Book Review of “Debugging Teams” and “Exercises for Programmers”

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading two books that I hoped would help me with my role as a practice lead.

debugging teams cover page

One of them is “Debugging Teams” by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman published by O’Reilly. It is a small book of around 150 pages, filled with practical advice on how to make successful teams that work and collaborate together. When I started reading it, it reminded me of a book I read a year back called “Team Geek”. Of course, I missed the clue that “Debugging Teams” is a rewrite of “Team Geek”, expanded to include feedback from the first book.

The main advice of Debugging Teams is a simple idea of practicing HRT (Humility, Respect and Trust). It permeates the whole book as a effective acronym to remember during your team leadership work. The rest of practical advices in the book include how to manage conflict, how to make a strong team ethos, how to navigate the organizational hierarchies and so on.

Debugging Teams, in essence, is a great update to an already great book. I’d rate it with 5 stars, wholeheartedly.

exercises for programmers cover pageexercises for programmers cover page

The second book is even smaller, but equally useful. It is called “Exercises for Programmers” by Brian P. Hogan, published under the umbrella of Pragmatic Programmers brand. With the subtitle of “57 challenges to develop your coding skills”, it is an exercise book that begins with “Hello, world” challenges and ends with complete small projects such as to-do lists or URL shorteners.

I use it now to send bi-weekly code challenges to my team. We then sit together to do a joint code review of each individual solution, in order to learn from it how to improve the code legibility and mantainability. It is equally suitable to use it as a source for code katas, test-driven development (TDD) assignments or self-study challenges when learning a new programming language.

My review of the “Exercises for Programmers” is 4 out of 5, just because many programs are very simplistic and also because several examples in it are maybe too US-centric (use of imperial units and USA-specific jargon) for a universally applicable book. Having said that, it is also a must-have if you want to challenge your (or your team’s) programming skills.


Review of “The Art of Community” (2nd Edition)

It took me much more time to finish The Art of Community (2nd Edition): Building the New Age of Participation than usual, due to my recent lack of significant commuting as I had no spare time to read much. However, I did finish it and I want to share my two cents about it.

I started with no prior knowledge of the author, Jono Bacon. My initial fears about the author were quickly removed by reading the first chapter. Jono has good story-telling skills and the prose is never boring or too verbose. The entire book is packed with real-life anecdotes and references and it’s not hard to read, even if you are not a techie type.

This said, in some parts I felt that the book was leaning too much on the “open-source software community” side of things but even that is understandable, given the author experience in those communities. I felt that although he tried to write the book for all kinds of communities, the most compelling examples were the ones he drew from his experience. If there’s one thing to improve in the book, it would be this one.

I run a user group, so I was eager to find quick tips and tricks. I did not. The reason was that the book taught me that raising and running a community is neither a one-shot thing nor one-man endeavour. Jono outlines a strategic approach to the community that makes you and your fellow members find the higher purpose for the community, make the long and short-term goals and then enable collaboration and communication to achieve these goals. The book is not a recipe book but a “make your own recipe” book. I really enjoyed the breadth of topics that follow the strategy for a community: how to make decisions, how to contribute, how to design the processes and streamline them, how to manage the conflicts etc. I learned a lot from these chapters.

One of the interesting chapters for me was the chapter on running events. Even if I have some experience in the event organization, still I found very important pointers in it.

At the end of the book there is a collection of interviews with fellow community managers, providing real-life supplement to the theory present in the book. The people interviewed are very different, from Tim O’Reilly (yes, the O’Reilly guy) to Dries Buytaert of Drupal.

All in all, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the book for any current or aspiring community leader/manager/founder/wannabe, even despite the occasional open-source software community bias. The first version of the book is available as a free download, so you are not far away from the reading experience!

Review of “HTML5 and JavaScript Web Apps” Book

Thanks to the good people at O’Reilly User Group Program (Josette, you rock!), the SharePoint User Group I lead has access to review copies of the books in their catalog. In one of the meetings we decided to ask for a book on the modern web apps made with JavaScript.

