Tuesday, February 05, 2008

37signals and getting real

37Signals published -- and posted online -- a book about software development called "Getting Real." It's the type of book that will generate hyperbolic praise -- read Seth Godin's jacket blurb -- and "this isn't new at all" derision. The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. If you are a software developer, manage software developers, need to work with software developers, or want to understand the process of creating software a bit more, you should read it.

The 37Signals folks deserver a ton of credit for writing down the basic tenants of good software and product development. Most good organizations are already doing most of these things and -- like Joel's test -- should be aspiring to do more of them. The authors, again to their credit, also don't claim that much of what they are doing is new, but do present their ideas in a clean, easy to digest manner. It also feels a lot less cultish than a lot of the scrum or xp tomes. They are also cleverly giving it away, since this allows their ideas -- which just happen to mesh nicely with 37Signals' products -- to percolate widely. That's how I found it, which is great.

I also enjoyed reading it from the standpoint of how development is done at Linden Lab. We agree on most of the principles, even if reality and ideal don't alway match perfectly. The one area where their book needs be read carefully is that 37Signals is still a very small team. Communication and coordination challenges scale at least polynomially -- and probably exponentially -- so everything doesn't just get harder as your organization gets bigger, it gets much harder.

But, as I said, their book is a good ideal. So, if you have an hour, go read it.

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