Book Review: Joel on Software by Joel Spolsky
joelonsoftware is one of the highest read programming blogs because Joel Spolsky does an excellent job of combining technical information with humour that makes his writing informative yet interesting. He was the program manager for the Microsoft Excel team and has since moved on to running his own startup. His books collects some of the best articles from his website. It’s broken into four parts, the first three of which I think are essential reading and the last of which is a comentary on Microsoft .NET which seems really unnecessary and probably won’t age as well as the rest of the book will.The book is unusual for any kind of tech book is that it’s a real page turner. Unfortunately, most of the content is already from his website so I found that for the first 70 pages or so I was just rehashing some of the best articles on there. If you’re already a regular reader of his site you might not get nearly as much out of it as someone who is picking it up fresh.
Some of my favorite parts of the book:
- 12 Steps to Better Code
- Painless Functional Specifications (and an example of a real world product spec)
- Painless Software Schedules
- Daily Builds
- Paper Prototyping
- Guerilla Guide to Interviewing
- Incentive Pay Considered Harmful
- Human Task Switching Considered Harmful
- Getting Things Done When You’re Only a Grunt
- Startup Strategy Letters
Joel’s approach to many things is so simple that even experienced programmers can find some useful nuggets of information in there (although there is strong focus on Microsoft products). I really wish someone had taken me aside with his advice on painful schedules when I’d first started. It is amazing how doing minimal time tracking every day can make you better at estimation and better at realizing where you are spending your time and focus.