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Joel on Software

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,293 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
Someone once said that the task of a writer is to "make the familiar new and the new familiar". For years, Joel Spolsky has done exactly this at Now, for the first time, you can own a collection of the most important essays from his site in one book, with exclusive commentary and new insights from joel.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 28th 2004 by Apress (first published January 1st 2004)
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Dec 15, 2007 David rated it liked it
If Jerry Seinfeld had decided to become a software professional, he might have written something like this. He observes the things that software developers and their colleagues do, skewers those practices with humor, and then says how it really ought to be done. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I didn't, but I like his writing well enough that it seemed worth buying a copy of the book. Most of the articles in the book are also available online on Spolsky's blog, but as I seem to recall from ...more
Tim Poston
Jul 01, 2015 Tim Poston rated it it was amazing
In one sense, I haven't read the book, as the book.
In another sense, I've read it, as the essays on line.
Now, I'll buy it.

Very few people in IT can think so clearly or so deeply,
and very few can write so clearly.
Adnan Ali
Aug 18, 2009 Adnan Ali rated it really liked it
Treat it like the Bible. Take only the good stuff out of it.
Jul 29, 2015 Narayana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best contemporary books on software engineering. Though a bit outdated (articles from early 2000s), the concepts and ideas are extremely valid. Got a lot of new perspectives from this book. Must read.
Otis Chandler
Jan 25, 2007 Otis Chandler rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: programmers
Joel's a windows coder - but a smart one. Its actually interesting to hear about that side of things, as usually I'm just turning my nose up at it :) A good read for any programmer.
Alasdair Craig
Apr 23, 2014 Alasdair Craig rated it liked it
Shelves: programming
I really wanted to like this book more than I did because I'm a big fan of Spolsky. A lot of the content I'd read before from his blog, which I'm OK with and was fully expecting. However it really jumps all over the place. (I suppose the expanded title does allude to that.) The second half is decidedly random, doesn't follow on neatly from the first, and seems to have been added as an afterthought. The book stops so abruptly with no conclusion but a Q&A chapter where both the questions and a ...more
Gautam Soman
Since 2000, Joel Spolsky has been writing a wildly popular blog with same name on software development; and this book is a collection of selected articles from the blog, with some additional commentary by the author.

The book is divided in five parts. First part is targeted towards software developers; and it contains tips on best practices in programming and lot of pragmatic advice on how to be a better programmer. Part two talks about how to manage a team of programmers, right from how to inter
May 24, 2015 Reid rated it really liked it
A fair bit out of date at this point, but that's one thing that makes it interesting - he made predictions about technology that are coming true (or not) right around now ("We'll never use [cloud-based] document storage!"; ("When we all have 100mbps internet...").
In any case, a lot of it is not really out of date or style - the software project management aspects in particular. He also drinks the Microsoft kool-aid, so prepare to hear a lot about .NET and Excel.
I'm gonna go catch up on his blog.
Giacomo Boccardo
Sep 14, 2014 Giacomo Boccardo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(La recensione si legge meglio presso il mio blog:

Questo libro deve (MUST, RFC 2119) essere letto da chiunque lavori nell'ambito dell'informatica, sia questi programmatore, project manager, commerciale, direttore tecnico, amministratore delegato, ecc. Aiuta a capire cosa significa creare un software dal punto di vista di uno sviluppatore diventato CEO di diverse aziende.

Devo dire che non conoscevo questo Joel Spolsky: magari non vi importa sapere che abb
Andreea Lucau
Nov 17, 2013 Andreea Lucau rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, even if Joel was kind of obsessed with Microsoft and Netscape. I like the little stories about problems he faces building his own company and learning about mistakes that compromise a business - not software bugs, but strategy bugs. My things to remember from this book are: know who your customers are and pay attention to what they need/want.
Tom Tresansky
Apr 15, 2014 Tom Tresansky rated it it was ok
Shelves: nf-read
Probably would have been a solid 3 stars about 8-12 years ago, now seems less insightful as many of the speculations haven't been borne out by time.

