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The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky

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The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky

Luvelectronics.com Recommendation:
It’s nice having a collection of high-quality writing related to software and the business in one place instead of trawling the Web for it. Meryl K. Evans, meryl.
…an entertaining read with a number of enlightening insights into what I do for a living…
The whole book is fantastic though, and you should absolutely pick it up…in dead tree form.
This is a book worth checking out, even if you’re not a software developer.

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The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky

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3 comments on “The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky

  1. Jack D. Herrington "engineer and author" on said:
    30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Another Joel book, sweet. Or not., August 4, 2005
    By 
    Jack D. Herrington “engineer and author” (Silicon Valley, CA) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Oh yeah, another Joel Spolsky book, just in time for… wha? It’s only edited by Joel? Yep. This is a collection of article reprints, some without any editing or reformatting, with small introductions by Joel at the top of each article. That doesn’t mean that the book is bad. It just means you need to know what you are getting for your dollars.

    Myself, I’m not much on the article reprints. Granted, these are solid articles. But many can be found of the web and a book which could just as easily be implemented as a set of links on a web page with some annotations seems like a waste.

    There are some jewels in here. In particular the Ruby introduction by “why the lucky stiff” which is just freaking awesome. Why APress decided to reprint his work as opposed to just get him to write a whole book is beyond me. He is a real talent in the world of engineer/authors. Especially given some of the competition, which from many proposals I have read have the writing skills of preschoolers on meth.

    The topics in the book vary too widely for me to recommend this to any particular sub-group of engineer. These articles will be enjoyable to any career engineer who has a passion for the profession.

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  2. Thomas Duff "Duffbert" on said:
    17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    How software geeks should write…, August 20, 2005
    By 
    Thomas Duff “Duffbert” (Portland, OR United States) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)
      
    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    I recently received a copy of The Best Software Writing I by Joel Spolsky. As with his other book, it’s an entertaining read with a number of enlightening insights into what I do for a living…

    Joel Spolsky has gathered a number of blog entries, essays, and speeches that showcase (in his opinion) the best writings by software professionals. He feels (and I have to agree) that most programmers and developers will avoid writing at all cost, and as a result are not very good at it. You end up with either indecipherable ramblings or dry monotone typing that is akin to enduring some form of medieval torture. And I confess… I probably have strayed into both those areas a few too many times for the sanity of my readers. But by showcasing techno-geeks that can write coherently and with a touch of humor and entertainment, Spolsky hopes to raise the overall level of writing competency in the industry. I don’t know if he’ll be successful, but it definitely can’t hurt…

    Because the writings cover a wide range of topics, there’s something for everyone. Or conversely, not everything will appeal to every reader. “Style Is Substance” by Ken Arnold is (for me) a great piece that advocates making programming style a built-in element of a language. Think of the time you’ll save by killing off all style wars up front. The cartoon piece “Excel As A Database” will cause all developers to think Rory Blyth must work somewhere in their company with their users. And “A Quick (And Hopefully Painless) Ride Through Ruby (With Cartoon Foxes)” will, although rather strange, give you more information about Ruby in a shorter period of time than you ever thought possible. On the other hand, “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy” by Clay Shirky was something I seemed to have to slog through. You may well have just the opposite reaction on any or all of these. It’s one of the fun things about this compilation… :)

    While you can obviously go out and find all this stuff on-line at the various sites, odds are you won’t find what you don’t know about. Joel brings together a nice mixture of thoughts and concepts, all packaged within an expert writing style. If you’re a professional developer, you probably should pick up a copy and see how writing can be done well…

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  3. Meryl K. Evans "Content Maven behind meryl.net" on said:
    11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    We need more writing on software-related topics like these, September 25, 2005
    By 

    Having been in process management in a software organization for over ten years, I’ve seen too many articles and books on the topic that worked better than Valium for putting me to sleep especially since they have no side effects. Many say Joel Spolsky is one of the best writers on the topic of software. However, in this book he stands aside and lets others demonstrate that he isn’t the only one who can write about software in English and captivate you.

    Joel on Software (his Web site slash blog) fans won’t be disappointed in the selection of authors as they deal with the concepts he writes about on his site. Some readers may be expecting a book solely on software development. Even Spolsky’s writings goes beyond this. Some folks might be disappointed that most of the articles, blog entries, speeches, and essays are available somewhere on the Web. I only recognize a few of the authors and their articles, so I would’ve never known about the others had I not found this book.

    The essays cover a gamut of development-related topics. They include coding style, outsourcing programmers, dealing with Excel as a database, using social software (Friendster, LinkedIn, Tribe, and all that) and the things that are right and wrong withthese shared spaces, emerging digital rights, and defining the two-phase commit process a la Starbucks. Even a couple of them are nothing but comics. The one on Windows search makes me laugh.

    The book also contains business-related essays that address a few problems affecting many companies — namely team compensation and forced overtime which often spills over the weekend. Spolsky introduces every essay and includes notes clarifying abbreviations, names, or terms that aren’t widely known. After all, the world of software is vast and it’s impossible to know everything about it. I want to make sure it’s clear — Spolsky does NOT contribute an essay in this book.

    A manager can benefit from the book because of the insight into the developer’s perspective which could help the manager become a better leader. The developer benefits because many of the issues covered can impact developers no matter what language is used for development. If you belong to neither management nor development, the best way to decide if the book is for you or not is to review the table of contents and reviews. If you find only one or two interesting possibilities, search for them online instead.

    I’m one of those who belong to neither group. My software organization background has been along the lines of an analyst and process manager. Even I find that most of the essays are enjoyable or educational. Only one or two lost me.

    While most of the content is available on the Internet for free, the book is worth the bucks. It’s nice having a collection of high-quality writing related to software and the business in one place instead of surfing the Web for it. Furthermore, you get an opportunity to read about business offline — I read most of the book while traveling on an airplane. Thanks to the book, the flight felt shorter. I appreciated and absorbed the essays better by reading them in the book than I would have had I read them online.

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