37Signals is well known in development circles for the Ruby on Rails framework, which was created for their highly-regarded Basecamp project management web app (I use it myself). If RoR is the essence of their technological approach, then Getting Real is the essence of their company philosophy. The book was previously available as a $19 download only, but now you can also browse before you buy. From design to hiring to promotion, this book lays bare the 37Signals formula for success. They don’t claim it’s right for everyone, but it’s what has worked for them. It’s a rare treat to see someone’s principles written with such clarity.
I just skimmed through half of the chapters, and it’s beyond practical (and I mean that as a compliment). In a general sense, the book tells you (wussy suggestions aren’t the 37signals style) to focus your energy on creating things you can actually see and respond to. Anything that isn’t “real”, like writing a functional spec or having an agendaless meeting, is a waste of time. The things that do matter will talk to you, if you are of a mind to listen. It’s a fast and insightful read, imbued with a lean and mean philosophy of action that had me looking over my own processes and shaking my head. For that alone, I think it’s well worth the 19 bucks. Reading just a few chapters was the mental equivalent of eating a fresh-baked bran muffin. Check it out.