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Readers' Choice Awards

The Software Development 1st Annual Reader’s Choice Awards

First, we decided to distinguish the vendor-influenced portion of the competition from the reader-appreciation portion by splitting the Jolts into two tracks: a juried track in which all for-profit vendors paid to nominate their products, and a reader-nominated track meant to reflect the sentiments of working developers. While the juried track more or less followed the traditional process, the readers posed a challenge. Because of the panoply of products, categories and potential voters, the process had to be automated. I decided to seek out voting software to make my life easier.

The Readers' Choice Categories
Books – General
Books – Technical
Business Integration and Data Tools
Design and Analysis Tools
Languages and Development Environments
Libraries, Frameworks and Components
Project Management Tools
Testing Tools
Web Services Tools
Websites and Developer Networks

The first tool I found was an open-source product—and though it could count votes and reports, I needed more sophistication for the final vote—like multiple ranking of products within categories, importing files rather than manually entering them, locking out judges who hadn’t signed up for a particular category, and IP address checking. Though I evaluated several other open-source products, none met these needs, so I started looking at the paid product marketplace. Satisfied with an evaluation copy’s features, I selected Perseus. Their support was excellent, and soon, we had a full-featured voting website. Although our IT department didn’t support ODBC connection to the database, Survey Solutions created a .tsv file with which I could download and create a database and generate reports on my desktop—all within the product environment. I could also look at the raw data to see who was voting for what.

The juried voting went without a hitch, but the readers’ choice voting was a bit rockier. We had two automatic levels of security: To participate, voters had to be registered readers at—we posted the poll on our gated site (one vendor asked if I could remove the gate so that his users could vote for his product—sorry, no!). Voters were limited to one vote per item (with the help of cookies), and a manual third level of inspection: We looked for duplicate IP addresses to detect multiple votes if cookies were turned off. Some categories were well behaved, with no obvious fixing of votes detected—although suspected. But others were a tad more troublesome: flagrant excesses, with approximately 100 votes (which were promptly dumped) for one product, from the same IP address; and some clever manipulation (numerically stepping through the IP addresses)—those ended up in the circular file, as well.

Next year, we’ll turn to user validation with e-mail and ID from magazine subscriber mailing labels, stash the process behind a double-gated site with encrypted password validation, require cookies and hide the whole contraption in some obscure directory … or something like that.

Bottom line? Don’t set your clock by the Readers’ Choice Awards. Next year, we hope for more participation and greater confidence that the results more closely reflect our readers’ true choices.

—Rosalyn Lum

The 1st Annual Readers' Choice Awards

Books: General

Books were separated into two categories: general and technical. The general category included books pertaining to computer history, best practices, project management, developer or team efficiency, and socioeconomic, regulatory or career issues relating to software. From the 29 books nominated, readers chose this year’s Jolt Productivity Award winner: Martin Fowler’s Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture. The author describes 51 patterns in great clarity, comparing similar patterns and offering some well-reasoned advice about when to choose one pattern over another.


  • Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler (Addison-Wesley) Productivity Award winner


  • Test-Driven Development: By Example by Kent Beck (Addison-Wesley) Productivity Award winner
  • Agile Software Development: Principles, Patterns, and Practices by Robert C. Martin (Prentice Hall) Jolt Award winner
  • Design Patterns Explained: A New Perspective on Object-Oriented Design by Alan Shalloway and James R. Trott (Addison-Wesley)
  • Agile Modeling: Effective Practices for Extreme Programming and the Unified Process by Scott W. Ambler (Wiley)

    Books: Technical

    This category’s 33 nominees included books designed to describe, explain or train readers in specific languages, technologies, platforms, hardware, operating systems, coding styles, modeling, architecture, source code optimization and code-level security. The winning entry, Bob Zeidman’s Designing with FPGAs and CPLDs walks readers through choosing the right programmable logic devices and development tools; understanding design, verification and testing issues; and planning schedules and allocating resources. (For those who may not know, FPGAs are Field Programmable Gate Arrays, and CPLDs are Complex Programmable Logic Devices.)


  • Designing with FPGAs and CPLDs by Bob Zeidman (CMP Books)


  • Thinking in Java (3rd edition) by Bruce Eckel (Prentice Hall PTR) Jolt Award winner
  • Java Development with Ant by Erik Hatcher and Steve Loughran (Manning Publications)
  • Core Java 2, Vol. 1: Fundamentals (6th edition) by Cay Horstmann and Gary Cornell (Prentice Hall PTR) Productivity Award winner
  • Effective STL by Scott Meyers (Addison-Wesley)

    Business Integration and Data Tools

    There’s been a big push to raise the level of abstraction for business logic to so-called business integration tools—a lot of these tools, interestingly, are geared toward business analysts rather than developers. Do they fulfill their promise? For the first time, we looked at quite a few offerings in the Business Integration and Data Tools category, and were pleased that, of the 37nominees, our readers favored Xdoclet ( an open-source Javadoc Doclet engine that lets you create custom Javadoc @tags and generate source code or other files (such as xml-ish deployment descriptors).


