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Fire and Motion

I just put a couple things together, and have an interesting observation about our host.

* Joel has spent several articles beating on Java and C# on both technical and educational merit.  Then in this latest article, he claims that FC is using C# extensively, and that one of his interns is essentially a Java School guy (with extensive C# skill.)

* He has spent several articles praising Lisp and Paul Graham, only to tear both down in this article.

* I don't have any personal experience with Ruby, but it seems to have a bigger "world" than Python right now.

Ok, I get the language troll.  Funny.

* Joel has gone on at length about writing good specifications, and how important Big Up Front Design is, but the only spec he has shown (Copilot) was closer to agile development - a far cry from what he is advocating.

* Joel has gone on at huge length about keeping a good schedule, but he apparently doesn't keep enough of one to avoid a five month (!) miscommunication with Brett over FogBugz 6 ship date.

* Speaking of which, Joel's recommended management style (Identity Management) is so vague and limp that I can't see it actually working in the real world. 

Now obviously, Joel's writings are not Holy Writ from on high.  But they are influencial. 

Which leads me to his Fire & Motion article.  As much as he might wish it were so, Microsoft is not Joel's competion.  Microsoft is not using Fire & Motion to keep little FogCreek from making any forward progress.  Joel's real competitors are the other micro-ISVs out there, a great number of whom read this website.

Consider this - by writing frequently contradictory articles, by fanning flame wars, by advocating techniques that are suboptimal or just can't work, Joel is practicing Fire & Motion against his real competitors.  While people stop and say "hmmm, maybe I should at least take a look at Lisp" ( I sure did ), or spend time in the forums defending Ayn Rand, or debating the merits of Ruby on Rails, Joel just laughs maniacally and prepares to ship another(?!) version of FogBugz.  Maybe his laugh is more like a girlish giggle, I don't know.  Notice how Joel very rarely participates in the discussions after he Fires off another article?  Because that's when he's in Motion.
Hang on while I adjust my tinfoil hat Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
Yes, you could interpret Joel's articles as an attempt to sow seeds of confusion among his competitors.

I see it as an attempt to raise the professionalism of software developers and micro-ISVs. If it coincidently drives some under-qualified people out of the business, so be it.

I think as far as our industry was concerned, one of the biggest setbacks we encountered - if not the biggest - was convincing programmers that all they had to do was pick up a book and they'd become overnight millionaires during the dot-com era. Similarly, management became convinced that programming is a commodity and developing software was really no different than picking out furniture. We're still paying for those attitudes.

While I don't agree with every one of Joel's articles, I do appreciate his attempt to say a) developing and selling software is harder than you think, and b) forget about what you learned in Havard Business School; if you want to manage programmers and sell software, these are the things you need to think about.
Friday, September 01, 2006
>I see it as an attempt to raise the professionalism of software developers and micro-ISVs.

If by "professionalism of software developers and micro-ISVs", you meant to write "profile and profitability of FogCreek Software and its various products", then I wholeheartedly agree with you!

However the OP is definitely right on that Joel's position seems to flutter with the wind over the past couple of years. I'm prone to interpreting them more as self-serving-for-this-moment type positions, rather than carefully thought out, considered positions (it isn't that changing your mind based on new information is bad -- that's a very good thing -- but when your position seems to be whatever serves you today then it starts to lose credibility).
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
Oracle and Microsoft compete.  None of us here do - including FogCreek.

Joel woul be extravagantly wasting his time if he were trying to give bad advice to people who will compete in issue tracking/remote montioring/etc.  Not only is that audience vanishingly small, he would have to pull an amazing hat trick of convincing people to do clearly dumb things.  He could apply those skills more profitably as a Jedi.

Joel is simply trying to promote himself as an expert with good, free advice (and hoping some of that vibe will rub off on his products).  You might think his advice is foolish, but to call it Fire and Motion is insane.

Seems outstandingly ethical to me.  Plus, I have learned a ton from him - including how to promote software.

Bankstrong Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
>Seems outstandingly ethical to me.

While I certainly don't subscribe to any theory that Joel is out to screw his competitors (although it is a humorous thought), and while I don't think his actions are even marginally unethical, it's not like he's doing it benevolently. There are very real returns for FogCreek and his products.

