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Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software
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Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  2,137 Ratings  ·  218 Reviews
Their story takes us through a maze of dead ends and exhilarating breakthroughs as they and their colleagues wrestle not only with the abstraction of code but with the unpredictability of human behavior, especially their own. Along the way, we encounter black holes, turtles, snakes, dragons, axe-sharpening, and yak-shaving—and take a guided tour through the theories and me ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 16th 2007 by Crown Publishing, NY
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May 02, 2009 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: technology
As CIO at a small college, I had the distinct unpleasure of signing purchase orders for software license renewals and maintenance contracts. In what other business would you buy a product that costs enormous sums of money, is guaranteed to be flawed, will require frequent and costly upgrades, never lives up to its promises, and requires a team of lawyers to interpret the contract, not to mention days of very expensive training for your staff. Welcome to the world of software.

Rosenberg follows th
Oct 25, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: white-collar everyone, all of my co-workers, anyone who works with computers
Recommended to David by: easement
I dithered a long time on whether or not to read this book; probably mostly because it's hard to believe that it's actually not about coding.

It's not about coding.

Certainly there's a lot about coding in it, but it's about working with people, attempting to solve unsolvable problems, history of programmatic problem-solving... I know, it sounds like it's about coding. And, I have to say, it's a must-read for anyone who even remotely works with software -- be it creating or using. It's a story abou
Jun 20, 2008 Rustam rated it liked it
This book had some interesting anecodetes, but overall, it sounded like a software engineering after-school special. Rosenberg made the software development lifecycle sound like it's as mystical experience, akin to studying the Kabballah (it's not), and he missed the mark on defining certain programming concepts (eg "late-binding") in a way that made me suspect he was trying to overdress his comprehension of the subject.

The truth is, this book does not describe a typical software project. Chandl
Craig Cecil
Feb 24, 2012 Craig Cecil rated it liked it
Shelves: computers
This book is paradoxically similar to the content it covers—and therein lies the problem. Dreaming in Code follows (for a three year period) the genesis and subsequent never-ending development of the open-source Chandler personal information manager (PIM) project. As the book relates the meandering development process, much like Lawrence trekking through Arabia, so too does the actual chapter by chapter account. Just as you are settling in as an invisible listener at design meetings, suddenly yo ...more
Oct 30, 2009 Susan rated it liked it
Recommended to Susan by: Scott
Y'know, there were things about this book that were really, really great. Mostly, it was that this is a fantastic overview of computers, software, and the culture of those who make them. Want to know why code should be free ("free like speech, not like beer")? Ever heard of a "wiki" and wondered what it was? Did you know that "nerd" is uncool but "geek" is hot? This book, using fantastically accessible metaphors and descriptions, will tell you.

What's not so hot, though? Two things. The first is
Nick Black
Dec 05, 2007 Nick Black rated it really liked it
Dreaming in Code was an awful lot of fun, a good uplifting "Chicken Soup for the 3l33t Soul" kinda thing. I bought copies for everyone in my office. On the other hand, the first two chapters (after a strong, catchy Introduction, sigh) are downright painful, any code company that allows loud, messy dogs into the bowels of their austere Rigorium is obviously destined to fail, and what's up with all these girls writing code? I don't know how they do it on the West Coast, but I quote Ed Post's moder ...more
May 18, 2008 Kian added it
Dreaming In Code

This book was given to me as a present last Christmas with "Beautiful Code". Usually books about software engineering as a process bore me, most texts treat the subject dryly and are more about advocating the author's own process or beliefs than providing any kind of real insight as to how software is built by companies today. So when I receieved this as a present (apparently it was recommended by Amazon with the text above), I shelved it adding it to the "when I
Sep 06, 2008 Gingeraltoids rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book as a gift from the Computing Sciences Dept. at Villanova for the Best Independent Study 2006 award. It looks like a great book and I am looking forward to reading it.

Update after reading it
Great book! If you want to understand what us software engineers do all day, or how the software you use everyday gets built, this is the book. No technical expertise or programming experience is required to enjoy this book -- there's only one tiny little example of code in the whole book
Apr 22, 2009 Brittany rated it liked it
Shelves: technical, history
This book was interesting because the author switched back and forth between the history/current state of software and an open source development project. The insider view into the project and the background development made for an interesting read.

I most enjoyed the chapter "Engineers and Artists" where the development of software is compared with the art of writing. A good writer (and software developer) will revise and have his or her work reviewed many times before considering it finished. W
Al Swanson
Mar 30, 2009 Al Swanson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, tech
For any programmer, especially any programmer who has worked in a large team, this will ring true. For managers of programmers, even more so!

