- Paperback: 362 pages
- Publisher: Apress (August 2, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590593898
- ISBN-13: 978-1590593899
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 77 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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
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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 (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.
Top customer reviews
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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.
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.
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.
Also, when I was thinking for a job I used his guide to interviewing when talking to perspective employers. Sure, he wrote it from employers to use, but I was able to easily enough reserve it's principals and applied them to finding out info about the company I was interviewing at. This allowed me find out what the bad interviewers really wanted to know when they didn't know what they wanted. It allowed me to show that I was smart and could get things done to the people who interviewed me. And since I'm employed again it must have worked.
Some of the best essays are:
The Law of Leaky Abstractions
Don't Let Architecture Astronauts Scare You
Interviewing (The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing)
Three Wrong Ideas From Computer Science
How Microsoft Lost the API War
Getting Things Done When You're Only a Grunt
Top Five (Wrong) Reasons You Don't Have Testers
It is definitely worth the roughly 20 bucks you'll spend on it.
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.
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.