Joel Spolsky: Smart and Gets Things Done Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent



See how they approach it Even if they are a bad candidate you want them to like your company and go away with a positive impression Don t ask uestions such as are they married have kids etc even in a conversational way as this adds nothing and the candidate might feel this has been used against them which is likely illegal Back of the envelope uestions eg How many piano tuners are there etc are a good way to provoke a conversation Do feedback instantly before you forget about the candidate If 4 or 5 people think this person is worth hiring then you likely won t go wrong If you do have to say no to someone do it uickly and respectfully Great people are much much valuable than average people three to ten times as productive costing 20% or 30% Teams Why don t they work performance measurements and incentives devastatingly ineffective Remove the parts which are not working Anonymous peer ranking with the options Great developer Needs specific improvements Hopeless Firing poor performers can increase moral because poor performers are taking time away from the good performers If you can t fire them move under performers to a place where they can t cause any impact Putting in things which do work Three approaches to leadership The Command and Control Method Tell people what to do and tell them off if they don t do it Disadvantages for developers Smart people rebel against doing what they are told without good reasoning Micromanaging would reuire a huge amount of managers to micromanage everything That or you hit and run not seeing the conseuences of your decisions The management have the least knowledge so are ill placed to make decisions The Econ 101 Method Give them financial rewards and punishments to create incentives aka replaces intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation When you stop paying the bonus or when they decide they don t care that much about the money they no longer think that they care even though they might have cared before you started giving them a bonus for it They ll find some way to optimize for the specific thing you re paying them without actually achieving the thing you really want You re encouraging developers to game the system You can t abdicate your responsibility to train your people by bribing them The Identity Method Make people identify with the goals you re trying to achieve The Identity Method is a way to create intrinsic motivation Make a point of of eating lunch with my coworkers It s hard to understate what a big impact this has on making the company feel like a family in the good way by sharing information people will do the right thing I had some problem about interviewing people and also how actually other people manage their teams This book is like a treasure and that s not very controversial It s hard to understate such a big impact this book has on me I like it very much and highly recommended A little outdated and a lot of condescension There are some useful tips but others I feel were ust wrong There is weird stuff about how programmers talking about Olog n is using Defender for Hire (Heroes for Hire, jargon What comes off in the book is that Spolsky is pretty opinionated about the hiring process without doing some self assessment of whether it really makes sense This is a very uick read on how to hire programmers It s full of insights and interesting thoughts from someone who has been in the trenches of being a programmer and hiring programmers for years who has succeeded at both tasks and who has thought deeply about why He has great points on how to find programmers hintob boards don t work and how to build an environment where programmers can be productive For those reasons it s worth reading However while I respect Spolsky and have followed his blog for years I don t agree with a number of key points in the book Spolsky makes most of his arguments about hiring as if they are scientific facts whereas most of what he says actually consists of anecdotes correlations and guesses For example when he makes the claim that interview uestions about pointers can be used to distinguish between good programmers and great programmers he has nothing but anecdotal evidence to back that up It s entirely possible that the programmers he rejected who failed his pointers interview uestion would ve actually been great employees Without a controlled experiment we don t really know Obviously I don t expect Spolsky to be spending his time on controlled scientific experiments but I do expect him to present his stances as conjectures rather than absolute truths The sad truth about hiring is that we all suck at it and not acknowledging that does a lot of harm to this industry As an example of the harm this trust me I know what I m doing attitude can have is Spolsky s claim that programming ability such as understanding pointers is innate and cannot be taught I call BS on that No one is born understanding pointers And if a large percentage of people can t learn pointers my guess is that has to do with the ability of the teachers than of the students But that s ust my guess and I prefer to label it as such Spolsky presents it as a hard fact The either you have it or you don t fixed mindset is IMO harmful to the software industry We need to encourage people to take up programming rather than scaring them away because they might have been born a muggle Sposky recommends white board coding I would argue this is a horrifically ineffective way to evaluate programmers that this industry should have abandoned long ago Working on artificial problems from CS 101 that can fit in a 45 minute slot writing code by hand with no compiler no syntax checking no auto complete no Google or StackOverflow yes every programmer uses these constantly while coding no libraries no ability to incrementally buildrun the code no uiet time to do thinking instead speak all your thoughts out loud because that s totally natural and a ridiculous pressure to prematurely optimize the shit out of a tiny piece of code is NOT my idea of an effective interview process A book like this recommending it as a best practice does harm to the industryIn short if you re going to hire programmers it s worth reading this book but don t take it as gospelAs always some of my favorite uotes from the book Duplication of software is free That means the cost of programmers is spread out over all the copies of the software you sell With software you can improve uality without adding to the incremental cost of each unit sold Essentially design adds value faster than it adds costThe real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers. O founder of Fog Creek Software for recruiting the best developers in the worldIf you've ever wondered what you should be looking for in a resume if you've ever struggled to decide whether to hire someone at the end of an interview or if you're wondering why you can't find great programmers stop everything and read this book.

