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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

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,276 ratings  ·  175 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 m...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 16th 2007 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
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Eric_W
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...more
David
Oct 25, 2009 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Rustam
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...more
Craig Cecil
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
Sueij
Oct 30, 2009 Sueij rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sueij 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...more
Nick Black
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
Gingeraltoids
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...more
Brittany
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...more
Kian
Jun 09, 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...more
Al Swanson
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...more
Topher
Oct 03, 2007 Topher rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Abhi Yerra
One of the things the author gets into is that Kappor's employees did not have the following:

- a sense of urgency. A lot of the employees came from Netscape where they were trying to push hard to build the product because of Microsoft, competition and a lack of money.
- did not have a base codebase which they could iterate over. They were trying to find the perfect solution without settling on a MVP and iterating on it.
- There was also a pitfall in that they were trying to build with the assum...more
J R
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
...more
Paul Ivanov
"Dreaming in Code" is a great little book that's become a very therapeutic read about how software is made and how deadlines slip. I thoroughly enjoyed this book - it was like being in a support group for software developers. Knuth took 10 years to complete TeX, so there's no reason to feel bad about any of this stuff, anything that's behind is just a mis-estimate which is fine, so long as we keep moving forward, as opposed to trying to pre-plan everything, and trying to execute the right way of...more
Darryl
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...more
Joe White
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...more
Irena
I don't recommend this book if you are a software engineer or manager, or any other kind of insider in the software development. You'll find little useful or interesting information here and lots of annoying demagogy. The only informative places were those that quoted books and articles on the matter written by professionals. However, the author did have one true epiphany: at the middle of the book he wrote that if the reader were a software engineer, he probably had thrown his book at the other...more
Christy Ford
Feb 24, 2010 Christy Ford rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
Jessie Young
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...more
Cindy
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.

Unf...more
Amy
"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...more
Kelley
Feb 08, 2010 Kelley rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Kelley
Aug 24, 2009 Kelley rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Rogier
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...more
kat
An interesting read, half the story of a typical start-up trainwreck and half a philosophical meditation on why, exactly, "software is hard". Rosenberg takes the time to explain quite a lot about coding and programmer culture in layman's terms -- which is redundant for most programmers, while still being technical enough that I'm not sure, say, my parents would be able to get through it. I think the ideal audience is entrepreneurs and those who find themselves in the position of needing to manag...more
Mike
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...more
David
In an effort to discover why software development is hard, Scott Rosenberg, one of the founders of Salon.com, 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...more
Mario
The book follows the development of an open-source application, Chandler -- a personal information manager (PIM) conceived with the intent of being a Microsoft Outlook killer. The author is both a programmer and one of the founders of and writers for Salon.com. With this background, he covers the fits and starts of the project in both an entertaining and insightful manner. The book expands on the Chandler project to discuss development in general -- the choices made during design and implementat...more
Matthew
I gave up 100 pages from the end. The book is obstensibly about Chandler, the open source data management tool that has notoriously taken many years to come to fruition. While I think that the story of how Chandler has progressed could make for interesting reading, this is not it. It starts as an ok bit of history, but the analysis of what's happening meanders and goes off on side tangents that lost my interest.

Please note, this is not a book about Chandler. It's about why software is so hard to...more
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Writer, editor and website builder SCOTT ROSENBERG is a cofounder of Salon.com 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.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more informatio...more
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