"The Best Software Writing" review

10 11 2005

1590595009.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgThe Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky

The blurb on the back cover reads:

At my own company, we instituted a policy: we only want to hire software developers who can write, and write well. Just try submitting a résumé to me with grammatical errors or a cover letter that reads like it was written by that guy who translates those instruction manuals for really cheap consumer electronics. I dare you.

I think this is a great policy. Being able to communicate well is one of the greatest and most overlooked assets to look for in good software developers. With this book, Joel Spolsky shows us some of the best examples of good writing in the field of software.

If it were just a matter of good writing style, the importance of this book would be rather limited. But its real value, besides the stylistic aspect, is the great content. Most articles are not just well written, but also very interesting, insightful or outrightly funny. Great content in a nice package.

I’ve previously referred to Paul Graham’s essay “Great Hackers”, which is one of the best. My other favorites are Ken Arnold’s “Style is Substance” and why the lucky stiff‘s introduction to the Ruby language.

My only small gripe with the book is the fact that most, if not all, the material inside is already available on the net. It sure is pleasant having it all nicely collected and printed in a book, so that you can read it on the plane or at the beach, but I find it quite improbable that all good software writing can be found on the net and none in print magazines and book. Or maybe it is simply easier to obtain republishing rights for online material than it is for printed stuff? A couple of comic strips seem quite out of place, too.

Apart from these minor details, a very entertaining and stimulating read. Highly recommended.

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