Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Productive Programmer

Just tore through Neal Ford's Productive Programmer (978-0-596-51978-0), ended up with mixed feelings about it.

The first part of the book is pretty decent, with pointers to some good tools. This is also a weakness: the book is not going to be a timeless classic, and will likely be of half utility in two to five years.

The second part has good advice, but is mostly a rehash of agile methodologies. Agile has (or rather, has appropriated) a lot of good ideas, but it is ultimately a methodology, and methodologies lead to two things: zealotry and incomplete projects.

The advice given tends towards the obvious ("use the command line", "learn keyboard shortcuts", "make macros and scripts"), and UNIX is presented as something used by Other People.

In fact the book seems to assume that the reader is encumbered by the two most enfeebling technologies out there: Windows and Java. Windows is inescapable as a platform, but one always has the choice not to code like a Windows programmer (excuse me, "developer"). Java seems to be the language of choice in... well, in companies that I have no interest in working for, so nothing lost there. Buying into the Windows Way or the Java Way means you've created a lot of your own problems, and if this book helps you solve some of them, more power to you.

For the non-Windows-and/or-Java Way programmer, stick with the classics by Brooks, Hunt/Thomas, Kernighan, Plauger, Bentley, Fowler. Maybe some Beck, but you have to be careful with evangelicals.

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