#BookReview: Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais

Theory + Application And Hefty Respect For Those Who Came Before. One thing that sometimes gets lost in the world of computing – specifically among those of us who make a career specifically inside this field of software development – is an appreciation of the history of the field before us. As a student many moons ago (I finished my degree requirements just over 20 yrs ago as I type this, ugh!), one of my favorite professors, one I talk about to this day, was a guy who had gotten his PhD from Harvard in the 60s in Mathematics and had come up through the early days of computing. We could get him talking about those early eras and… magically, class time was up before his stories were. 😀 Fascinating, but yes, as students we absolutely had ulterior motives there. 😀

Getting back to this book and the contents thereof, one of the things I like about it is that it so heavily references not just fairly cutting edge research (some apparently published as recently as 2017, compared to this text’s 2019 release date), but also *far* earlier results that *still* drive this industry, including the Mythical Man Month – introduced to me by the professor I discussed above, and the connection to this text – and Conway’s Law – which was *not* a topic we studied in my Computer Science classes in college, but which proves interesting and, according to these authors, still extremely relevant to how teams are organized within computing to this day.

This book, along with Mik Kersten’s Project to Product, was recommended to me by my Group Manager as I begin to truly look into where I want the next half of my career to go, and like that book, thinking about computing and, in this case, how teams within computing are organized and communicate both within themselves and within the overall organization is a different level of thinking than I, a Senior Software Developer “crewdog” coder to this point, have ever really given any thought to… and yet is as fascinating a space as any I’ve encountered as a coder. Indeed, having read both of these texts just a couple of days apart at the end of 2023, I find myself truly intrigued by the possible problem sets at these higher levels – and how to bring my experience as a “crewdog” to bear in working within them within my organization.

Truly a thought provoking text, particularly for those who either start out wanting to go straight into IT Leadership or perhaps those similar to myself who find themselves at mid career with Leadership as one of the few remaining avenues of career progression. This is one I believe I’ll be coming back to in text form and referencing for some time, having listened to the Audible version this time (and thus having no real sense of how extensive the bibliography for this book actually is). As this one is filled with both theory *and* application, it at least provides some insight into how the theory *can* work “in the real world”, making its points all the stronger for having this blend.

Very much recommended.

This review of Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais was originally written on December 31, 2023.

#BookReview: For Roger by Laura Drake

If You Only Read One 2023 Release, Make It This One. Wow. Phenomenal. I’m writing this review roughly 12 hrs after finishing the book, and I am still in awe of what Drake was able to do here. When I first encountered her books, Drake was writing cowboy romances. She’s extended into women’s fiction more recently and done a great job with it, and this one I would assume would mostly classify within that space as well.

But let me be clear: This book has a LOT going on, a lot that places Drake writing about very serious issues and very different spaces. We get medical discussions and specifically discussions around terminal illness, suicide, assisted suicide, and related issues. We get a legal courtroom thriller that dives deep into questions of justice vs mercy vs the letter of the law and even into what are laws and why do we have them. We get open discussions of how to make different spaces better and more responsive, and in these areas Drake shows several practical ideas that could genuinely work – even though this is a fictional tale. Throughout all of this. Drake proves herself capable of at minimum holding her own with even the masters of these spaces who only write explicitly within them, such as John Grisham’s legal thrillers.

And then there are the more traditional women’s fiction aspects, the relationships that make this book truly sing throughout all the heaviness of the above discussions. The loving wife who is barely older than her stepdaughter, despite being in absolute love with her husband. The stepdaughter who resents the stepmother being so very close to her own age. The brilliant husband who dearly loves his wife *and* daughter. The best friend who happens to be the Governor of Texas, with all the behind the scenes politicking that entails. The mother who loves her daughter no matter what. The misunderstood older sister. And yes, in a nod to Drake’s real life (as anyone who follows her socials will know), a mischievous and nearly scene-stealing cat named Boomer.

In telling such a moving story, Drake truly masters bringing in such difficult discussions that *need* to be held at every level and in every corner of this great land.

Issues of how to handle terminal illness within a marriage – how far is each willing to go? What is the loving thing to do? Do the local statutes matter when it comes to trying to make the right decision? What *is* the right decision?

Issues of criminal justice as it relates to terminal illness, echoing at a societal level the same types of questions every relationship needs to answer within itself.

Issues of what we expect from our penal system – can people be rehabilitated, or should they be exclusively punished? Is there a difference between someone committing suicide, their spouse helping them, their doctor helping them, another person outside of a legally protected relationship helping them? Does the situation itself matter, and if it does, what do we condemn and what do we excuse?

All of this and so much more, Drake crafts into a moving and poignant tale of one particular family struggling to navigate these very complicated and delicate issues.

Read this book. Think about how *you* would handle these things. Think about how *we* should handle these things…

Or not. Maybe you jus need to cry, or even bawl your eyes out. Maybe these issues aren’t theoretical for you – maybe they’re as real for you as they are for the characters in this book. Maybe you’re just trying to find answers yourself.

Read this book too. And may you find comfort within its words even in the midst of your own storm.

But read this book, regardless. Very much recommended.

This review of For Roger by Laura Drake was originally written on November 20, 2023.

#BookReview: Making Numbers Count by Chip Heath and Karla Starr

Useful, Engaging, And Exceedingly Well Documented. As a software engineering professional who has a mathematics-related degree (Computer Science), very nearly got two others at the same time (Mathematics, Secondary Mathematics Education), spent a year in the middle school/ high school classroom, and who has been engaged in talking about politically-oriented numbers off and on for over a decade now… this is one helluva book. While I would have preferred fewer leftist-leaning number communication examples (attacks on “the 1%” and Jeff Bezos in particular are a common refrain), overall the points raised here are truly so spot-on, to the level that I personally can’t think of any better or any way to really refute them. Further, the writing style here is very engaging and written in a style that can be read straight through, referred to as a common reference guide, or even taught in chapter form via an actual class itself. For those reading straight through, this is a very quick read due to both the book’s overall brevity – barely 250 pages – and because of its exceedingly thorough documentation – clocking in at roughly 42% of the text of this Advanced Reader Copy. Very much recommended.

This review of Making Numbers Count by Chip Heath and Karla Starr was originally written on September 19, 2021.

#BookReview: The Janus Point by Julian Barbour

Intriguing Theoretical Astrophysics. If it wasn’t clear from the description of this book, this book is *all about* theoretical astrophysics and the author’s new theory of the origins and nature of time. If words like Newtonian and General Relativity and Leibniz and thermodynamics are part of your every day lexicon, you’ll probably enjoy reading this. For the rest of us… at least there isn’t much math involved in the actual text here? Specifically of the Calculus variety, which gives even many math-oriented people the heebie jeebies? Truly an intriguing work, but I’ll be the first to say that I didn’t fully follow or comprehend all of it – it is simply that high level. Even though Barbour tries to use narrative examples and structures designed to allow most anyone to have some idea of what is going on, at the end of the day this is still advanced theoretical astrophysics, of the kind that even Stephen Hawking wrestled with. While others more learned in the actual science may find fault here, for what it is I could find none. Very much recommended.

This review of The Janus Point by Julian Barbour was originally written on August 19, 2020.