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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Agile Documentation
Author:
Andreas Ruping
ISBN:
0-470-85617-3
Publisher:
Wiley
Pages:
226
Price:
£22-50
Reviewer:
Anthony Williams
Subject:
management
Appeared in:
16-4
The title of this book is "Agile Documentation", but almost everything it says is applicable to documentation for any project, whatever methodology is used. Indeed, much of what is said is common sense if you think about it - but how often does anyone really think about it?

Reading this book forces the issue, and hopefully encourages one to think about the purpose, readership and content of documentation a bit more in the future. However, some of the content is particularly important when trying to use an Agile development method, since it contributes to reducing the effort that is wasted on unused or unnecessary (or even unusable) documentation, whilst ensuring that the documentation that is produced is both necessary and sufficient for the project's needs.

The subtitle is "A pattern guide for producing lightweight documents for software projects", which is quite apt. Essentially, the book consists of a set of patterns, divided into 5 groups, each of which describes a particular problem associated with documentation, and some discussion of the solutions. The key points are summarised in what the author calls "thumbnails" - a couple of sentences which appear in bold type in the pattern description, and which are then repeated in the "thumbnails" section at the back of the book. These enable you to browse through the book, reading each pattern heading and the corresponding thumbnail to get an overview of the pattern and determine whether it is applicable for your current situation, or jog your memory.

The patterns are not just presented on their own, they are backed up by experience reports from a number of projects that the author has been involved with. These are used both within the pattern descriptions, and in a separate section at the end of each chapter.

They are not all positive, and are used to highlight the dangers of not following the patterns from the book, as well as the benefits of doing so. Overall, they give the advice a place of reference, and are the source of numerous examples.

One slight issue I had with the book was the number of typos, which was particularly unexpected given the subject matter. However, this did not detract too significantly from my overall impression: Highly Recommended