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on 12 October 2012
Some weeks ago, I came acrossthis title from O'Reilly Media, Team Geek by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman. There are quite a lot of books out in the shelves trying to explain how to behave as well as how to improve your life as a professional programmer. However, most of them are either hard to read, difficult to understand or just boring while repeating stereotypes over and over.

Team Geek is quite different, though. It seems the book benefits from the experience of the authors. Both come up with a bunch of experience working at Google and probably dealing with quite a lot of people during their professional life.

The Content

Six chapters, each about 20 pages - some with topics you probably never thought about and others just confirming what you ever thought of but never believed in. And that's basically what you most benefit from. The book shows you are not alone with your thoughts how teams and collaboration should work. It's about you as a developer (as a human thing) but also working in a team of geeks (often not understood as humans at all).

The Truth

Based on my very own experience during my professional life, I have to acknowledge almost everything the two authors write is true. Considering the fact, the book is written based on an US American context, with different culture, people and background, most of the topics are true for European developers as well. It seems the kind of human becoming a developer is the same all over the world. Whatever if it was during my time in UK or Germany, the you can apply many of the patterns provided in the book to your daily job.

The Reader

Professional developers, managers, team leads, architects, open source developers and even designers could benefit from the book. However, I would definitely recommend to already provide some experience in this kind of business to fully understand (i.e. to feel with the authors) what's written and to benefit from the book. Not sure if beginners (e.g. students) or juniors can benefit from the book. Eventually, the reader will find some hints how to improve his or her daily life within a world of geeks and nerds and how to strengthen the very own standing within the company or group.

Pros

- well written and easy to read
- chapters of the right size to read during an evening
- nice illustrations (not a reason to buy but really nice to look at)
- great content
- references for further reading given

Cons

- terrible to useless index
- not suitable for juniors and beginners (but that's fine)
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on 22 March 2013
I've been reading Team Geek for a long time now. Not because it isn't easy to read, or interesting, or useful, but because each chapter seems to hold a valuable lesson I can bring to the work place. And in doing this reading followed by action I've ended up taking a little longer to read this book than usual.

It really is a great book. I've recommended it to my peers and we've also ordered a couple of copies for the office. It's maybe a step too far to say it's essential reading for anyone working in a development culture but it should certainly be high on your reading list if you work in a tech department.

It's packed with great hints, tips and stories on how to work better with others, how to respect other people and how to look at the big picture of the workplace. It's written by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman, both well respected and established members of the development community who bring to this book a really good set of insights around people and how they work together.

There really are too many topics covered to summarise them here but the authors cover such topics as "How tools affect your culture", being a "servant leader", "growing cultures" and dealing with "poisonous" people.

The book is well written also and is super accessible. It's clearly laid out and interspersed with some fun images which make reading this book enjoyable. It's a really enjoyable book and one I think anyone working in tech would benefit from reading.
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on 29 July 2013
This is a very good book discussing how to work with other developers in the team from different views: self, team, leader etc.

The book made me to realize that being Humility, Respect and Trust is not so easy. HRT is very critical to lay the foundation of a success development team.

Worth reading.
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on 2 September 2012
One of the most important aspects of creating great software is working effectively with a team, and that team includes not only other software developers, but also the extended development organisation, the corporate structure, and not forgetting customers. The aim of this book is to help developers be more effective and efficient at creating software by improving their ability to understand, communicate with, and collaborate with other people. The authors draw from their own experiences as developers and managers, and working in both open source development and Google, with associated challenges and best practices.

The book is centred on using HRT to create an awesome team culture, for leading teams effectively, and for working with users to make great software. HRT in this case isn't about hormones, but humility, respect, and trust. Three essential ingredients to developing and maintaining good relationships with the people you have to work with, no matter how much you'd rather not!

As well as providing advice on how to improve your own behaviour with others, there are chapters providing best practices for creating a positive team culture, including communication patterns and techniques, working in distributed teams, coding practices, and protecting the culture. An excellent chapter is provided on team leadership including the role of the manager, common anti-patterns, positive leadership patterns, and how to look after a team effectively.

A chapter is also provided on dealing with poisonous people and disruptive behaviours, including descriptions of the behaviours, together with suggested solutions, with many real examples from the authors own experiences. The next chapter provides advice on working within an organisational structure, and strategies for dealing with common problems within an organisation and advice on how to overcome them or at least avoid them.

The final section of the book deals with handling relationships with users, including everything from taking control of and managing public perception of your software, through to tips for improving usability, and finally developing a positive relationship with your users.

I thoroughly recommend this book for anyone working in software development. As the author's point out the advice doesn't just apply to software development, but in all areas of life where you have to deal with people, but the examples and best practices should resonate with anyone working in a software environment. The advice and behaviours recommended are common sense, but I recognised the organisational issues and poisonous behaviours described as examples as familiar causes of disruption and distress from my own experiences of working in software development. Teams that embrace HRT are more effective, produce better software for their users, and are much more pleasant places to work in! If I have one criticism, it is that some of the best practices around software development and communication itself may not be the best solution in agile teams. At the same time though, humility, respect, and trust is absolutely at the centre of agile self-directing teams.

An excellent book, which I fully intend to recommend to current, future, and former team mates!
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on 17 August 2012
The sub-title and simple summary of `Team Geek' is `a software developer's guide to working well with others'. And showing the sharp project management credentials of the authors, Brian W Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman, it's a book that even has a nice clear mission statement too; "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."

The book lives up to its title. Scattered amongst the excellent business advice and tips are plenty of intriguing insights into the workings of Google and more than enough techie jargon to keep any geek happy. This has been written by people who know what software engineers and developers are doing every day. From hackathons to API documentation - from PHP to C++ Style Guides. But unless you are severely technophobic this detail does not distract from the key message. In fact, it gives the book great credibility and reinforces that the authors have a practical grounding in the everyday grind & hard slog of real-world technical work. It's the kind of realism that is often missing from more theoretical business books and pieces. And whilst `Team Geek' is written from a strongly technical engineer and software team perspective - the wise lessons, smart advice and clear thinking of Fitzpatrick and Collins-Sussman are relevant for anyone who needs to build effective work teams and innovation projects in complex environments. This is a really useful book for ambitious software engineers and project managers - but it's also a great addition to the learning of marketers, commercial managers and sales people too.

Collaboration is a big topic of the moment and its now an agenda item for many senior executives. It covers both operating well across the organisation and the ability to work effectively with critical suppliers, partners, key customers and allies.

Overall - this is an excellent book, highly recommended to anyone with an interest in innovation, collaboration and leadership. Whether you're a technical expert looking to build more influence, or a project manager or marketer who has to work with highly creative and talented people, this book provide some excellent guidance and practical tips to help you deliver more.

Andrew Armour is the founder of Benchstone Limited and an expert in marketing partnerships, collaboration and innovation and the creator of the CollaborativeEdge Programme. He writes about marketing, innovation and collaboration at [...] and you can follow his tweets at [...]
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on 30 December 2013
If you spend your time writing software or leading a team that creates software then this book is for you. Personally, I don't like the title 'Team Geek' because in my humble opinion, not all geeks are software programmers, and not all software programmers are "geeks" in the colloquial sense. If you ignore that bit, the book is full of practical, contemporary advice on how to work with a team.

Software is, despite appearances, a very human endeavor. From the outside, looking in, it may seem like software is built by typing code at your keyboard all day long. Arguably, typing actual code is a very small part of building and shipping a working product. Building software primarily involves effectively working with people from different domain and expertise. You could be talking to the customers or business analyst to understand the business domain and tease out the requirements. You could be working with architects, user experience team etc to come up with a high level design that underpins the development. You could be coding with or managing a team of coders, or you could be liaising with the test team responsible for QA. The pivot for all these activities is human interaction.

The crucial advice that keeps cropping up in this book in different shapes and form is that if you want to be a better software developer, architect, team leader you need to master the human element of software development. It is not a panacea but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who want to make themselves and their teams more effective.
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on 27 January 2014
I say this with tongue in cheek, but I have a serious point to make. The brilliance of the book is inversely proportional to the brilliance of the title.

I don't like the title, because I don't feel an association to the "geek" thing. I'm not attending sci-fi conferences, don't do mathematical calculations in my head and basically don't relate to nerd or geek culture or the stereotypes around it. With this in mind, I can confirm that after reluctantly looking past the title I found this book to be one of the best I have ever read about teams.

Don't be put off by the title if you don't feel you belong to the "geek" movement, this book is ace.
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on 1 October 2012
This book is a quick knock to the head for any software development team. It helps to realize what makes good teams work and bad teams intolerable to work with. By following a simple philosophy, the authors take you through what to do and what not to do in a career in software. Most of this may come to you as common sense, but not every geek has that much common sense, do they?

One of the best reads I've had this year. Great info and great insights.
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on 30 September 2013
To be honest, not only a "must read" for any developer, but for anyone working in a team (and we all do).
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on 24 November 2015
All software team leaders should buy this book for their team members in addition to Clean Coder and Peopleware. The trio of books really are a must-read for the serious software engineer.
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