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Joel on Software

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  3,021 ratings  ·  122 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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4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,021 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Most tech books get old and out-of-date with time. However I learned plenty of stuff from Joel on Software and enjoyed the author's humour and approach on many topics.

Here's a non-exhaustive list of things I learned (more) about:
- Always have a bug tracking system.
- Fix bugs first before you move on to working on new features. Saves lots of time.
- The Joel Test. I need to score better at that.
- Character encodings. I always got away with not knowing much about that, now I do. Thanks Joel :D.
- Do
Tim Poston
Jul 01, 2015 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.
Dec 03, 2007 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
Erkin Unlu
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is surprisingly refreshing to find out that Joel's thoughts about how software should be developed nearly fifteen years ago have all been accomplished and further advanced. It is also funny to read about how Microsoft will lose the API wars (they lost it to the Web and Mobile) but still stay strong (which is still true).
Adnan Ali
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Treat it like the Bible. Take only the good stuff out of it.
Andreea Lucau
Nov 11, 2013 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.
Jun 30, 2015 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.
Luís Soares
Sep 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech-it
Joel does not play well with mumbo-jumbo. Illustrative software development real stories told with a fine sense of humor. Joel seems to be a great developer and software manager, which is hard to find. Every developer and manager should read it.
Otis Chandler
Jan 25, 2007 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 rated it liked it
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
May 24, 2015 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.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
More than a collection of software engineering thoughts, this book describes a collection of experiences from several years of working in software engineering companies, starting as intern at Microsoft Excel's team, to his own company Fog Creek.

Reading it in 2018, 14 years after it was first published, it's still valuable as it was back then, as most of the lessons still apply (some of them I can relate with my own experience as software engineering). There's a lot to learn from these lessons an
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book, a bit dated now but interesting to see how some of his ideas went with regards to Microsoft's business directions.
Totally love his style and he's obviously a smart cookie who knows his stuff both as a programmer and a project manager. His wit is very engaging and turns even the driest discussions about API's into something of a comedy.
Spolsky talks from first hand experience, he's no theoretician which ironically allows him room to theorize quite accurately given the retrospective v
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it
A little bit outdated, a little bit annoying...but the guy knows what he’s talking about. A good foundational book for programmers and project managers (the capacity in which it was recommended to me).
Ramanan Balakrishnan
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Essential reading if you write/read/make/design/touch/use software. Interesting to see how assertions from almost 20 years ago have turned out - most are still valid. Even more valuable are the cases where the predictions have turned out differently.
Emad Mokhtar
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is an old one, but still has much information that can be applied nowadays. This book is focusing on many aspects from people side of software development, to the process side. Joel recommends Program Managers to read it but I can also recommend Software Developers o read it as well.
Alexander Borshak
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not bad, worth to read. Many interesting ideas.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A nice reorganization of many of Joel's blogposts and essays. Some of the details are a bit dated (e.g. any discussion of technologies or the "future" of programming), but still a great read.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it, and read it fast. Most of it it's still relevant, the time passed since it was written helped me to focus on the more generic wisdom instead of being blinded by the technologies.
Nathan Feaver
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The examples are somewhat outdated but the concepts are eternal. :)
Rafael George
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ton of hilariously put unfulfilled predictions.
Hunan Rostomyan
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting set of essays on all sorts of programming topics. Learned a ton.
Yixing Jiang
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Have to say this is a bit out of date so I skipped most but I would rather highly recommend "more Joel on software".
Giacomo Boccardo
Sep 12, 2014 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
Mar 18, 2014 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
Todd N
Jul 15, 2010 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
Gautam Soman
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 21, 2009 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
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very pleasant to read and curls you up into 00s software development atmosphere :)
Roy Klein
Apr 17, 2012 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
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