Building Apps for the Open WebI began reading Wesley Hales book "HTML5 and JavaScript Web Apps" with high hopes. I’m fairly up-to-date on web development but I have to admit that I’m not particularly versed in HTML5. I expected the book to provide an interesting journey.

The first I noticed about the book is how thin it is. There are barely 140+ pages, which is surprising for a technical book these days. It also clearly shows that the intent of the author is to cater for entry-level understanding.

Well, it was so. The book starts with an ultra-short introduction about the Client-Side architecture and then it starts narrating about the mobile web and its challenges. The next chapter plunges into the depths of the mobile web oddities and caveats, with CSS/HTML/JS code that somewhat clutters the chapter. It then covers the “Desktop Web”, with a well-picked but short introduction to several modern JS MVC frameworks, which is one of the best parts of the book.

At the end, the book covers the rest of the HTML5 goodies: WebSockets, Web Storage, Geolocation, Device orientation and Web Workers. These chapters are much more coherent than the first ones.

In short, it’s a quick introduction to the shiny new trends in web apps made in JavaScript and HTML5. Don’t expect working code and full-fledged demos (I did…) but a down-to-the-essentials recap instead. For a book that boasts that “you will quickly master building client-side applications” on its back cover, it is, at least, an overstatement. It will surely get you looking in the right direction, but you have to walk the path to the mastery of modern web apps.


  • Short and summarized reading
  • Variety of frameworks and concepts it covers


  • Confusing sample code in several places
  • Not deep enough to get the concepts explained

Would I recommend the book to a colleague? Yes, but clearly stating that it is an introductory book just to get the concepts in place.

Essential SharePoint Books: Part II (Intermediate)

Intermediate Level Books

Title Author Publisher Description Audience My Rating
Inside Microsoft SharePoint Services 3.0 Ted Pattison
Daniel Larson
Microsoft Press One of the best books to quicky get into SharePoint development. Condensed and with lot of sample code to try. It also has a chapter on writing ASP.NET AJAX web parts. Developers 9/10
Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Unleashed Michael Noel
Colin Spence
Sams Quite a good book for power-users, but the developers won’t much information for them. Administrators
Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Development Unleashed Kevin Hoffman
Robert Foster
Sams The developer’s companion to the previous book. It doesn’t go into much detail anywhere but it’s still a fair introduction and mid-level book for SharePoint developers. It has a few typos in the source code, though. Developers 7/10
Essential SharePoint: Delivering High-Impact Collaboration Scott Jamison
Mauro Cardarelli
Addison-Wesley Concise and nicely summarized book about the business applications for SharePoint, with special attention to planning and information architecture. Analysts

Essential SharePoint Books: A Bookshelf That Won’t “Gather Moss”

Ok, I admit that the joke attempt wasn’t even remotely funny 😉

Being in SharePoint business for several years now has exposed me to lot of SharePoint-related books that exist. I remember back in the SPS 2003 times when those books were easily numbered with the fingers on one hand. Now, however, there are more than two dozen of them and the choice of which one to buy isn’t always an easy one.

I’ve divided the SharePoint books in three categories:

  • Introductory (those for absolute beginners or people that hasn’t messed with SharePoint)
  • Intermediate (for those that want to venture beyond the basic steps)
  • Advanced (for the people that breathe SharePoint every day)

In this post I am listing three good books for beginners. In the next posts I will do the same for intermediate and advanced-level SharePoint books, too.

Introductory Level Books

Title Author Publisher Description Audience My Rating
SharePoint 2007: The Definitive Guide Various authors O’Reilly Comprehensive and easily readable, it is an introduction and review of SharePoint usage and administration. Administrators
Essential SharePoint 2007 Jeff Webb O’Reilly Nicely illustrated and fairly well written. Not so extensive as “The Definitive Guide” but good enough. Administrators
Essential SharePoint: Delivering High-Impact Collaboration Scott Jamison
Mauro Cardarelli
Addison-Wesley Concise and nicely summarized book about the business applications for SharePoint, with special attention to planning and information architecture. Analysts