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Sorry, Prashant, you lost track of the plot of the story somewhere along the way.

(creator of FogBugz, here)

FogBugz won and Jira won, but they were playing different games.

I wanted to make software development better for programmers. When I started creating Fog Creek Software in 2000 programmers were treated like typists. They were not paid very well (my starting salary was $33,000). There was almost no thought around how software should be developed. Companies that scored high on the Joel Test[1] were almost unheard of.

The LAST thing I wanted to do was make another tool of oppression for management to impose gantt charts and deadlines and strict rules about who has to sign off on things.

I set out to make software development better for programmers by blogging[2] and by building a company that would be a great place to work[3].

In 2000 the only way to do that was to bootstrap it. With a team of four people we couldn't build anything complicated. We started with bug tracking software because at least we could touch one aspect of programmers' lives with our philosophy.

FogBugz was designed for smaller collegial teams of people that wanted to work together effectively and needed a clean and simple way to track issues using the smart workflows that small, professional teams like to use.

It was remarkably successful and profitable from 2000 to today. We've never stopped working on improving it, but we also have never abandoned the market of small collegial teams of smart people.

By contrast, Jira was designed as "Enterprise Software" with features to help managers impose specific workflows on teams. Selling Enterprise software is a lovely, profitable business and Atlassian has great success selling to large organizations who ignore FogBugz, but it's the opposite of what I wanted to do. Anyway Atlassian is going public with this enterprise software, good for them, I'm sure they're going to enjoy their well-earned private jets.

But FogBugz was the means, not the ends, and at Fog Creek our ambition was not to be the world's greatest bug tracker software company, it was to fix things for developers. So we kept plugging away at other ideas. Some of them were kinda dumb. Some were moderate successes.

Two of them, Stack Overflow and Trello, were huge hits and spun off into separate companies. Stack Overflow, thanks to Jeff Atwood's inspired leadership, has had more impact on making software development better for programmers than any bug tracker ever will. Trello has grown as popular in three years as Jira grew in 15 years.[4]

Neither of them would have been possible if we didn't have the cash cow of steady FogBugz profits. That's what bootstrapping is, folks! You build one thing and use it to build a bigger thing.

In the meantime I think the world has figured out that programmers are writing the script for the future that everybody is going to live in, so conditions have gotten better. In big cities employers are falling over themselves to invent new ways to pamper and delight their programmer employees, with the massages and the sushis and the dog yoga. We programmers built ourselves hundreds of amazing tools, from github to npm to ci tools, build tools, IDEs, code refactorers, etc. etc. that make programming a million times better than it was in 2000, and bug tracking is just a slice of that pie and not a particularly important or interesting one.

But that said, FogBugz is still very popular and very profitable and thousands of teams use it every day, and we're still reinvesting those profits in making it better and in developing new products to make the world better for developers, and even though it doesn't support pointy-haired micro-managers and doesn't allow you to create a custom workflow requiring that a VP-or-higher sign off on bug reports, there are still small, collegial teams of smart developers who have figured out that this is how they want to work.

[1] http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000043.html

[2] http://joelonsoftware.com/

[3] http://www.fogcreek.com/

[4] https://goo.gl/hTXXPG




You may have arrived at this view now, but it isn't believable that you never saw them as direct competition with you.

For example http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2009/07/20.html makes it clear that you were adding features so that people wouldn't have to switch to "THE AUSTRALIANS". Which is a pretty clear reference to Atlassian.


The whole quote you're referring to:

    FogBugz 7.0 will include a long list of simple
    improvements that will make life dramatically
    easier for people trying to get things done,
    especially when they want to do things just a wee
    bit differently than we do here in the Land of the
    Fog. Every little feature will be a delight for
    somebody, especially that person who keeps
    emailing us because he can't believe that the
    feature he wants which is obviously only six lines
    of code hasn't been implemented in FogBugz 1.0,
    2.0, 3.0, 4.0, "4.5", or 6.0, and if we don't get
    it soon he JUST MIGHT HAVE TO GO OVER TO THE
    AUSTRALIANS.
That reads like he's making fun of the idea that he's competing with Atlassian, not that he's existentially terrified of competing with Atlassian.


A compelling theory, but the Inc article he wrote in 2009 pretty clearly states that he considers them direct competition and laid out a plan to beat them.

This did not happen.


