Just before the weekend, I did something stupid and hurtful, and I’d like to make it right.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been getting e-mails about a book under development over at O’Reilly called Software Craftsmanship—from Apprentice to Journeyman. People kept pointing out that the main title was the same as Pete McBreen’s book (for which I wrote the foreword), and that the overall structure of the title was similar to that of The Pragmatic Programmer.

After a while, this started to get under my skin. I wasn’t so much concerned about the “journeyman” bit, but the duplication of the title just seemed wrong to me—I really liked Pete’s book, and I didn’t want to see it getting eclipsed. I complained about this to a senior editor at O’Reilly, and he said he’d bring it up with the book’s editor, who worked for him. I heard nothing back.

So, at the end of a tiring week, I wrote a blog post, complaining about the title.

That was wrong of me.

It was wrong for a number of reasons.

  • I could, and probably should, have bypassed etiquette and contacted the authors directly, even though they write for a rival publisher.
  • It really wasn’t any of my business.
  • But, most importantly, it took something which was a kind of intellectual annoyance and turned it into something that made the authors of the book feel bad. And for that, I apologize.

This year, I’ve been the target of some cruel blog posts. Most readers of these posts viewed them as fine sport. But as the recipient of the criticism, I’m here to tell you that it hurts. It doesn’t matter whether it is based on truth or whether it isn’t. It doesn’t matter whether the person writing them knows you or is a total stranger. It hurts. Public attacks like this are virtually impossible to defend against, and that is a cruel violation. It’s cruel when it is done to you, and it’s cruel when you do it to others.

So, I of all people should have known better. I should have had the common sense to realize that my comments, aimed at a book, were going to be hurtful to the authors. It’s kind of obvious, really.

I wasn’t thinking straight, and I messed up.

So, Dave and Ade, I’m sorry for any distress I caused.

Good luck with your book.

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