meryl (Meryl K. Evans) writes "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. You know that 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." Read on for Evans' review.Joel on Software fans won't be disappointed in the selection of authors as they deal with the concepts Spolsky writes about on his site. Some readers may be expecting a book solely on software development. Even Joel 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, though, so I would've never known about the others had I not found this book.
The essays cover a wide range of development-related topics. They include coding style, outsourcing programmers, dealing with Excel as a database (gag, gag), using social software (and the things that are right and wrong with these shared spaces), emerging digital rights, and defining the two-phase commit process a la Starbucks. A few of them are nothing but comics. The one on Windows search will knocks readers out of their chairs laughing, at least it did me.
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. Joel introduces every essay and includes notes clarifying abbreviations, names, or terms that you most likely know. But other people who would benefit from the book may not -- cut Joel some slack for providing these notes.
The manager benefits from the book because she gains insight into the developer's perspective, which could help her become a better leader. The developer benefits because many of the issues covered can affect him no matter what language he uses 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 and all of you can find it, 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 trawling the Web for it. Furthermore, you get an opportunity to read offline -- if you manage to tear yourself away from the monitor every now and then at least; I read most of the book while traveling on an airplane. The flight flew by, thanks to the book. I appreciated and absorbed the essays better by reading them in the book than I would have had I read them online.
You can purchase Best Software Writing I from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.