The story, still ongoing, of a programming team attempting to write an 'ultimate' piece of software. Not like some sci-fi book, tho. Not some software to control the world or be the next killer app - just scheduling, notes, tasks... something 'simple'.

As the book points out, even with no constraints from others, building software from scratch is a dauntin
Oct 03, 2007 Topher rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: non-programmers
Shelves: non-fiction
I have a degree in computer science, and my thesis in remote sensing involves a lot of programming. Despite that, I wouldn't ever describe myself as a programmer. I can do a little programming, I can do a little admin work, but I am not a normal computer professional.

It was refreshing to see other people having the same issues I do. I have an idea...I spec out how long it ought to take......and it is consistently only 1/2 (at best!) the time I need.

Computers are either insanely complex or insane
Philip Hollenback
Sep 20, 2014 Philip Hollenback rated it liked it
Shelves: history, computer
This was an ok examination of the difficulties of actually developing software. My biggest complaint is that (view spoiler) ...more
Jessie Young
Aug 04, 2012 Jessie Young rated it really liked it
I was told that this book should be interested to just about anybody. I would edit that to say that it should be interesting to just about anybody who is interested in software more generally. I think I got a lot out of it because I am actually developing software, but the language is non-jargony and the stories are great for getting a sense of the history of programming.

Favorite bits:

"Time really does seem to behave differently around the act of making software. When things go well, you can lo
Greg Stoll
Mar 07, 2017 Greg Stoll rated it really liked it
This is a book about the creation of Chandler, an email/calendar/todo list that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It starts by talking about how Mitch Kapor came up with the idea for the product and decided to fund it as an open source project and takes it through three years of development. It does a good job of explaining technical decisions made along the way and capturing the spirit of a lot of hackers.

What the book is really about is why software is so hard. Time and time again the people o
Aug 05, 2009 Kelley rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: software developers, anyone who wants to understand the geek in their life
Everyone in IT has probably heard the chestnut, "You can have it good, cheap, and fast. Pick two." Scott Rosenberg tackles the assumptions behind that chestnut head on. What happens when you have a software project that has plenty of money, plenty time, and plenty of talent and experience? That project, Open Source Application Foundation's Chandler, turns out to suffer from all the problems that plague software development in spite of its wealth of resources. It's buggy. Deadlines are missed. Fe ...more
Jonn Lim
Jan 06, 2017 Jonn Lim rated it it was amazing
"Nobody should start to undertake a large project. You start with a small trivial project, and you should never expect it to get large... If it doesn't solve some fairly immediate need, it's almost certainly overdesigned." - Linus Torvalds, Linux Times, 2004

Life is complex. Trying to model even one real-life process into an ethereal tool will no doubt embody part of life's complexity. But this isn't immediately obvious to the optimistic programmer. A grand vision of building the-next-big-thing i
Rod Hilton
Dreaming in Code is a book about software development. As a software developer, I cannot tell you how many times I completely related to the proceedings. All of the mistakes, all of the problems, all of the concerns, all of the date slipping, everything. It all felt so familiar, so "been there, man". To some extent, that's the problem with the book.

I've tried to read Dreaming in Code on 3 separate occasions. The idea sounded interesting, and the title alone piqued my interest, so I purchased the
Jul 25, 2009 Kelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who write code, their managers, and people who love but don't understand geeks
I'm currently reading Scott Rosenberg's _Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software_.

I'm about 1/2 way in; good book. It's worth a read if you're in the business, a storehouse of all the things you already know, but put together in a "big picture" way. It's also a decent introduction to the world of your favorite (or hated) geek because Rosenberg is especially adept at translating the world of computers and software into language that
May 21, 2015 Rossdavidh rated it really liked it
Shelves: green
Subtitle: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4.732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software.

In 1981, Tracy Kidder's book “Soul of a New Machine” was published. It chronicled the triumphant effort at Data General to design and build a new computer. It was an improbable hit, winning a Pulitzer Prize, and exposing the bizarre culture inside the then still new(ish) world of computer design. Rosenberg here is attempting to do the same for software, chronicling the development of an open source
Joe White
Mar 26, 2010 Joe White rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-shelf, techread
This was written from the standpoint of an inside observer to a technical programming based project, who himself was not a programmer.

