Joel on Software: end of a era

Thought I’d just write a quick post to both commiserate and celebrate the news that Joel Spolsky has decided to retire from blogging.

In the final .inc article Joel quotes Kathy Sierra:

“an entrepreneur’s blog has to be about something bigger than his or her company and his or her product”

so I thought I’d write up a brief tribute of why I thought Joel Spolsky’s blog/writing was important to software development as a whole.

Five years ago, I was working as a technical lead in a small design firm. I was the only full time technical person and dealt with everything, wearing hats from server admin to lead developer to pitching to printer technician to technical manager hiring and firing freelancers.

Suffice to say, the quality of work that came out of that company was not high and we were constantly faced with the very real possibility of bankruptcy. 14 hours a day I was rushed off my feet trying to get everything done, always playing catch up. I was inexperienced and stressed and after a grueling year I quit to take some time out and regain the shreds of my sanity.

At this time my love of the software industry was not very high, it seemed like a lot of hard work for not much reward and I was about ready to jack it in and become a wine farmer in Slovenia.

That was until I found myself reading a book that would change my opinions.

Here was a book that did 2 vital things for me.

Firstly, it made me feel like I was no longer alone. Here was a person who had realized the same things that I had realized about the nature of software development and was willing to stand up and champion this best practice. Now when a project manager tried to tell me why using SVN took too much time or a designer tried to tell me it was ok that he had done his design in anti-aliased VAG rounded and the web page needed to be exactly like it, I had the confidence to push back.

Secondly it taught me or clarified some best practice principles across other disciplines, from legacy code to complimentary services. It both increased the depth and breadth of my knowledge again helping me to feel more confident to push back in other areas that were not my specialty.

I finished reading the book and was excited to be a software developer again, armed with a new set of skills and I will always be very grateful for that. Joel spent many years evangelizing software development best practice and made mine and I suspect a lot of other people’s lives a lot easier giving us the knowledge and tools to be able to get on with the exciting pieces of building software.

After reading the book, I also listened to the ups and downs of the stackoverflow podcast and gleaned some new bits of industry information from that, but ultimately I think that had run it’s course and am happy they decided to end/change it.

I don’t know where Joel’s journey will take him next but I hope that it is equally as prosperous and continues to allow him the freedom and scope to do what he wants. I was certainly very interested to see the new Kiln project and incredibly helpful mercurial guide. Which I in turn will be using to help educate younger developers. So thanks Joel for ten years of great software development insights.

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