I’ve found Joel on Software a consistently well written and interesting blog that offers guidance in every post. The author, Joel Spolsky, has such an easily readable writing style, somewhere between technical and lightly comical. And he’s not just a blogger, he co-founded Fog Creek software and Stack Overflow, both focussing on improving the productivity of developers.
Overall, the range of topics is quite varied, with Joel being a developer himself and then becoming more of a company leader while also ramping up headcount and planning a new office over the period most of the content was written. Each of the posts typically tells a story with characters where UI or user requirements are involved or some other anecdote in the other cases. Although the posting rate isn’t as high as it used to be, I think all of the posts stand the test of time with each post representing sage advice. It’s only been a short time since I first read everything he’s written, but I think I could read it all again without skipping any of the posts. Even if you don’t have time to read the lot, the Top 10 on the front page covers a good range of topics and if you continue further down, you’ll see sets of posts grouped by other common topics.
One of his most quoted posts is The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code which covers 12 things that you and your company should be doing, while also creating a benchmark by which you can compare different companies. As you read through, you nod along thinking that it’s a list of items to do that you really wish you could say you’re already doing. At the back of your mind however, you accept that although you only do a few, there must be companies that do less than you and you should feel happy that you don’t work in one of those places.
I also really liked The Command and Control Management Method (continuing on from Fire and Motion). I think I enjoyed this post mostly based on the comparison between a scarily authoritarian style of management and making soldiers run through minefields to highlight what’s wrong with that kind of management.
Another heavily referenced post is The Law of Leaky Abstractions. It’s so common to see the words “abstraction” and “leaky” whenever someone writes about programming abstract interfaces. It’s a very typical post in the Spolsky collection, covering one of those typical programming issues you’re already aware of, written in a style that makes you smile while you remember what you know of the topic.
One last thing; if you can find a video of him presenting live, I’d recommend that you take some time out to watch him – you could do worse than to watch the launch of his most recent product, Trello.