Book Review: The Developer’s Code

It’s no secret that here at Van Patten Media we love DoneDone, a wonderful web application for managing projects and tracking issues.

As a thank you for our support, the DoneDone team sent over a wonderful thank you gift, including a copy of the book The Developer’s Code, written by Ka Wei Chung, a partner at We Are Mammoth (the outfit responsible for DoneDone) and one of the folks behind DoneDone’s creation. I decided (totally unprompted) to take the opportunity to review the book. I rather enjoyed it, and wanted to share my thoughts publicly, hopefully encouraging others to take the opportunity to read it as well.

The Developer’s Code is not a programming instruction manual. You won’t read this book and understand more about a specific programming language or really even a certain style of application development.

Instead, as the clever title hints, the book provides a set of suggestions and tips for being the best developer you can be. It’s not about excelling at a given skill, but at the discipline as a whole. Told in short essays (over 50 of them) Cheung takes you through all sorts of little lessons and offering advice of all sorts. A few things he discusses:

  • The merits of tossing old code
  • Avoiding detailed timelines (Guilty!)
  • Everyone has tough clients; not just developers (Stop feeling sorry for yourself!)

You can tell just by those three lessons (again, out of more than 50) that this book is about more than just development techniques. It’s also about the higher level stuff that we don’t always think about: dealing with people, organising projects, and getting things done.

If I have any complaints or points of contention, it’s perhaps that some of the advice is too specific. A few of the essays read as Cheung’s personal opinion or experience (which, given that it’s his book, they probably are!) but it detracts a bit from the books subtitle of “What Real Programmers Do.” During an essay suggesting methods for setting up and administrating your todo list for example, “What One Real Programmer Does” feels like a more accurate subtitle.

That’s a minor and only occasional complaint though that certainly should not keep The Developer’s Code from getting added to your reading list. You can find The Developer’s Code at its website (where you can buy it in hard copy or as a digital download) and on Twitter.

Thanks to the DoneDone team for being kind enough to send a copy of The Developer’s Code along. It’s worth stating again (in the interest of full disclosure) that this review was totally unprompted (and likely unexpected).

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