Category Archives: Review

Review

Eric Ries: “The Lean Startup”

I stumbled over this when reading a German article about the Visual Studio ALM Days 2011. Eric Ries basically makes the argument that startups, like any company, need management; you cannot expect to succeed without it. The key point, though, is that a special flavor of management is needed, which is tailored to the specifics of startup companies.

When looking at the reviews at Amazon, it becomes apparent that the author has hit a nerve. Although not all of them are really enthusiastic, already their sheer number (142 as of this writing) is interesting. I will not repeat things here but provide a few of my thoughts:

  • First of all, I was reading this not from the perspective of someone who works for a startup or wants to create one any time soon. Instead my background is on distributed systems working for a well-established software company. So the aspect of how to change innovation within an existing organization was the interesting part for me.
  • The key aspect I took away was that in many, many cases it is better to start building something quickly, fully accepting that the initial solution is far from perfect, and get feedback fast. This also coincides with my observation that most people have great difficulty to really grasp and understand something really new. Instead of spending much time on slides, just do a mock-up or prototype and some screenshots and all your discussions will be much smoother.
  • If you expect checklists and concrete advice for your particular situation, you will probably be disappointed. I would argue, however, that the book’s approach to tell you how to think is certainly better than to have a one-size-fits-all list of things to check off.

Overall I enjoyed the reading and fell that it has expanded my way of thinking. Also, I found quite a few parallels (e.g. with agile software development) and this reiteration has helped to “persist” things in my mind.

Michael T. Nygard: Release It! Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software

I bought this book about a year ago and -shame on me- only just read it. It’s really great for everyone that is interested in designing and developing robust software. So in that sense a must-read for all of us.

The book is organized in four general sections: Stability, capacity, general design issues and operations. For all of them a number of typical scenarios are described and general approaches discussed. The author seems to have a pretty strong Java and web application background (at least those are the areas of most of his examples), but the patterns and solutions are great for all systems, languages and use-cases.

So overall what we have here is a book that is fun to read and at the same time offers great insight into large-scale software systems. In my view everyone who works in this field can benefit from this book.

The author is also blogging on Amazon.com and seems to cover quite a few interesting topics.

David A. Fisher “An Emergent Perspective on Interoperation in Systems of Systems”

When David A. Fisher wrote this paper in 2006, the hype around Web Services and SOA had just begun. The point that struck me most when reading the executive summary, was that Fisher does not limit his thoughts to technical systems. Instead he accepts the fact that the involved people are also an important part of the equation. This aspect seems to be ignored by most authors and is -in my view- a major reason why many theories seem to be so far from reality.

The paper is more than 60 pages long, so nothing for a quick lunch break reading. However, I recommend reading at least the executive summary. It made me curious enough to schedule special time for the rest of the document.

“The Rough Guide to Scottish Music”

Scottish music is more than just bagpipes. Probably the most well-known band is Runrig, although I sometimes get the impression that they had their greatest success in the 1990s. But the CD I want to recommend today is not from them (although I have some of their stuff and certainly like it).

Rather it is a compilation called “The Rough Guide to Scotland”. It’s a nice collection that I first heard while visiting a friend in Cambridge. Unfortunately it sometimes seems to be difficult to buy outside of the UK. Also, be aware that there exist two CDs of that very same name. I refer to the one from 1996, while the other one is from 2003 (no idea how this one is, does anybody know?).

Oh, one more thing to mention: Those who are not from the UK will possibly not realize the pun in the CD’s name. There is a well-known series of travel guides called “The Rough Guide to ….”.

Nicolai M. Josuttis “SOA in Practice”

A colleague recommended this book (link to amazon.com and amazon.de) to me and I was not disappointed. On the contrary, this was one of the most interesting IT books I have come across so far. The author is pretty well known in the SOA space and a regular speaker on conferences. He has a lot of real world experience and this shines through. What made the book particularly valuable to me, was that Josuttis points out when something is not black or white but gray and discusses the relevant aspects.

This book is probably not so easy to read for a beginner, but certainly of great value to the more experienced reader. It does not provide checklists or vendor recommendations but focuses on patterns and a good conceptual understanding. It will therefore not become outdated as quickly as many other publications but probably be relevant for a number of years to come.

“Manager Tools” Podcast

My favourite podcast is Manager Tools, that offers an incredible amount of tips and useful background information on many aspects of management. A friend told me about it some 2 years ago and since then I’m hooked. The really cool thing is that all shows have actionable content. They typically last about 30-40 minutes, so I mostly listen to them when I commute to the office.

If you decide to sign in, which is completely free, you get a few additional shows. Believe me, they are worth it! For those that prefer to have some notes to go through and read, there is a professional membership available on a subscription basis. Also, there is a quite active community, so make sure to check out the forums as well.

The History of Commodore

If you spent your teen years in the middle to late 1980s chances are you owned a {en:Commodore 64} home computer (or a C-128 as I did). For those of us that want to re-live these years there is now a chance.

This book gives a comprehensive description from the early days (when Commodore was mainly in the business of electronic calculators) to the very end. It contains a huge amount of details and you must probably be a bit crazy to read it. Nevertheless I rather enjoyed it and even bought myself a used C-64 while reading it.