By far the biggest problem is that the best of the essays/articles are already completely familiar, having been linked to across the programming blogosphere as nauseum. Which doesn't make those gems any less insightful, but does rob the collection of much of its thunder. Too much of the rest is comprised of now-dated musings on old Microsoft tools an
Dec 29, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
Despite containing lots of stuff specific to developers, Joel also talks a lot about starting, managing and growing one's own software company and his advice is invaluable to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Very easy to read - Joel's style is very light and he basically is talking with the reader, making jokes and repeating things on the way (in case the reader is bored). It's very funny and hard to put away. He definitely applies his advice of writing specifications to this book.

"Strategy Letters" parts
Vladimir Rybalko
This is a pretty good book. I've really enjoyed it. Joel could have described a lot of problems of development world in small notes. Each note is a fully completed story about specific part of developers practice. He wrote his notes more than 10 years ago but they are actually now. It was surprise for me that most of his advices have a real applying in modern IT life. It is a good evidence that the best programming practice was well known many years ago. But a very small part of developers tried ...more
May 23, 2009 Allisonperkel rated it it was amazing
What a great book! Every programmer and manager should read Joel - even if you don't agree with him, he brings up tons of points you just cannot ignore. For instance, one of my pet peeves is lack of up front planning. And when I say lack, I mean none. The amount of pain this has caused me in the past is impossible to measure (and there is a reason I'm reasonable good with time estimations - I plan what I can up front). Reading him talk about the lack of planning in software dev really warmed my ...more
Roy Klein
Mar 14, 2013 Roy Klein rated it really liked it
This is the first positive review I'm giving while still reading a book. First of all, to fully enjoy the book I feel like I have to read it in tiny tiny chunks to let the content sink in, thus it's taking forever to get through it. The second reason is that it has been so consistent in writing level and quality of content that I am certain it will continue that way until the end.

In a nutshell, this book is a series of blog posts, written and curated by a known software persona. It deals with ev
Jan 25, 2009 Darga rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE who makes software. yes even game designers.
I wish Joel was my boss. If his company started making videogames, I'd apply there tomorrow.

Spolsky's an insightful and relentlessly reasonable guy. Either that or he has a way of describing ideas that make them seem like the most natural thing in the world.

There are small sections that will seem too technical for non-programmers, but the details of the specific technology or programming languages aren't really the important thing. Those sections can be interpreted through context or taken in
Todd N
Jul 18, 2010 Todd N rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
Picked this up at the library while looking through the computer books.

This is one of the earlier blog-to-book jobbies that I'm aware of, and it's a good one. Joel Spolsky worked at Microsoft as a program manager, Juno as a programmer and manager, and now owns his own company, FogBugz.

During his career he formed some pretty strong opinions about the best way to do things, from how to hire a software engineer to how to enter a market with established competitors, which he describes in these blunt
Jan 17, 2016 Josh rated it liked it
The technical portions were mostly enjoyable, thought I disagree with Joel's thoughts on managed languages(though, I am in the distinct minority in this aspect). Most of the pragmatism employed in his business decisions revolving around choosing different portions of the technical stack were valuable. Getting a peek into the history of the windows programming stack was also really cool, since I've spent most of my technical time on the *nix side of things. I could generally do without his banter ...more
Jun 10, 2008 Derek rated it it was amazing
This is my bible of software management. I re-read it maybe twice a year because it's just that good. I can't say I agree with everything Joel writes but if nothing else, such disagreements allow me to exercise and explore my own opinions. Some stuff is dated, like the savage criticism of the Mozilla team for rewriting their browser from scratch and thus losing all hope of ever being a competitive internet browser again (sorry Joel, you were way off on that). Likewise, sometimes Joel's Microsoft ...more
Chris Vogt
Nov 16, 2014 Chris Vogt rated it really liked it
Just finished Joel on Software. An great book for anyone involved with the management or development of software projects. A decade old, it now features a somewhat-retro technical flair! The author, Joel, is a keen, hilarious ex-Microsoft and Juno employee, Yale graduate, and gives me the impression of a Sassy Gay Man (SGM) in his writing (which I quickly confirmed by Googling him). A recommended read.
Oct 16, 2014 Robert rated it it was amazing
Every person in IT that makes software, including programmers, process enginners, architects, managers, CTOs, and CIOs should read this book. Getting them all to adhere to it and implement the common sense it lays out is another story. Is there a book for that?