I would recommend this to all my friends and relatives to whom I found it very hard to explain to them what programming is, and even worse how it integrates into larger projects. The book never gets overly technical, and does a fair job of guiding an under-informed reader into some of the historical issues with code development. In this case, the project followed
David Tenemaza Kramaley
I think that it would have been better if the OSAF story was a bit shorter, although considering how long the author spent there I understand why it turned out so long winded!
Mar 29, 2008 Rogier rated it liked it
Shelves: history, management
Unfortunately this book is quite boring. I have no idea why it sells so well. It's too fluffy for the technical reader who might be seriously interested in the issues, and it seems too heavy for the casual reader. So who's reading it? Well, I guess I am, because of some of the press it has gotten. Overblown if you ask me.

OK, for some reason I've read more computer science than the average Ph. D. and I've actually managed some computer projects in an era (1980's) when my company was still just mi
Paul Holbrook
Nov 10, 2015 Paul Holbrook rated it really liked it
I've wanted to read this book for years, but not enough that I was willing to pay full price for a new copy. I finally gave in and bought a used copy, and I'm glad I did.

This book was published in 2007 about a the creation piece of software you've never heard of: Chandler. Chandler was the brainchild of Mitch Kapor, who created Lotus Notes and then when on to write Lotus Agenda. Agenda is a DOS-era program that was one of the first Personal Information Managers. I used Agenda back in the day, an
Apr 09, 2008 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008
In an effort to discover why software development is hard, Scott Rosenberg, one of the founders of, spent time embedded with the development team for Chandler, a personal information management desktop application intended to compete with Microsoft Outlook. In tracing the team's progress - or rather its stunning lack of progress - over the 4 years between 2001 and 2005, Rosenberg is partially successful in illuminating the various pitfalls that can waylay this kind of effort.

Though the
May 26, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
"Making software is still, and truly, hard." This observation is stated repeatedly throughout Dreaming in Code. Fortunately "the kind of difficulty software presents serves as a welcome contrast to the perplexing, unyielding frustrations of what geeks call our 'wetware' lives. It is self-contained. It is rational. And it harbors no malice."

From my limited experience, I have to agree wholeheartedly. Software is hard -- it is an act of creating something out of nothing. How can you possibly plan s
Aug 03, 2009 Cindy rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'll start with the positives in the book. I found the technical details very accessible: explained well with just enough detail. I've only done small amounts of coding and I was surprised and impressed that I didn't get lost in the AJAX discussion, eg. After reading the book, I felt like I had a little primer into the development of web-based applications. Also, it was very fascinating to see how a large, complicated piece of software comes together, since this is how the book is advertised.

Christy Ford
Feb 22, 2010 Christy Ford rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who work with (or live with) programmers or the like
Recommended to Christy by: OCLC Developers Book Club
Shelves: work-related
This book describes itself as a chronicle of a semi-failed software project.

That narrative truly only makes up half of the book. The other half is a deep look into how computer people, and computer businesses work. Its anecdotes range from simple observations such as the fact that programmers tend to like Monty Python, to a layman's explanation of the halting problem, to introspection about whether the foundations of computing are inadequate.

Many of these tidbits are familiar to those who are p
Aug 06, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: development
This book offers a glimpse into the world of software development by following a team of programmers and designers, many of them already accomplished in their field, as they attempt to make some cool software. Things take longer than expected, and despite their best efforts the project fails to live up to its initial promise. The author uses their story as a backdrop on why software development is so hard.

As one whose efforts even when successful get little notice I enjoyed peering into the live
Jun 29, 2009 Darryl rated it really liked it
This non-fiction book chronicles the slow and winding path toward the creation of an ambitious open-source information management application. If you've ever been involved in a less-than-successful IT project, the scenes in this book probably look all too familiar. I'm guessing more than a few readers have given in to the (misguided, IMO) tempation to spell out why this team struggled so much. If you really believe you've got the answers, I suspect you missed the point of the book.

Although this
Mar 12, 2014 J R rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I wish the book would focus more on the project, instead of taking long detours into history of computing. While I agree a history of computing book that non-professional can understand is needed, I'm not sure this book is the vessel for that.

After finishing the book I looked up the final fate of Chandler, the project webpage is still up but download and blog pages seem to be down. Wikipedia has the following:

In January 2008, Mitch Kapor announced that he was leaving the board and would only fin
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Writer, editor and website builder SCOTT ROSENBERG is a cofounder of and author of Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming and Why It Matters and Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest For Transcendent Software.

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“The revolution has to be customised” 3 likes
“The big challenge is, we have to constrain and mold our ambition level without losing the spark. The stuff I lose sleep over nigh is, how are we doing on this? We want to make progress as fast as possible without exploiting human resources. How do you move faster without killing people? How do you build a community around the project without losing design integrity? And how do we get on an arc that moves from benign dictatorship to more small-group democracy?” 0 likes
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