Mar 10 2010

I’ve been waiting for this book for a while. “Rework” is the new book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from 37signals. It hit stores on Tuesday. Here’s a (non-affiliate) link to Rework on Amazon.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m down in Houston, Texas. I’m here for a few days before heading over to Austin for SXSW. There’s a lot of really cool start up stuff, as well as 3D people, and a friend of mine. It’s been a good trip so far. But even with waking up at 3am, connecting flights, and a few hours of driving, I still managed to find a spare moment to head over to a Borders and grab a copy of Rework. And even though I’m running all over town, Nick is driving, so I’ve been able to read all of Rework in between lunches and networking events.

Rework is interesting. I described it earlier today as a philosophy text, and I feel that description is absolutely apt. It’s 37signals in its purest, most potent form. If you’ve read Getting Real, this territory will be familiar. In fact, a lot of it is basically the same. I’d be lying if I told you otherwise. The real truth is that it doesn’t matter. People who don’t already know and love 37signals won’t have read Getting Real, and so this stuff will be novel to them. People who do won’t mind re-reading this information again, as they’ve bought into the philosophy. And an update isn’t a bad thing, either. What makes Rework interesting is how it’s different from Getting Real, not what’s the same.

I thought it’d be most interesting to talk about Rework in the context of it’s own philosophy. I think there are three points in particular in the book itself that point out just why this book is so good. The first is an old 37signals standby, the other two are new.

Build half a product, not a half-assed product

This got a section devoted to it in Getting Real. Here’s the core idea:

Throw in every decent idea that comes along and you’ll just wind up with a half-assed version of your product. What you really want to do is build half a product that kicks ass.

They mention that Rework used to be twice as big. The next to last draft was 57,000 words, and the final draft was 27,000. This is the biggest difference between the two books. It’s the most pure dosage of Kool-Aid I’ve ever read. Each section feels finely honed. They’re all either one, two, or three pages, and an accompanying picture. This book is about what’s worked for the company so far over its lifetime, and this refinement process is clearly demonstrated here.

It’s always easy to ask for more. I’m really curious about the things that were cut. Were there more sections? Was each section twice as long? A little of both? At the same time, this exactly exemplifies the thinking this section is railing against. If the book was twice as long, would I have learned twice as much? Probably not. YAGNI.

Decommoditize your product

Make you part of your product or service. Inject what’s unique about the way you think into what you sell.

This is something that these guys do really well. It’s part of having such strong opinions, and sharing them with the world. Everyone knows who 37signals is and what they stand for. If I wrote each chapter of Rework into a blog post, you’d still recognize it as their philosophy. It also comes through in the writing. They mention in the notes that Matthew Linderman helped them pull their distinct styles of writing into a more cohesive whole. He did a good job, and didn’t let the voice get lost in the editing.

Out-teach your competition

Teaching is something individuals and small companies can do that big companies can’t.

Teaching is a topic I’ve been getting more and more into lately. Hackety Hack is about teaching; when I speak, I’m teaching; this blog is about teaching. Rework is about teaching the lessons 37signals have learned about business to the world. A lot of Signal vs. Noise is about teaching. It’s a great way to get people to recognize you, and a great way to give back. The world can always use more great teachers.

Wrapping up

There’s a reason I’m up late, writing this review. I couldn’t put Rework down. I enjoyed revisiting the old topics; the new ones are still tumbling around in my brain. I’m sure this book is going to spawn a bunch of posts on this blog in the future, as I add my own thoughts to the stuff I’ve learned. I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s working in the business world or doing a startup, even if they hate that term. It’ll give you a lot of interesting thoughts to chew on.