Great read. As another reviewer mentioned, it is a Bible for software development.
May 13, 2016 Jeangougou rated it really liked it
Definitely a must read. Logical assertions, little bias all things considered and a wonderful ability to convey concepts. Joel has long been a point of reference for both management and development in regards of the hard to answer question. His ability to abstract and go beyond the shallow surface is one a millionth.
Jan 13, 2010 steven rated it really liked it
A great book for anyone who deals with software developers, designers, or ... well, like the title says: for just about anyone.

Make no mistake: the specific topics mentioned date this book quite a bit. But the essential concepts are nevertheless true: design specs are important, software developers should have their own offices with doors that close, and the twelve tenants of a successful company still seem like they withstand the test of time.

Perhaps the best review I can give this book is thus
Feb 01, 2010 John rated it it was amazing
i started out by just reading a couple of articles in this book, and ended up reading the whole thing over the course of a few days. totally awesome. ill go out on a limb and say it, a mythical man month for modern times. this book is similar to mythical man month in the sense that it is truly weird to hear somebody talking about writing software in a totally obscure environment. for brookes (mmm), it was the olden days of having to fit your software into tight memory spaces. for joel, it is win ...more
Sep 10, 2014 Dave rated it it was amazing
This is the best book of its kind that I've read to describe the process of making software in the real world. I wish that I read this during my Undergraduate. I would have learned A LOT. If I could give this 6 stars, I would.

The book is a collection of blog posts that hover around 2000-2004. They can all be found online, but are organized here in cogent sections. Still relevant and having time to prove their worth...they apply to those that have to deal with software engineers or technical type
Feb 23, 2010 Chibimagic rated it it was amazing
Shelves: programming
Joel Spolsky is an amazing writer, especially for a developer. This book mostly reprints entries he's already posted in his blog, but organized into a modern field guide for development. Despite being published 6 years ago, and mostly reprinting articles written in 2000 or 2001, his work is amazingly relevant today, a tall order for a technology book. His thoughts are organized and a joy to read. The second half of the book is a bit less cohesive, and specific to Windows development, but the fir ...more
Dec 26, 2008 Malik added it
This is mostly a best of from the blog. I recommend this to people who like the blog. Joel is an experienced software guy with a talent for writing, so he manages to keep his opionated ramblings interesting. I've experiened many of the same issues he brings up and altough his descriptions of the problems are interesting, he is doing it all wrong! I disagree with most of his conclusions.
Also he is very biased toward ms, against linux firefox open source xp/agile methods etc. He admits his experi
Liuyang Li
Feb 02, 2016 Liuyang Li rated it it was amazing
I reread the book after being in the industry for more than 5 years. The book is still very relevant, probably more relevant than I thought before the reread. I first read the book when I graduated together with Hackers and Painters. The book changed how I think about software development. Now than I am leading a team, I feel that I have better understanding of many of the messages.

Many of the essays are dated, especially the ones on specific technologies, and the author discuss Microsoft techno
Dec 01, 2013 Rob rated it liked it
This is a solid book, but part of the interest lies in its appeal as a historical document of developer thinking circa 2001-2003.

There's a lot that hasn't changed in the past ten years of course - developers are still horrible at estimating timelines, for instance. The customer rarely knows what they want. And so on. But the web has become infinitely more important, and javascript has become a lot more flexible.

Joel has some definite biases. He's not a big fan of Unix, seems to hate Java. You'll
James Snook
Apr 06, 2016 James Snook rated it it was amazing
A set of Joel's blog posts, collected into a book. Great miscellaneous software advice - project/program/development management, architecture, testing, etc. Always clear and to the point.
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