2/13/2006

The irrelevant Joel Spolsky

For a guy who has written so much good stuff on software development, I think Joel is falling behind the times. His latest post talks about not being able to find an online calendar that he likes, which is fine - I don't think anyone has, yet - but then he uses that as a springboard to decry the new software technique that he refers to as, "Ship early and often".

I did a web search for that phrase to find an alternate viewpoint, and Joel is already in the top three sites for it; he's quite an influencer. But he seems to have a lot of disagreements with the techniques of agile programming, which includes this technique, there referred to as "Frequent Releases". Joel - and the article I linked - claim that releasing half-baked software isn't a good idea; true enough in itself, but I'm guessing that the calendars he checked out weren't buggy, bugs are bad things and no one wants to use buggy software, but that they simply didn't have all the features he was looking for. Releasing a calendar that has actual business value isn't releasing half-baked software; it's getting something out there that people can use, evaluate, give feedback on. It's a starting point for a conversation with the users. Look at Flickr; the most popular photo-sharing site on the planet started its life as a game tool, and evolved into its current incarnation by listening to the users and giving them what they want. That's how you create software.

"But", Joel says, "I'm not going to look at 30 Boxes again -- I've spent enough time evaluating it." He won't be back to see next week's version, or even next year's. (I wonder what calendar program he'll be using in the meantime?) I suspect he says this as a recognized authority on good software, in the belief that if he doesn't like it, it's probably not much good. That's probably true, too, but, there are one heck of a lot of other folks out there. They have blogs. They write about stuff they don't like too, and they also write about stuff they do like, if not nearly as often. I didn't look at any of these Ajax calendars at all, myself. But eventually, I suspect, one will turn out to rock the world, and at that point it will be all over Technorati, Icerocket, Memeorandum, Tailrank. At that point I won't care about Joel's opinion of them today. Joel probably won't either. When one of them wins out, he'll know by word of mouth, as we all will. Two or three of the others will have fallen apart by then, spending too much time writing features that no one wants, not getting anything released out on their website, not getting any buzz. And that is why, if you're writing software today, you should release early, and you should release often.

Back to List