The Best Software Writing I

Ed. Spolsky, Joel
Apress 2005
ISBN 1-59059-500-9
305pp
Date finished: 2005-12-21

This is a new collection, not affiliated with the "Best American <whatever> Writing" series, containing weblog entries about software (sort of) from 2003 and 2004. Editor Spolsky is known for writing thought-provoking essays at his weblog, and here he chooses work that was nominated by his readers.

It's highly entertaining, but misses being included as one of my excellent books for the year, largely because, despite the title, much of the book isn't about software. Instead there are lots of pieces about the software business, such as Michael Bean on "The Pitfalls of Outsourcing Programmers", an anonymous writer's "EA: The Human Story", Larry Osterman's "Measuring Testers by Test Metrics Doesn't", Mary Poppendieck's "Team Compensation", and Eric Sink's two essays on software sales. Cory Doctorow's "Save Canada's Internet from WIPO" is a good essay, but also isn't about software. There are also a bunch of cartoons that are mildly amusing but forgettable.

Three pieces on the design of social software, Clay Shirky's two pieces and one by danah boyd, are the best things in the book. Ken Arnold makes a startling proposal -- make compilers enforce coding style -- but the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Raymond Chen writes about the effort Microsoft made to keep applications running on new versions of Windows, Bruce Eckel sets out the case for preferring test suites to static typing, and Eric Johnson looks at how C++ gained traction. "why the lucky stiff"'s cartoon guide to Ruby is also included, which is entertaining, though too fuzzy for my taste (I still didn't understand how the final example code snippet worked).

While I was disappointed with how little technical meat is in the book, this anthology is still worth borrowing from the library, and I hope Apress comes out with future volumes.

Tagged: computing, essays

Permalink: http://books.amk.ca/2005/12/Best_Software_Writing_I.html

%T The Best Software Writing I
%E Spolsky, Joel
%W http://www.joelonsoftware.com
%@ 2005-12-21
%K essays, computing
%G ISBN 1-59059-500-9
%I Apress
%P 305pp
%D 2005

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