Monday, November 4, 2013

Team Geek: A Very Short Review

This fall, I zipped right through the new book by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman, Team Geek: A Software Developer's Guide to Working Well with Others.

The authors are well-known engineers, both in the Open Source community (for Subversion), and as Googlers, and certainly have the necessary qualifications to write about software engineering practices.

But Team Geek is not that book.

Team Geek is rather surprising: it is a manual of manners, a book of etiquette.

This is not as far-fetched as it might seem; programmers certainly have a reputation as arrogant, egotistical, prima donnas who can't be bothered to hold a civil conversation. (Of course, if this is really the way you see us programmers, may I suggest you take a bit of time to read Michael Lopp's superb The Nerd Handbook, to help you understand why your favorite programmer is behaving the way he/she does.)

As the authors explain in their "Mission Statement", Team Geek is all about the realization that, in almost every situation, the successful programmer has to work as part of a team:

The goal of this book is to help programmers become more effective and efficient at creating software by improving their ability to understand, communicate with, and collaborate with other people.

And just a few pages later they make the point even more explicitly:

The point we've been hammering is that in the realm of programming, lone craftsmen are extremely rare -- and even when they do exist, they don't perform superhuman achievements in a facuum; their world-changing accomplishment is almost always the result of a spark of inspiration followed by a heroic team effort.

Team Geek is a fine book, easy to read, entertainingly written, with lots of anecdotes and lessons learned from hard experience. As I read it, I said to myself, over and over again: yes, yes, that's exactly how it is, that's indeed how it goes.

If you're a professional programmer, if you're a person who has to work extensively with professional programmers, if you're considering becoming a professional programmer, or if you're just interested in what it's like to be around professional programmers all the time, you will probably find Team Geek to be interesting, practical, and useful.

It won't teach you any new algorithms, or programming languages, and you won't learn anything about Subversion, but you will learn a lot about all the stuff they don't cover in your Computer Science classes in college.

You may not have thought that the world needed a manual of manners for programmers, but it does, and this is a pretty good one.


  1. Is this the book I want to read, or is it the book I want that annoying person in XXXXX group to read?

    1. You could have written it. :) But you still might enjoy reading it. Some books are that way.