# Sunday, 25 January 2009

BookshelfSome time ago my colleague Morten Bock did a Beer & Learn session at Vertica about jQuery. It was a very inspiring session and since I hardly ever get to code at my work anymore, but still enjoy it, I decided to start a small hobby project just to learn a little more about jQuery.

The result has now been published, and is a small (read: minor) bookshelf application equipped with book I have read, and recommend for others to read. I have previously written two book reviews on this blog - Peopleware and In Search of Stupidity - but realized that I will not have a persistence to keep writing reviews of the books I read.

Instead I will add those I feel I can recommend to my bookshelf for everyone to see. The first 10 books have already been added spanning topics from software engineering in general to Web Design and Management.

One final note before the link to the bookshelf: I do realize I am not a UX designer :o)

Now go check out the bookshelf if interested.

Sunday, 25 January 2009 13:21:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback
# Saturday, 29 December 2007

So why would you want to read an almost 10 year old book about managing teams in the computer industry? And that is only the 2nd edition – the 1st edition was published 20 years ago. What relevance could a book that old have in our industry? The answer is crystal clear after you read in: it has a huge relevance.

In 34 chapters – or stories as the authors Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister call them – divided into 6 parts, the reader is taken through the different aspects of creating productive projects and teams. Reading the book the word “stories” is even more saying, as a lot of the chapters are spiced up by the authors own war stories to emphasized the point even more. Nice real life stories that I believe most of us working in IT can relate to.

There is no beating around the bush, but everything is straight to the point explained in a language even a manager ought to be able to understand: increased to decreased productivity. In order to further emphasize the points they are often supported by research results.

I like to think of Vertica as the best place there is to work at. But even if this is the case, I also have to accept that there are still things we can do to make it an even better place to work and it’s something we are aware of and work with on an almost daily basis. Several times reading the book I found myself having to stop every time I had read just one story. I just couldn’t concentrate on reading on, because my mind kept wondering of thinking about how we could put the concepts explained in the previous story to work at Vertica.

Obviously in a book of this age there are things that may no longer be relevant. The intercom paging system might no longer be the biggest source of disturbance. Even so, there is still room for improvement in a lot of organizations. Why is it that when my phone is ringing it has to disturb everyone else in the room? And that if I happen not to be there to pick it up, it keeps doing so every 3 seconds for half a minute? I bet everyone knew from the first ring, that someone was calling.

Although the book is targeted heavily towards software engineering projects, you'll find that much of what DeMarco and Lister say apply to projects where creativity and analytical skills are required.

As is often the case with books like this everything seem so obvious when you read it. Nonetheless, not many people follow the guidelines, which is basically why a book this age is still highly relevant. During my career I have met countless managers that could benefit hugely from reading this book (that is of course if they would follow the advice in it). Not only managers at the companies I have worked at, but also managers at companies, that have been customers at the companies I have worked at. The potential in a lot of organizations that could be emancipated just by following some of the guidelines is just mind-blowing. Not to speak of the increased employee satisfaction, ability to attract new employees etc. In continuation of this I also considered the book as the company Christmas present to customers this year.

 Reading the book gave me a lot of ideas on how to make my workplace even better. We will not be able to implement every one of these right away, but as mentioned earlier it is continuously process. I don’t think you are done with this book after just reading it once. It is definitely a book that you can take out every one or two years and reread.

Saturday, 29 December 2007 16:57:26 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback
# Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Highly recommended by two of my favorite bloggers, Joel Spolsky and Erik Sink it was with a great deal of expectation, I started out reading this book. The book is subtitled “Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters”, and what can be more entertaining than reading about other people’s mistakes?

Not much, I would soon discover! In an extremely funny and lively style, the author Merrill R. Chapman, takes the reader through twelve chapters, each introduced by a nice cartoon drawing and describing a not so successful part of our proud industry’s history.

At the same time as I was rolling my eyes because of the mistakes made by managers of some of the biggest software companies in the world, I also found myself laughing out loud because of the hilariously funny descriptions of the obvious stupidity. Chapman having worked or consulted for several of the companies mentioned, enabling him spice everything up with personal anecdotes of both situations and people, just adds to the entertainment.

Several of the stories are from about the time, when I was first entering the industry. I remember many of the companies mentioned and also using their products. Companies and products that either completely or almost completely have disappeared from the public eye today.

Today the story very often is that the evil company from Redmond has used its monopoly to crush everyone else. But reading this book makes it clear how a lot of the companies went through a huge effort in order to practically obliterate themselves, and more or less serving the monopoly to Microsoft.

Why is it that today Apple has to make its living from selling iPods and not computers? And where exactly did Borland, Netscape, Novell, and WordPerfect go? Once shining stars of the software industry? These are just some of the companies that qualified for the book about stupidity. And don’t worry – obviously Microsoft also made it.

Being a marketing specialist Chapman does not just point fingers and make fun. Two further chapters titled “On Avoiding Stupidity” and “Stupid Analysis” give insight on both the main causes of failure in the software industry, as well as how the disasters in the first twelve chapters could have been avoided. Two interesting chapters, offering both detailed and easy understandable analysis, which I am sure a lot of (former) CEOs would have liked to read.

Though the title of this book may indicate that it is for the people in marketing and sales, the target group is far broader than that. It is a good read for everyone interested in the computer industry – and especially the history. As always the history is a very good way to explain why things are as they are today.

If you are interested the book has its own website where you can read more reviews. You can also read Joel Spolsky’s foreword to the first edition in his blog.

About seven years ago when everybody was having a great time riding the dot com wave, I was working as a developer at a company that truly lived up to the expectations of IT companies of that time. In the development team we had a saying that we used over and over again. It described those times, just as it describes the stories in this book:

“It’s funny ‘cause it's true!”.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007 19:07:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback