97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know

Richard Monson-Haefel (2009)
Review date: April, 2009

200 pages divided by 97 makes two pages. This is what every reflection gets, and this is what the book consists of. 97 reflections made by roughly 50 people. Some of the contributing architects are more well-known than others, but everyone is given two pages per reflection.

The authors choose topics that seem close to their hearts, and give their best in expressing them with very few words. Topics such as performance, social skills, over-engineering, and simple designs are discussed. Pretty much what one would expect.


First of all, the book doesn't contain 97 things. They overlap!

Seriously, the reflections do overlap a little, but that's a minor issue.

This book has left no remarkable impression, and doesn't warrant a long review. When you read 97 views of one and the same area (even though it's a big one), your preferences towards the contents will follow a normal distribution. You'll find some texts to your liking, some you'll read with a shrug, and the perceived incorrectness of some you will make you angry. This is what happens here, which is why I don't see any point in discussing any of the texts in detail. For example, I liked a text on how bad technical debt is, and disliked one on early performance considerations.

I see two reasons for why this book didn't leave any deeper impression. Either the wisdom contained here is above my level and I can't relate to it in a meaningful way, or the majority of the texts contain contain common sense advice, which is good, yes, but not ground-breaking. For example, the facts that architects should be able to implement their own designs and speak both "business" and "test". Deep or down-to-earth?

Also, the format of the book works against the authors: They are given merely two pages in which they must convey their most hard-earned experience. Sort of puts pressure on your ability with words...

So for my final recommendation. The texts are good, written by very competent people, but the format distills them down to one-liners and mantras. There's no room for larger examples or deeper analysis, which makes this book no more than a collection of unquestioned assertions that might be difficult to forge into something usable in your day-to-day work.

Who should read this book

People that benefit from short reflections made by others may find this useful.


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