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Book Review

Cube Farm
by Reverend Bill Blunden

ISBN: 1590594037
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 176

Ever watched a disaster movie, you know the ones with active volcanoes or devastating earthquakes? Been involved in the software industry, preferably in a larger organization? Combine these two and you'll get a pretty good picture of Bill Blunden's Cube Farm.

Cube Farm is the autobiography of Bill Blunden's traumatic confrontation with the software world. After finishing his studies, only to realize nobody needs his knowledge, Blunden is forced to wait tables for a living before discovering Java. Blunden manages to pass himself of as a Java expert and starts to work for Lawson Software. The book takes us on a journey from one doomed project to the next one. We get front-seats to the totally counterproductive battles between different divisions within the company; the stereotypical all-talk-no-walk demiguru is in there, but my personal favorite is the completely brilliant story of the manager who decided to rip-out all comments from the code in order to speed up the compilation times!

Besides providing many good, raw laughs, the value in the book is in the lessons learned that Bill puts together at the end of each chapter. The lessons are indeed excellent observations and very sharp. Sure, some of them are dripping with sarcasm and there's a hint of paranoia in there, but after reading through Bill's story I understand his position.

Bill's intended audience isn't clear, but I can think of two categories of potential readers. As initially mentioned, software developers with a taste for disaster movies will love this one. It's something very human, a basic sense of it-happened-to-him-not-me thing. And then there are programmers trapped in large, dysfunctional organizations that get to realize they’re not alone. I truly don't know if that's a good thing or not.

Reviewed May 2006

©2005 Adam Petersen