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Joel isn't an advocate of "plan everything out on paper." It's more about discipline and attacking a problem as effectively as possible.

It's true that his advice does tend towards shrink-wrapped software, where it's not so easy to just go in and fix something after you've had real users testing it. But what you describe is closer to what he'd call "hallway usability testing." That doesn't rule out a spec as a valuable component of the development process.

Anyway, the test for the value of a spec really shouldn't be taken after just 4 months.

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