I read quite a few blogs, on different topics, but there is (obviously) a whole bunch of computing ones in there. I read some of the big name ones, like Joel on Software and The Old New Thing, as well as some that could possibly be regarded as second-tier in the blagosphere like Intertwingly and Steve Yegge.

But one big name blog I don’t read is Coding Horror, by Jeff Atwood.

His posts appear pretty often on programming.reddit.com or digg.com, friends (who I respect) read him and recommend his articles, but I just can’t figure him out. Sometimes his articles manage to completely miss the point, and other times he reasonably succinctly describes a simple concept.

For example, the post Building a Computer the Google Way contains an historically interesting photo of Google’s first server. This server is interesting because it is fairly clearly a cobbled together set of home-built servers with some custom designed hardware. These servers were built by Google from the PCB under the motherboard on up. Sure, they used commodity parts, but I can guarantee there are some unique pieces in there. Probably in the vicinity of the interconnects.

This is an interesting example of how a successful company will control everything that possibly relates to their business. You can’t afford to rely on the off-the-shelf components for anything that might be technically critical. For Google, indexing and querying speed were hyper-important. So they built their own hardware. Amazon did something similar when they wrote their own web server. Always remember these example when you’re railing against Not-Invented-Here syndrome.

Unfortunately, Coding Horror proceeds to use the Google example as justification for why every good programmer should build their own PC instead of just buying one from Dell. I’m sorry, but I can’t see how reading specs on PCI slot counts on a motherboard are going to lead to building the kind of server that could support Google’s load, or perform their proprietary indexing any faster.

However, on other occasions, Coding Horror does actually manage to explain concepts accurately and clearly. Though I’m usually left thinking, this only occurred to you now? See Everything is Fast For Small n and You’re Probably Storing Passwords Incorrectly.

He does, however, write well. And there lies a real skill. If only he could be brought up to speed on some actual modern computer science and software engineering concepts, we might have something.