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The Joel test is fantastic but I'm wondering if times have changed and the test should be updated, at least on Stack Overflow Careers?


Sample Job Listing with a Joel Test Score

Sample Job Listing with a Joel Test Score

The Joel Test on Careers

The Joel Test on Careers


Even on the most recent Stack Exchange podcast Joel mentioned that the idea of Daily builds is a bit out dated because everyone is practicing continuous integration. (I may have misunderstood what he was saying, this is what I got out of it)

Also is "uses Source Control" appropriate anymore? I wonder if it should be "uses DCVS"? Again just times have changed, seems like everyone is using SOME source control, but not necessarily any you'd like to use.

I'd love to see at least one more thing on the test that Joel has railed against before: breaking the internet by filtering.

As a job applicant I'd love to know if companies break the internet because of paranoia, or government regulation.

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This is not off-topic; this is discussing a Stack Overflow Careers feature. –  balpha Oct 14 '11 at 14:03
    
I tagged it as careers, where should careers feature requests and discussion go? I am specifically looking to change the joel test on the careers website. –  Jim Wallace Oct 14 '11 at 14:04
    
You're in the correct place; don't worry about it. –  balpha Oct 14 '11 at 14:10
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"Should the Joel Test on Careers be updated, at least on Careers?" <-- editing clashes are fun! –  Pops Oct 14 '11 at 14:11
    
Thanks @Padded Cell, that's a much better question title. –  Jim Wallace Oct 14 '11 at 14:12
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@PopularDemand I nearly posted my edit as "Careers: Should the Joel Test on Careers be updated, at least on Careers?" but that just sounded ridiculous. ;) –  Bill the Lizard Oct 14 '11 at 14:28
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Sadly, no, not everyone is using continuous integration or source control. Maybe everyone smart enough to advertise on Careers is, but I am quite certain of places that still don't get it. I don't work at such a place. –  Andrew Oct 14 '11 at 18:19
    
Two years since this discussion was posted and I'm still talking to teams that don't have automated builds let alone CI. Source control is very common but it isn't universal and lots of shops still use CVS and SVN. –  Noah Sussman Jan 6 at 5:00
    
When posting a job on Careers there are only two items I struggled with. 1) Do you fix bugs before writing new code? and 2) Do you have a Spec? I feel like there are lots of bugs that should be prioritized and shoved off (e.g. styling is a little weird in that one flavor of that one browser in that one circumstance). We may choose to never fix that bug. In regards to having a spec, I think this one is OK so long as having a user story and/or development tasks counts as a spec. But I hope the days of writing up User Requirements Specifications are falling by the wayside... –  jakejgordon Feb 7 at 18:19

4 Answers 4

Joel, here.

I have been getting requests to update the Joel Test since the day it appeared.

Remember what it's for -- it's a sloppy, irresponsible test. Questions are on the Joel Test because you can get quick thumbs up or thumbs down answers. Even recruiters at high tech firms know the answers. Most companies are either firmly in the 0-4 camp or firmly in the 9-12 camp.

It's a good way to judge quickly how professional a development organization is. It is not a catalog of good practices, nor an up-to-date bible for professional software development. It's a list of things you can reasonably find out during a one hour interview to decide if the company you're thinking of working at is a seat of the pants, 0-4 chop shop, or a striving, professional 9-12 company that cares about doing good development work.

Of course, if I wrote the article today, the stories and the explanations might be different. But I can't in good faith say that a company that is still using svn instead of git is necessarily doing it wrong. They might be missing out on some awesome DVCS goodness, but at least they're not emailing each other source code files! And I agree that continuous integration is a sweet idea, but honestly, what I'm really trying to protect you from is the company that goes for weeks at a time without gathering everyone's code in one place and building it.

There have been huge changes in the way software is developed in the last decade. You used to worry about importing files from your competitor's format. Now you worry about virally spreading your social network activities through Facebook and Twitter. A 19" monitor used to be sweet. Now you expect 30" monitors and SSDs. But the 12 points still apply for deciding if a company is going to be a reasonably professional place to work or a hack shop.

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Why haven't I see a single post on careers.so in the 0-4 range? Or even anything below a 9? –  bkaid Oct 15 '11 at 5:52
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Empirically, the companies doing badly on the Joel Test opt out of posting their Joel Test score... it's rare to see a company bragging about bad development processes. –  Joel Spolsky Oct 15 '11 at 20:19
    
Joel, what about an update something like this one: geekswithblogs.net/btudor/archive/2009/06/16/132842.aspx? It keeps things at the generic business level that recruiters should know, but also provides a shift in focus that seems to mesh with what happens in really good development processes. Thoughts? –  nihonjinrxs Feb 11 '13 at 4:02

I'd love to see at least one more thing on the test that Joel has railed against before: breaking the internet by filtering.

I agree with the sentiment in general, but I don't think it should be part of the Joel Test - to me, this is more part of the corporate culture (along with general working athmosphere, dress code, how much freedom and own initiative is being granted to employees, etc.) and not of the professionality of the development process, which to me is what the Joel Test is about.

Maybe a slight variation of this might be worthy to be included in the test - Do programmers have admin access to their machines?

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Great point about the professionalism of the development environment vs corporate culture. I had always assumed that the point of the Joel test was to see how similar companies are to FogCreek (with FogCreek being the ideal). But I see now that might not be the point. –  Jim Wallace Oct 14 '11 at 15:35

We are aiming to have a quick test that says whether a job is not worth looking at

Daily builds are the minimum needed to stay sane. (Continuous integration can only work on some projects, but I have never seen a good reason not to have daily builds.)

It is still all too common to find a small team not using Source Control, however a better question would be "What Source Control system(s) do you use?" (With "none" being the default answer.)

A question about the number of branches being actively worked on (excluding small bug fixes) may be useful. (Or I may just be getting too fed up with spending most of my time merging and never being able to refactor any code.)

Also a question asking what progress a programmer must go through to add a “free” unity to their machine. (I have had local admin rights in the past, but was told I would lose my job if I used them.)


However, what about a system that lets anyone ask a public question of an employer on careers, with the answer being public as well… (Both scoped to a single job advert and scoped to the employer.)

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Daily Builds are simply for catching bugs that break the build right away. This is a separate issue from continuous integration and continuous integration is only good for some projects.

Also using "source control" is just fine. You can always switch away from subversion to git down the road after everyone is on board. You have to understand the game theory here: Everyone needs to be ready to make the jump at the same time, especially at a larger company, this becomes difficult (well, not everyone, but at least everyone in disparate groups). It needs to be planned, and management needs to understand the long term benefits for the cost.

I believe there are also other tools for using git locally and subversion as a central repository. Perhaps there are other tools.

I firmly believe Joel has picked high level things everyone in their right mind should be doing. Any addition should be in the same vein. We also should avoid adding anything that easily stems from a current test item.

Joel's questions imply an answer to one of the two following questions: Do you have a qualified Software Engineer in a leadership position? -OR- Do you listen to your developers when they push back?

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