My expectations were uite different for that book When I read Smart and gets things done I was like Cool I will learn a way to udge which people are smart and will work hard Nothing of the sort The book shows you the most extensive practices to hire the best 000001% of programmers Yeah thanks for that I mean it s good to know and strive for it but unfortunately not a lot of companies can do that A Kiss To Change Her Life just because it s not always up to the employeesIt s still a good book but probably the title has a context that one is not necessarily aware of Don t know what the idea behind the formatting of the book is The extra extra wide margins and the huge font are probably to make the book at least thick enough to be seen as a book rather than the booklet it is As for the content it starts off like any good self help guru autobiography by making statements that most people would agree on so as to make the reader think Oh That s true Like saying that ergonomic chairs are ergonomic and then breaking down the cost over the number of toilet papers that can be bought from that money Simple stuff And moving on to making proclamations after thisMost of the stuff is self contradictory with explicit disclaimers that it worked for the author but it might not work for others Actually we can t say with any degree of certainty that those specifics were what went right Statistically speaking it was probably many things that were not noticed that brought the success The self contradiction is so much as to make all advice useless and is easy to see in every section and across sections if you don tust read everything in the narrow context of the page In short if I had a reading list that I could give to my past self to make sure that I read those books at least once I would not put this book on it Joel is one of the best guys on the internet if you want to have read about software business and this book follow the same ualityThings change fast in software The book was wrote before the Continuous Delivery got on the mouth of everybody so the author tells about CI practices without mentioning it I m not criticizing it contrariwise I believe the author have merits in elaborating practices before all the movement start Smart and Gets Things Done 2007 by Joel Spolsky is Spolsky s guide to hiring good programmers and setting things up so they can work best Joel on Software was for a number of years in the 2000s a well read software engineering blog Spolsky worked for Microsoft then founded Fog Creek software that made a bug tracker and then went on to co found the incredibly useful Stack Exchange site The book is mainly about hiring and Spolsky describes how he hires and how he thinks you should hire Spolsky says that companies should hire the best after phone screens code writing in interviews and careful checks and then pay them very well and put coders in offices The advice is all fairly solid the issue being that it s solid for a company that is able to pay well and give top software engineers what they want There is little consideration given to companies that can t pay that well but still need someone to work on their code Something that is interesting about the book now is that it predates the massive growth of the Agile movement and also some modern tools like Continuous Integration Continuous Deployment and DevOps This doesn t take much away from the book but does show how things have moved on Smart and Gets Things done isn t a great book but it is a good one and a book that has uite a few useful tips for anyone involved in hiring This book is a guide to hiring developers using humiliating techniues that are wildly common today but hopefully die soon Making a candidate write code on paper Whiteboard interviews Asking uncomfortablestressful uestions to see how a candidate deals with them basically sadism Dividing people in smart and dumb Assuming that some people cannot be good programmers according to Joel you re bad if you don t understand recursion or pointers well Sending a candidate through 5 6 interview rounds a day Boasting about fancy offices parties limos and other cheap crap etcThe book is written from the position of a rockstar developer who created a popular rockstar company where only the privileged talented and gifted people are allowed to work basically those who can write a compiler on a napkin using Haskell and understand pointersThe book is polarized full of prejudice Nothing is said about psychology impostors different personalities and treating people well Overconfident rockstars assessors who think they are 10x productive than others and hitting the high notes freuently choose new bros into the privileged closed clubThere were good parts about hunting new grads and some non hiring hints that you can learn from DeMarco s Peopleware and Brooks Mythical Man Month Otherwise use practices described in this book at your own peril This book is harmful to the software industry The one thing that this book taught me for sure is that I wouldn t ever get a Their Convenient Amish Marriage (Pinecraft Homecomings job at Fog Creek author s company The book is from 2007 which means it is pretty old as for software development world standards and some of the advice is deprecated However I found most of the stuff at least enjoyable and informative It is probably one single book that virtually every HR person and manager that would like to hire developers should read mostly because it is a really uick read and provides actual real world advice Author has a bright style and made the book uite funny so I guess it was time well spent Also the best piece of advice from this book is in the title The and part of it is crucial This book proposed that if you have the Best Working Conditions you get the Best Programmers to develop the Best Software which results in ProfitThe preface for this is the the uality of the work and the amount of time spent are simply uncorrelated Productivity is 5 to 1 or 10 to 1 between programmers You can t afford to be number two or to have a good enough product It has to be remarkably good by which I mean so good that people remark about it Having really really really talented software developers is your only hope for remarkableness The great software developers indeed the best people in every field are uite simply never on the market The average great software developer will apply for total maybe fourobs in their entire career Whereas bad people are on the market uite a lotHow to find people who are not on the market1 Go to the mountain What conferences do they go to Top end conferences or up and coming technologies Wher. A guide to attracting recruiting interviewing and hiring the best technical talentA comprehensive system for hiring top notch technical employees Packed with useful information and specific advice written in a breezy humorous style Learn how to find great people and get them to work for you in an afternoonThe top software de.

