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Did Joel buy his copy of LeadTools?

... or was it a freebie that came his way in return for his review in either Programmer's Paradise or right here?

Couldn't help but notice the new 1/2 page ad in Programmer's Paradise for the Fog Creek stuff.

Barter deal, right?


Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Thursday, March 27, 2003

I don't see anything wrong with barter deals. As long as it works out for Joel and Programmers Paradise, and Joel gives unbiased opinions (which he does without an iota of a doubt) about the stuff he uses.......

Prakash S
Friday, March 28, 2003

Actually, I think you Prakash, are working with Joel to keep the thing looking like it's for real.
For some time I've seen Joel talking more and more about commercial products as if he was advertising them. And now you come out in his defense and say you don't have "... an yota of a doubt..."

Too fishy for me.

Friday, March 28, 2003

That would make an awesome X Files episode.
Prakash and Joel, in it together all this time.

"CUT TO A WAREHOUSE: We see a Man In Black. He speaks to Joel, never facing him.

MIB: Did anyone follow you?

Joel: I don't believe so.

MIB: Good.

Joel: Hey, do you think...

Don't face me directly.

Joel: Sorry. What's the next gig?

MIB: Project Fluffy. My client sells an OCX which helps software authors count sheep.

Joel: Just how long will this go on? WHEN WILL THIS INSANITY END?! I need to maintain my credibility and..


MIB. YOU_HAVE_SIGNED_A_CONTRACT. You will say good things about it, otherwise bad things may accidentaly happen to you... involving big, scary butt-plugs.

Joel: Oh No! What should I say about the thing?

MIB: You know, the usual. You have to use the word "great" 10 times, "amazing" 5 times and "orgasmic" 3 times. You should also say you used the product when you were working at Microsoft and it inspired Bill Gates to create Windows."

TJ Haeser
Friday, March 28, 2003

I got Leadtools free. It is totally, completely standard operating procedure for people who write reviews to receive free NFR (Not For Resale) copies of the software so I don't really think this requires disclosure.

On one hand, the average reviewer working for InfoWorld doesn't have any use for something like LeadTools, so the NFR copy isn't as "valuable" to them as it is to me. I don't really feel like this changes the honesty of the review. On the other hand, my reviews are a bit more trustworthy because I only review products that I like enough to use in my own business.

Obviously, Programmer's Paradise doesn't even pretend to have any separation of Church and State between editorial and advertising, so if I wrote a review that totally panned one of their major advertisers, they wouldn't be happy, although they specifically told me that pointing out the negatives of an otherwise positive product is fine & even encouraged.

The way I solved this is by never reviewing products I don't like. You ain't never gonna see a Rational or Computer Associates product reviewed by me in the pages of Programmer's Paradise. I'm not going to review much Java stuff because I have no use for it, we're a Windows shop and I'm not qualified to judge it.

Joel Spolsky
Friday, March 28, 2003

As someone on both ends of software reviews (both making things that are reviewed and occasionally writing reviews myself), I think Joel does a great job, and I don't see a big conflict of interest.

I've seen some shallow reviews of my product, CodeWarrior for Palm OS, both positive and negative, and I think a lot of reviews out there are misleading; I'd rather have a slightly biased but fair review from someone with something invested in a tool that a shallow rewrite of a reviewer's guide, but it actually is hard to find good reviewers who are hooked into the whole publishing world.  IMO, Joel's reviews are better than a lot of the "cheerleading" reviews out there, as I can tell they come from someone who's used the product for more than a few minutes.

When I write reviews of my site's "Stuff I Like" section at , I'm explictly pointing out things that I've found to work well.  I don't have enough time to rant about bad software, but I like sharing info on tools that are useful.

Ben Combee
Friday, March 28, 2003

BTW: Which company sold ERWin to CA?

Prakash S
Friday, March 28, 2003

"It is totally, completely standard operating procedure for people who write reviews to receive free NFR (Not For Resale) copies of the software so I don't really think this requires disclosure."

True.  However, I believe you based the review published on JOS on how easily you folded this tool into your commercial product.

Unless I have fallen asleep or things have suddenly changed, these "review copies" are for review only, and not for commercial development or deployment.

I believe the Leadtools folks are now expecting your check.

Still think Leadtools are a good deal?

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Friday, March 28, 2003


Friday, March 28, 2003


Prakash S
Saturday, March 29, 2003

I don't seem to be able to find Joel's LeadTools review at all. 

I do see the two sentence plug in his March 26 entry where he brags about how he was able to implement picture editing functionality into CityDesk in just 4 hours.  The plug doesn't even mention LeadTools, though the link in the first sentence takes you to the LeadTools homepage so the context is obviously suggesting the LeadTools is a good tool.

I agree with some others that this is a misleading and somewhat sleazy practice by Joel. 

Okay, maybe it is standard practice in the industry for reviewers to receive free copies of reviewed software.  But there are two problems here.  First, people who aren't part of the "software review industry" aren't likely to be aware of this practice.  Second, the "review" itself (if indeed the two sentence March 26 plug is the review) is more like a plug for the product than a real review. 

If you're going to be plugging products that you like and that you receive for free, I'm thinking the best practice would be to write a disclaimer at the end of any review/plug that says you received a free copy of the software in exchange for writing the plug.  (And also add, if applicable, that you have a policy of reviewing/plugging only products that you like. ) 

You know, not that different from stock analysts who reveal that they personally own shares of a stock anytime they recommend it as a good buy. Though in their case I'm not sure whether the disclaimer is required merely by morality or also by law.

Herbert Sitz
Saturday, March 29, 2003

Another comment regarding the "standard practice" thing.  No, I don't expect that reviewers in PC Magazine, Infoworld, or other computer press publications pay for their review copies of software.  "Joel on Software", though, is not a computer press publication like any of those.  It is likely far from obvious to JoS readers that Joel is not paying for review copies.  (Especially, again, when the reviews are framed more like product plugs than actual reviews.)

Herbert Sitz
Saturday, March 29, 2003

Since the review wasn't for 'Joel on Software', but for the Programmer’s Paradise catalog, I don't see the issue you're raising.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

RocketJeff -- First of all, I don't read the Programmer's Paradise catalog, but from my understanding that review hasn't even been written yet.

Second, Mitch & Murray's original question was:  "was [LeadTools] a freebie that came his way in return for his review in either Programmer's Paradise OR RIGHT HERE?"  [emphasis added, my interpretation of "right here" = "on JoS"].

That's part of my point.  A big part of what's misleading is that what's being referred to as a review is actually more like a product plug.

Herbert Sitz
Saturday, March 29, 2003

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