Cue someone making some ridiculous point that it's a "personal" blog, unrelated to his business.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
the guy up there is suggesting Joel's last name should be Machiavelli
gworld Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
While I think some of his posts are definitely there to generate revenue for FogCreek (working conditions, new version stuff, etc...), I think posts like this one are more for Joel the person. 

Already by 7am EST today there were a bunch of blog posts all over the Internet about what he said, and the forum was the most active I've seen it since his JavaSchools post. 

Back when he originally started blogging, I'm not sure there was a deliberate connection between the business and his writing, that just grew over time.  I believe he still just enjoys writing and being a guru, and every now and then gurus have to write things like this to stir the pot and stay relevant.
Phil Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
I think that calling Fog Creek a "micro-ISV" is stretching it a bit. Look at all those employees and interns sat around the lunch table.
John Topley Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
These are not contradictions.  I don't think some of you really read Joel's articles.

A)I like the Lisp language and Paul Graham.
B)I think using Lisp to design a web application is not a good idea.

A)Someone who cut their teeth on Java is not as good a programmer as someone who cut their teeth on Lisp.
B)Java is a good language to use for a web app. Lisp is not.

A)It's ridiculous that .NET apps cannot be linked into a single executable that does not need a run-time library.
B).NET is a good language to use for a web app.

Kyle Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
@tinfoil hat

Good points all...  interesting analysis.  I have to admit that I smiled when I read your post.  The contradictory items and information can lead to that sort of conclusion, but I'm not sure what the purpose would be.  If Joel is trying to throw off competitors, we should look at who his competitors are.  Most likely they are either Open Source or Enterprisey...  neither of which are likely to feel threatened or affected by what Joel says or does.
KC Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
+1 Kyle. That's how I take it too.
smalltalk Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
 - Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Now That's More Like It
Friday, September 01, 2006
I guess it comes down to being able to evaluate information, rather than taking anything as gospel, i.e., being a sheep.  It basically takes only minutes to read the average Joel article.  Then you have to see if it actually makes sense, i.e., is it something I can use to improve my process of software development. 

I actually don't consider any of Joel's work at all groundbreaking but he has a good writing style and he pulls together information well.  He didn't invent source control, but he advocates it.  He didn't invent daily builds, but he advocates that as well.  He didn't invent bug tracking, and so forth.  Pulling together 12 important points as the "Joel Test" is not a bad contribution and it does serve as a checklist, road map, whatever, to improving one's development process.  I can tell you, however, that not all of these points are equal in importance.

Only Joel knows for sure his own motives.  But becoming a writer about software development has positioned him as an expert, has brought a lot of traffic to Fog Creek and that's simply good business.  I'm sure many have learned a thing or two as well and that's not bad either.  But I dismiss the OP's premise that Joel is spewing out information to distract developers and slow them down and give him a competitive edge.  Ultimately it's up to the individual to decide whether the information they are reading is going to provide benefit.  If someone can't figure that out, I doubt they are a competitive threat to Joel and Fog Creek or anyone.
Mike Stephenson Send private email
Friday, September 01, 2006
There's another side to it as well:  When you know the rules, you know how to break them effectively, and without paying the price.  But that's only once you *know the rules*.

By the MBA textbook, Joel's done a tremendously stupid thing in inventing Wasabi and making a product depend on it.  Any microISV that creates its own programming language is spending a lot of time and money on a risky crown jewel when they could have been turning out new features.

But in Joel's case, Fog Creek has the money, time, and general expertise to invent and use Wasabi effectively.  This is a (justified) exception to the rule, not a contradiction of it.
Mediocre Coder
Friday, September 01, 2006
He isn't breaking any rules with Wasabi. ;)
Friday, September 01, 2006
I'm not one of those who thinks Wasabi is a joke, FullName; I think it's the follow-on to Thistle, and is a perfectly justified piece of tech in their specific case.
Mediocre Coder
Friday, September 01, 2006
Unless, of course, I missed a post by Joel long ago where he wrote "someday, I'll tell people that we use a secret, propietary in-house language called Wasabi that's VB with lambda forms and closures!"
Mediocre Coder
Friday, September 01, 2006
The latest article was actually generated by Wasabi, an accomplished mimic of conversational style.  This program has now grown up enough to pass the Turing Test (or Joel Test), and since it's not called Lisp, it doesn't suffer from an inferiority complex.
Friday, September 01, 2006
nice post, but you can "expire that notion," he's a regular guy.
Ben Bryant
Saturday, September 02, 2006

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