Thu, 03 Mar 2005
A last call for authors
Because of my writing and consulting load, I'm going to scale back
on my editing for Better
Software magazine. As soon as possible, I'll be working on one
article per issue.
In the past, I've been more or less guided by an editorial
calendar, looking for articles on certain topics. In the future,
I'll be looking for articles on any relevant topic (but keeping in
mind the need to have balance over an entire year). What I'm
looking to help produce is a steady stream of the kind of articles
I keep telling clients they should read. Those usually fall into
Gathering Tide articles introduce early mainstream people
pragmatists) to ideas and techniques that have been
proven out by the early adopters (Moore's
on continuous integration is an example. Continuous
integration isn't that big a deal any more: CruiseControl
is solid, a lot of people know how to use it, people who don't
can go to a book (Mike
Clark's Pragmatic Project Automation) to find
out, and there are articles (like Fredrick's) that give
beginners important tips so that they don't have to learn them
painfully themselves. Those are the ingredients that reassure
pragmatists that it's time to adopt the new idea. I want
articles that tell pragmatists of an idea they haven't heard of
yet, and tell them in a persuasive enough way that they give it
a try - or at least investigate further.
Try This At Work articles are for people who want
explained well, that they can put into practice soon. My own
article about using Ruby to test a product with a SOAP
interface is an example.
So if you have an idea for an article, contact me. Articles can be
of two lengths. Feature articles are 2500-3000 words (which
is too short to treat anything but the narrowest topic in
depth). Front Line articles are 1200-1500 words. They tell a
story of something you did that you learned from. They'll typically
start with the story, tell the specific lesson, and maybe
generalize out from there.
## Posted at 21:13 in category /misc
Ten most influential computer books of the past ten years
I was asked to make a list of the above. My first reaction was "How
should I know?" But then I figured I could at least list books that I
believe have been
influential in my circles. Here they are.
Design Patterns by Gamma, Helm, Johnson, and Vlissides (1995)
- Although the true publication date puts it too early for this list, I'm going to include it because it marks the beginning of an important trend: that of programmers drawing attention to what they repeatedly do, on a rather small scale. It's the beginning of a shift away from grand theorizing to observation on the ground. It laid the groundwork for...
Refactoring, by Martin Fowler (1999)
What an absurd idea: a catalog of how to change code so it does the same thing as it did before. But this book led to refactoring IDEs, which have given programmers enormous power to shape programs like a potter shapes clay. It also made a revolutionary claim: it's good to do things over.
The Pragmatic Programmer: from Journeyman to Master, by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas (1999)
- Once, people really did think that programmers needed to know only programming and design languages plus a few big ideas. (Build software like bridges!) Book like those above chipped away at that. This book capped the trend by unequivocally treating programming as a craft. We need no longer long to be engineers.
Programming Explained: Embrace Change, by Kent Beck (1st
- This book grew out of the same trend, but strongly emphasized two additional ideas: that programming is a social activity, and that programmers gain freedom by shaping themselves and the code in response to the arbitrary demands of the business. It also spurred the coalescing of a variety of underground methods into a visible alternative to conventional software development.
Software Development, by Alistair Cockburn (2001)
- The best summing-up of what the Agile methods have in common,
concentrating on the social. Many people who haven't read the book
have been infected by ideas someone else learned from it.
Perl, by Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, Jon Orwant (2000, 3d
- This book's influence is tightly tied up with the influence of Perl itself, which allowed many nonprogrammers (like testers) to automate what they otherwise wouldn't have, blurred the boundaries between systems and quick 'n' dirty scripts, and paved the way for a reconsideration of dynamically typed languages that unashamedly favor programmer power over execution speed.
Effectively With Legacy Code, by Michael Feathers
- Relentlessly practical, "WELC" is, to my knowledge, the first book to successfully attack the problem of how to shape programs that have already hardened into an ugly and unmaintainable form. Just published, it hasn't had time to be hugely influential, but it will be.
Learned in Software Testing, by Cem Kaner, James Bach, and
- This is the testing book for non-testers to read. It treats software testing as it is, not as it should be - and it shows that testing as it is, if treated seriously, can be very good indeed.
UML Distilled, by Martin Fowler (1st edition 1997)
- A wonderful example of telling less than you know, this book is the one for the person who wants UML as part of her toolkit, but doesn't intend to make a way of life out of it. I've heard that its unexpectedly good sales made thin computer books respectable again, reason enough for inclusion on this list.
and Interpretation of Computer Programs (1996, 2nd
- OK, this is cheating, since only the second edition was published within the last ten years. But it's an enduring description of how simple, powerful ideas build upon themselves - something easy to forget, but the reason computers are both so marvelous and so useful.
(I distrust lists with ten items. I always suspect the
author squeezed something out, or strained to come up with a last
item, just to hit that magic number. By coincidence, I really
listed ten, first try.)
## Posted at 20:07 in category /misc
More on Fit style
Jim Shore has some
thoughts about my earlier posting on
style. I'm intrigued by the idea of using, uh, relational verbs
like "is" and "has" to make Fit statements look more like they're for
understanding than for testing.
## Posted at 20:03 in category /fit