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Joel on Software


by Joel Spolsky
Monday, April 21, 2003

Chandler Release 0.1 is out. See what all the fuss is about, almost.

Larry Seltzer wants to throw out SMTP and start over. I have to support that. If the European Union can change the money that 300 million people use all on one day, we can change our email protocol. Let's find a protocol with decent authentication and with micropayments to make spam uneconomical, and let's set a deadline, maybe two years in the future, when SMTP will simply be turned off. Everybody will know it's coming, just like Y2K, and everybody will have to be ready.

A couple of new books worth checking out:

Waltzing With BearsWaltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects. The latest book from the heroes of Peopleware, Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister. Makes a brave case that the person (or company, or team) who is responsible for risk management is the person who is going to pay the price when things go wrong. Waltzing With Bears kicks off with an excellent analysis of the famous "failure" of software engineering that delayed the opening of the new Denver airport, framing it as a failure of risk management. In fact when you look a bit more closely at the software project itself, it's pretty clear that the software team was expected to perform the impossible, and the project as a whole had no way to recover from a slip in a typically over-optimistic software schedule.

Speed Up Your Site: Web Site OptimizationSpeed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization by Andrew King. A well written and very thorough treatise on what you can do to reduce download times and speed up web sites. Yes, putting your whole HTML page on one line can really help.

No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and its Hidden CostsNo-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs, by Andrew Ross. A big disappointment. I think the original book was not exciting enough so the publisher tried to present it as a critique of informal, humane workplaces. The "hidden cost," they want us to believe, of pleasant, diverse workplaces seems to be that they shut down and you lose your job. I know, it doesn't make any sense. The author wanted to write a book about cool dotcoms, but they all imploded, and he was stuck trying to claim that they imploded because they tried to have a humane workplace, without really believing it himself, so it comes out a big mess.

Most of the book, though, is an interesting look inside two of the Aeron-infested workplaces of the fin-de-siècle, presenting a picture of young and diverse liberal arts majors jammed in a big room together playing loud music and patting themselves on the back for having such cool unjobs. Rather than focusing on the business stories behind Razorfish and 360hiphop.com, which we've presumably heard, this book tries to look at the work environment itself. Unfortunately it's written in a current-events American Studies tone rather than as an ethnography, which is too bad, because some anthropological skills would have made this a million times more interesting (and useful, to those of us that are trying to create humane workspaces while creating successful businesses).

Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, which lets you organize anything, together, FogBugz, enlightened issue tracking software for bug tracking, and Kiln, which provides distributed version control and code reviews. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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