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.