E do they live What organizations do they belong to Which websites do they read Avoid advertising on general purpose large ob boards as the bad people who are all over the market will apply and swamp you2 Internships Students are lazy with lots of options so can roll out of uni into a ob For the good ones try to attract them a year or two early they might need some training but it is beneficial for both sides You will likely need to have a contact at the Uni to find the best students If they are great make them a good offer for after graduation3 Build your own community Referalls Tend to be from former companies tent do be from the same company which can be risky Nobody wants to persuade their friends to apply for a Neimhaim (Neimhaim, job at their company only to get rejected If you pay too much for referrals then they will coach people through the interview processWork space Private offices make programmers productive and programmers prefer it Putting on headphones with music to drown out the ambient noise reduces the ability of programmers to have useful insights Office location Does the office look exciting Good chairs don t cost that much over their lifetime and if you take the cost per week it is cheaper than most other office facilities People want to work with good cheerful and happy people Smart and Gets Things Done and not aerk Managers can advise but they must be extremely careful to avoid having their advice interpreted as a commandThing which annoy programmers being told to use a certain programming language people being promoted because of their ability to network rather than being promoted strictly on merit being forced to do something that is technically inferior because someone higher than them in the organization or someone better connected insists on itPeople want to work on something cool exciting new languages attract peopleYoung programmers especially are attracted to ideological companies open source or the free software movement social causes benefiting societyDevelopers don t really care about money unless you re screwing up on the other things it means people aren t really loving their Divine ecstasy, the story of Khajuraho job If potential new hiresust won t back down on their demands for outlandish salaries you re probably dealing with a case of people who are thinking Well if it s going to have to suck to go to work at least I should be getting paid well That doesn t mean you can underpay people because they do care about Carrying the Greeks Heir justice you do have to pay competitively as long as the salaries are basically fair they will be surprisingly low on their list of considerations Offering high salaries is a surprisingly ineffective tool in overcoming problemsResumes filtering Be selective about how we advertiseobs to limit the amount of poor CVs Use a strictly objective system of reviewing and sorting them this is not a filtering criteria it is Amish Sweethearts just to sort a big pile of CVs to find candidates who are most likely to be suitable so they get interviewed first Passion Jobs with computers or experience programming going back to a very early age People who love programming often work on their own programming projects or contribute to an open source project in their spare time Sometimes certain programming languages or technologies indicate evidence of someone who loves to explore new technologies Pickiness Specific covering letter to the company a custom cover letter is a sign that if we do make this candidate an offer they re likely to accept it programmers who can communicate their ideas clearly so neat well structured and gramatically correct CVs Brains Math camp programming competitons etc Selectivity Have they been through a rigorous review process before either for Uni or another company Hard core Some development work isust harder than others if they have the harder work then they stand out Diversity Trying to bring new ideas into the team to break people out of group think and their own echo chamber Great developers are likely to have enough options of places to work that any extra hoops will put them off bothering to apply Any technology you know right now might be out of date in a year you are looking for people who pick things up uickly and can learn new things so don t filter CVs on key wordsPhone Interview Get the candidate to describe their career history and basically tell me about themselves Looking for Technology How did they do things What was their role CV validation Politics How the candidate handles challenges Looking for people who got things done even in the face of opposition I m looking for people who challenged the status uo who overcame objections and who made things happen Whose idea was it Who convinced whom Who did what Did it work out Why not Get the candidate to solve a technical problem This should take something the candidate is familiar with but are unlikely to have implemented themselves The aim is to look at their approach rather than getting them to speak code over the phone Get the candidate to ask uestions about the company This shows if they have done any research and what they are interested inInterviewing 6 interviewers at least 5 peers not managers If two people would reject the candidate end the interview at that point Don t interview multiple people at once There are three catorgories Nos Maybes never hire maybes Superstars Hire but not for my team is a no hire I m a little concerned about is a no hire Perhaps is a no hire It is much much better to reject a good candidate than hire a bad one Look for people who are Smart and Get things done Bad interviwers Interviewers who Call Me Dan just talk the entire time People who areust looking for trivia eg What s the difference between varchar and varchar2 in Oracle 8i smart does not mean knows trivia aptitude is important Any skill set will be out of date in a couple of years Good practice Know as little as you can about the candidate in advance so it does not bias your opinion don t listen to recruiters opinions don t ask around about the person before you interview them never talk to the other interviewers about the candidate until you ve both made your decisions independently This provides the least amount of bias for or against the candidate Good candidates are passionate they might be passionate in favor or against but passion is key Bad candidates ust don t care can explain what they have done in a way a normal look for signs of leadership how have they pushed forward to get things done write code and discuss it pointers recursion data structures ask them to find bugs in their code even in the unlikely event there are none to. Velopers are ten times productive than average developers Ten times You can't afford not to hire them But if you haven't been reading Joel Spolsky's books or blog you probably don't know how to find them and make them want to work for youIn this brief book Joel reveals all his secrets from his years at Microsoft and as the

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