aggrandizing and pervasive Microsoft bias wore me out after a while.
In a nutshell, this book is a series of blog posts, written and curated by a known software persona. It deals with everything a software developer is likely to encounter during their career: Technical , managerial and business issues. All subjects are treated with a writing style that cuts to the heart of the matter with light humor and strong metaphors.
There are two reasons that this book doesn't deserve the fifth star:
1) Most of the articles were written over 10 years ago.
2) I am not entirely sure whether Joel's ideas seem so compelling because he is right or because he knows how to sound like he's right.
For these reasons I try to force myself to take everything with a grain of salt, a somewhat fun-spoiling effort.
If you've been in the software business for some years, this book will speak to you. Get it, enjoy it, but don't take it too seriously.
Joel has an opinion on everything and a fairly strong one. He is an excellent writer and is able to convey his opinion often in a humorous way. I very often completely disagree with his opinion, but that did not make the book any less valuable. He writes his opinion and clarifies the argumentation. He writes it in such a way that I find it worth reading.
There are too many posts to summarize. Some of the really great ones are, "the joel test" which he explains how you can be a better programming. "Daily builds are your friends" in which he covers the importance of daily builds. "The law of the leaky abstractions" is a true classic explaining that our industry keeps abstracting but that non of these abstractions is absolute so therefore the total amount of knowledge a person needs to know will increase. "Two stories" which describes the difference between two companies in their culture. And it goes on and on.
I really recommend to get Joel on Software (or his new More Joel on Software) and just, every now and then, read one of the posts and reflect about his opinion. Great work.
If you're a devote follower of Joel, like me, there's almost nothing here that you haven't probably already read online. Still, it can be useful to have all this content nicely reorganized and reprinted. As Joel puts it, the book is a heck of a lot more cohesive than the website, where by cohesive I mean «can be read in the bathtub without fear of electrocution.» At the very least, it can be a nice present from a developer to his/her manager, who might get a couple of clues they're still missing.
Inside here, there's plenty of clues indeed and Joel will be very happy to share them with his readers, drawing from his experience as developer, program manager at Microsoft, software entrepreneur and Israeli paratrooper.
Not everything here has to do with technical matters, but you'll also find something about the economy, managing people, business strategy and insulating pipes. This makes for a pleasant and varied reading, particularly if your ambitions go beyond being a good developer. In any case, you can count on the first third of the book to give you plenty of advice in this respect, while the second third deals with managing developers. The third part is a semi-random collection of topics, the majority of which deal with strategy. At the end of the book, you can find three articles on .NET and an appendix with questions and answers taken from the website.
Joel's basic approach can be described as very down-to-earth, beware-of-hype, no-silver-bullet philosophy. This is not to say that what he writes is bland and clichéd. Quite the contrary. He does not refrain from being original and even controversial at times, at the risk of being unpopular in denouncing the excess hype that sometimes surrounds topics like eXtreme Programming or Open Source, or attacking entrenched myths like network transparency or software reuse.
In any case, he his always witty, sometimes downright humorous and never haughty.