  • XDoclet (Open source)


  • Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Architect (Microsoft) Jolt Award winner
  • TOAD (Quest)
  • IBM WebSphere Studio (IBM) Jolt Award finalist

    Design and Analysis Tools

    Design and analysis tools are often the weapon of choice for software architects. Depending on the tool, some are appropriate for an all-knowing architect who distributes templates for automatic code generation to a team of developers, while others are designed to integrate seamlessly with an IDE to help individual programmers get a better handle on system design. From the 21 nominees,readers chose an open-source product: ArgoUML (, which was also an SD Productivity Award winner.


  • ArgoUML (Open source) Productivity Award winner


  • Together ControlCenter (Borland)
  • Catalyze (SteelTrace)
  • SmartDraw ( Productivity Award winner

    Languages and Development Environments

    For most developers, this is still where the pedal hits the metal. Languages and Development Environments is one of our most popular categories (50 products were nominated), although the line between IDEs and modeling tools is increasingly blurred.


  • CodeCharge Studio (YesSoftware)


  • Eiffel (Eiffel Software)
  • EiffelStudio (Eiffel Software)
  • Eiffel Enterprise Edition (Eiffel Software)
  • Eiffel Envision! (Eiffel Software)

    Libraries, Frameworks and Components

    Building on the work of others, libraries, frameworks and components make a developer’s life easier. These 27 products run the gamut from high-end tools to open-source products. The winner was EiffelVision2 Library.


  • EiffelVision2 Library (Eiffel Software)


  • Struts (Apache Open Source)
  • .NET Compact Framework 1.0 (Microsoft) Jolt Award winner
  • Bouncy Castle Crypto APIs (The Legion of the Bouncy Castle)
  • ComponentOne Studio Enterprise (ComponentOne) Productivity Award winner

    Project Management Tools

    Surprisingly, there was some controversy over which products could be termed Project Management Tools. The eight finalists in this category were either straight project tracking and estimating aids or powerful change-management tools. Our winner, MKS Integrity Manager, is a skeleton for your existing software process—rather than dictating details, it supports pre-existing rules.


  • MKS Integrity Manager (MKS) Productivity Award winner


  • Perforce (Perforce Software) Productivity Award winner
  • ActiveCM (Telelogic) Jolt Award finalist
  • FogBugz (Fog Creek Software)

    Testing Tools

    This year, we added a category specifically for testing tools, which, in previous years, fell into the utilities slot. As we all know, Extreme Programming has transformed testing from a boring, last-ditch effort to a precursor to all coding activities. Will testing tools take off as a result? Well, we certainly had a healthy number of contenders—25 products—this year. Our winner, NUnit, is a unit-testing framework for all .NET languages. Initially ported from JUnit, it’s been completely rewritten and redesigned in C# to take advantage of many .NET language features, including custom attributes and other reflection-related capabilities.


  • NUnit (


  • SilkTest (Segue Software) Jolt Award finalist
  • Bugzilla (Mozilla)
  • Jtest (Parasoft) Jolt Award finalist
  • OpenLoad (Open Demand Systems)
  • SilkPerformer V (Segue Software)


    The utilities category has always been the most innovative in the Jolt Awards: Here, the little guys can take on the bigwigs in a changing, well-defined, narrow market. The winner,Visual Build Professional, helps developers automate the build process with masters: time-saving repeatable processes for building and deploying software.


  • Visual Build Professional (Kinook Software)


  • UltraEdit (IDM)
  • Vim (Open source)
  • DevPartner Java Edition (Compuware) Jolt Award finalist
  • TWiki (

    Web Services Tools

    After three years of hype, it looks like Web services are here to stay. Want proof? We decided to create a new category for Web services, and received a healthy crop of nominees. Out of the 22 products, Mindreef’s SOAPscope 1.0 was judged by our readers as the best SOAP-, WSDL- and XML-aware logger/viewer for Web services.


  • SOAPscope 1.0 Productivity Award winner


  • BEA WebLogic Workshop Jolt Award winner
  • Zope (Zope)
  • BizTalk Server 2002 (Microsoft) Jolt Award finalist
  • IBM WebSphere Studio (IBM) Jolt Award finalist

    Websites and Developer Networks

    Websites and developer networks continue to increase in sophistication and content, but some sites possess a certain ambiance that engenders dedicated communities. It’s not always a question of bells and whistles, either. Check out the winner: JavaRanch. Here, visitors are welcome to pull up a stool with a one-eyed moose to find answers to all Java questions while bartenders keep the peace, and folks are pretty darn friendly. JavaRanch was initially created in 1997 by trailblazer Kathy Sierra “to help those struggling to learn Java” at a time where references and java newsgroups were neither ubiquitous nor friendly. The welcoming atmosphere stands in sharp contrast to many chilly corporate sites. JavaRanch was the Software Development judges’ choice, too, winning a Productivity Award.


  • JavaRanch ( Productivity Award winner

    Runner-ups (in alphabetical order):

  • Google Groups (
  • IBM alphaWorks ( Jolt Award winner
  • Microsoft Developer Network ( 2003 Hall of Fame member

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