Book review Every developer working for an employer dreams, at one time or another, about striking out alone.
Whether it's a dream of starting up the next Microsoft, or simply the chance to create the perfect widget, it's a common enough fantasy for those working for someone else. And, like all such dreams, there are a few souls brave enough to try to make the fantasy a reality.
Some of these are, to quote the jargon, micro-ISVs (Independent or Internet Software Vendors) – one or two person companies selling a specific product or service rather than being self-employed contractors doing development.
Anyone considering such a move has got a lot to take into consideration – from coming up with a product, to handling sales and marketing, to dealing with customer support and coping without the IT infrastructure they enjoy as part of a development team.
Author Bob Walsh, who is himself a micro-ISV (his product is a task management tool called MasterList Professional), and a well-known blogger on all things micro-ISV related, has put together a book that looks at these disparate strands of activity from the point of view of the wannabe corporate escapee.
Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality starts at the beginning – coming up with an idea for a product and a vision of what it means to work for yourself or with a partner. And, in keeping with the rest of the book, the opening chapter features a mix of good advice, concrete steps to take and interviews with people who've already successfully made the move.
Some of the advice is of the nuts and bolts variety – for example in the chapter on doing development as a one or two person company there is advice on source control, design processes, virtualised environments and so on. The advice isn't just general; at times, it extends to product comparisons. Whatever else this book is, it's not overly theoretical, and the focus is firmly on the practical side of things.
While things like development processes and design are international, the same cannot be said for the business administration side. While it would have been easy for the book to stick to the US – the author and publisher are both based in the States – there is actually separate coverage of the US, the UK and Australia. Readers in other markets will have to depend on local sources of information.
Other topics that get major coverage include marketing, sales, payment handling, customer support, support networks for developers and how to deal with growth. Each topic gets that same mixture of tried and tested advice, pointers to useful resources and all are interspersed with the voices of others on the same path.
This isn't a huge book, but it's packed with good information. The writing is pitched right, (even the author's plugs for his own product aren't over done), and the conversational tone suits the material. There are no huge promises here, there are no guarantees that you'll get rich quickly, even if you follow every bit of advice in the book, but there's plenty of food for thought.
Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality
Verdict: Essential reading for developers interested in taking the micro-ISV path.
Author: Bob Walsh
Buy this book at Cash 'n' Carrion.