My Top 10 Joel Spolsky Posts

If you are running a small (or large) software development company, Joel Spolsky should be at the top of your reading list.

My Top 10 Joel Spolsky Posts

Outside of my mentor, Bruce Grandjean, I owe most of my foundational Access knowledge to one man: Allen Browne.

As for the business side of software development, I owe most of that knowledge to Joel Spolsky.

Joel was the program lead for the first version of Microsoft Excel, perhaps the single-most profitable piece of software ever created when you consider it's been a paid product for over 30 years.  After leaving Microsoft, Joel started Fog Creek software, where he built the FogBugz bug tracking database that is the heart of my own software development company.  While doing that, he launched a little website as a side project that you may have heard of,

One might say he's had a successful career in software.

Joel on Software

In addition to his above accomplishments, Joel also wrote one of the earliest and most influential software blogs, Joel On Software.

I've linked to several of his articles on multiple occasions on this site, so I thought it might be good to put together a single list of my top 10 favorites, all in one place.

Here you go:

  1. The Law of Leaky Abstractions
  2. Making Wrong Code Look Wrong
  3. The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Needs to Know About Text Encoding, No Excuses
  4. The Joel Test

To give you an idea of how influential these articles have been to me over the years, I typed the entire list above word for word from memory (I'm pretty sure I'm slightly off on the Text Encoding one, but I bet the others are dead on).

UPDATE: I just checked as I was adding the links.  First two were perfect matches, third one was in the ballpark, and on the fourth one I left off the subtitle.

Here's the rest of the list, but as they were not at the top of my mind, I clearly don't value them quite as much.  That said, all of Joel's articles are fantastic.

5. Things You Should Never Do, Part I ("[T]he single worst strategic mistake that any software company can make: They decided to rewrite the code from scratch.")
6. The Iceberg Secret, Revealed  ("If you show a nonprogrammer a screen which has a user interface which is 100% beautiful, they will think the program is almost done.")
7. How Microsoft Lost the API War (esp. the section titled, "Microsoft Lost the Backwards Compatibility Religion" and the story about SimCity)

OK, 5 through 7 are legitimate classics, and I'm a bit ashamed that I didn't recall them from memory.

8. Strategy Letter I: Ben and Jerry’s vs. Amazon (I'm firmly in the Ben & Jerry's camp: "start small, with limited goals, and slowly build a business over a long period of time.")
9. In Defense of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome (“Find the dependencies — and eliminate them.”)
10. My First BillG Review ("Watching non-programmers trying to run software companies is like watching someone who doesn’t know how to surf trying to surf.")

All original code samples by Mike Wolfe are licensed under CC BY 4.0