And now the plugins are gone :-( With the new GUI they do not work anymore. I was so excited when the plugins were released, it's a great SDK and we were quickly able to write two plugins that we really needed


I have at times used then-current versions of Fogbugz and JIRA over the past 15 years, and I remember the dichotomy pretty much like Joel lays it out.

I used Fogbugz on small teams, where we didn't have a dedicated person to do things like administer the bug tracker (and where the programmers chose their own issue tracker). When I saw JIRA, it would usually be because there were a lot of layers of management above the programming team (and a need for lots of reports and charts to go into presentation slides), or because the programmers were offshore and not known personally.

That is just one anecdata point, of course. But I think it was always pretty obvious that the two products had completely different philosophies -- and also that they still did compete to a good extent, because after all they are both issue trackers for software development (at least primarily; I guess JIRA also aspires to track issues building your airplane and whatnot).

If those were the only two bug trackers that existed, I myself would choose JIRA if I had somebody else to set up and run it, and Fobugz if I had to do it myself.


"There was almost no thought around how software should be developed."

Really, Joel? So all the various software methodologies of the seventies and eighties, all the CASE tools of the nineties, Extreme Programming etc etc etc - all of this does somehow not count as "thought on how software should be developed"?!


He is not talking about software development methodologies, he is talking about the role of people (mostly developers) in the software development process.


If you think the software methodologies of Olden Times did not consider the role of people in the software development process you are mistaken.

They might seem archaic (and even wrong) when we look at them today, but still: smart people put a lot of thought into the methods, they were hotly debated among professionals, books were written, and consultants made money teaching and preaching them.

In other words, not that different from today.


There have always been people who thought about how to make software development better, but there were far fewer of them, both in software and in management. Relative to what we have now, I think it's absolutely fair to say that there was almost no thought about it.

Even ten years ago I was convincing my co-workers and manager that we should be able to run our build without human intervention; today I would not believe you if you told me your team had that problem, let alone that people disagreed it was a problem.


" I think the world has figured out that programmers are writing the script for the future that everybody is going to live in"

Well put.


wow, $33,000 15 years ago? That really puts a spin on me making $36,000 6 months ago, working in 4 languages and 2 platforms to build a really complicated SPA web app and mac flash content player system. Glad I got out of that job!


From my own personal experience, things weren't bad in the late 90s up to the point of the .com crash. Starting salaries in valley were $45k-$55k. There was a lot of competition for strong candidates, and working conditions were pretty decent. I do commend Spolsky for providing good working conditions in a market like NYC where the current trend seems to be to jam as many people in a space as possible.


as others pointed out, 2000 is when he founded Fog Creek, not when he started programming. He was in MS when Excel was still competing against Lotus, so that salary is likely from the '90s.


I started my career in 1999 at $55,000/yr. Not at a particularly prestigious company or in an important position.


I appreciate the response Joel and remain a big fan of your blog.


"When I started creating Fog Creek Software in 2000 programmers were treated like typists. They were not paid very well (my starting salary was $33,000)."

OK someone has to call bullshit on this. I started as a lowly software engineer straight out of school at the same time. I started at 70K (east cost, not NY). You lost me right at the beginning there and any desire I might have had to go through your wall of text evaporated immediately.


It's fairly sad that the "script for the future" is (partly) being written by people who consider a mere 665 words a "wall of text" that is OK to comment on, but apparently too long to read.


The comment was on the preposterous claim that programmers were treated as "typists" around the year 2000. It's as if dot.com boom has just been collectively erased from all the downvoters' memories.


OK someone has to call bullshit on this. I started as a lowly software engineer straight out of school at the same time. I started at 70K ...

Joel started Fog Creek in 2000, but began programming professionally much earlier than that.


That sentence construction certainly implied otherwise. Even disregarding the part about starting salaries, the implication that programmers were treated as "typists" circa year 2000 is preposterous. This is around the height of the first dot.com boom and tales of extravagant programmer salaries was already legend. Starting his argument with such a patently absurd claim just discredits everything else he says later on.


it is over 100 degrees outside, the world is round.

so does that mean if you don't agree with me that it's hot out where i live at this point in time and space that you don't agree that the world is round?

opportunity is different for different people in different places at different times. No need to be so flippant because he relayed his experience with you.

starting salary of 70k is pretty darn lucky without experience, many developers started out much lower than that and they still do. The point is the corporate attitude towards developers has changed greatly since 2000; from my view point i agree completely.

try starting out making 18k a year and then come post how much you feel valued.




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