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Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,377 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews
Peter Seibel interviews 16 of the most interesting computer programmers alive today in Coders at Work, offering a brand-new companion volume to Apress’s highly acclaimed best-seller Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. As the words "at work" suggest, Peter Seibel focuses on how his interviewees tackle the day–to–day work of programming, while revealing much more, like h ...more
Paperback, 632 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Apress
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Michael Scott
Nov 02, 2011 Michael Scott rated it it was amazing
Coders at Work is one long read into the lives of several fantastic computer scientists, the software-writing variety. Peter Seibel interviews sixteen "programmers", among them Joe Armstrong (Erlang), Brad Fitzpatrick (OpenID, memcached), Simon Peyton Jones (Haskell), THE Donald Knuth, Peter Norvig (AI), and Ken Thompson (UNIX). A few of the missing topics: high-performance computing, social networking, peer-to-peer file-sharing, more Internet.

Each interview goes over a number of standard questi
Nov 11, 2009 Joey rated it really liked it
What felt missing to me, and why this is only 4 stars, was any attempt to pull the interviews together and synthesize something from them.
Instead, we get a book where, for example, N-1 coders are asked if they read Knuth right through, or use it for reference, or have not read it; and this is followed by Knuth basically demolishing the foundations of any conclusions you might be able to make from their answers, with a offhand comment that "I sometimes wonder if I can read them."

Anyway, this book
Todd N
Dec 01, 2009 Todd N rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, big-data
One of my many, many areas of deep intellectual insecurity is computer programming.

As a kid I remember writing BASIC programs on paper in the backseat of the car during family trips to Florida. I also remember spending hours on my Vic 20 as a kid and even crashing it a few times trying to execute 6502 assembly with POKE and JMP. I whizzed through FORTRAN and Pascal my freshman year at Purdue.

Then tragedy struck the next year as I got my first B in college from a microprocessor class based on the
Oct 12, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
Four start with a big asterisk.

Overall, this is a fascinating book that any programmer will enjoy. Seibel does a nice job asking questions that are particular to each person, but also trying to get a variety of opinions on the same questions that face all programmers. (E.g., how do you debug? how do you read new code? how do you identify good programmers?)

The problem with the book is the interview with Fran Allen. If you look up "women" in the index, you'll find about a dozen pages, all of them
Nov 02, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: math-as-art
I never read books on programming, or coding, or whatever. Maybe that's a personal flaw. It's been my job for my entire adult life, and a little bit before that. But I grabbed this book after seeing an image of the cover, and I ended up devouring it.

The book is a set of interviews with some of the supermen of programming. Sometimes very, very technical. Sometimes funny. Sometimes I felt like an idiot (these people are incredibly, incredibly good) but it also reminded me of the reasons I got into
Amar Pai
Dec 06, 2010 Amar Pai rated it liked it
I enjoyed this, but it's something you're only going to care about if you're a programmer by trade.

The book is a collect of interviews w/ a lot of progamming luminaries, ranging from jwz to ken thompson (unix guy) to the dude who wrote livejournal to the guy who wrote the first "internet-message-processor" (IMP)-- essentially the world's first internet router.

a lot of the older dudes recount starting off on punch card machines or time share PDPs.... it's interesting to get their thoughts on how
Ignacio Torres masdeu
Coders at Work is not a technical book: any computing aficionado with curiosity towards computing history will enjoy it and programmers can learn a lot from the first hand experiences of computing legends.

This is the second time I have read it from cover to cover but I also pick on some interviews from time to time. The fact that Seibel is a class 1 programmer himself makes the interviews quite enjoyable.
Ben Haley
Oct 16, 2009 Ben Haley rated it really liked it
Coders at work transcribes 16 some odd interviews of both new and old school programming giants culminating with Donald Knuth. For me it was the right book at the right time. After a year of studying algorithms, languages, and hardware, it was good to hear the voices of experience detailing the struggles of their day-to-days. In some cases their lessons reassured me that I hadn't missed some magic programming spells, in others I felt grossly outmatched by their experience and casual referencing ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Vladimir rated it it was amazing
I loved it. It's light to read, it contains interviews with some of the best programmers/computer scientists/hackers, giving their opinion on many cool topics, usually differing between themselves. It also presents with a good overview of the history of CS.
Nathan Glenn
Aug 28, 2014 Nathan Glenn rated it it was amazing
This was an awesome read. It contains 15 interviews with programmers of well-known skill, giving their opinion on history, current state and future, sharing their valuable and now unobtainable experience programming with wires, switches and punch cards, and explaining what programming means to them personally. There is a lot of diversity here, spanning the whole theoretical/practical spectrum and including some who left the field for other work (running a bar, composing music).

The historical vie
Apr 19, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing
A great collection of interviews with fifteen different programmers, conducted by a programmer.

It's been a long time since I've read a technical book that really resonated with me, but this is one of them. I picked up this book on the recommendation of a programmer who included it in a small collection of great books about programming that included 'The C Programming Language' and 'Programming Pearls' -- two of my favorites. I wasn't disappointed.

The collection of programmers here includes a nu
Nov 12, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing
If you are thinking about being a programmer, pick any interview from this book and read it. If, after reading it, you aren't excited about programming, then just stop. This is the best book I've ever read that gets inside the mind of a great programmer. True greats, the pioneers of computer science and industry achievement.

I learned things about programming, such as the usefulness of monads and closures, that had been previously under appreciated. I found the interviewees to be extremely candid
Jo Oehrlein
May 18, 2012 Jo Oehrlein marked it as on-hold
Favorite quotes:

Zawinski: "It's great to rewrite your code and make it cleaner and by the third time it'll actually be pretty. But that's not the point--you're not here to write code; you're here to ship products."

Zawinski: "If you don't understand how something works, ask someone who does. A lot of people are skittish about that. And that doesn't help anybody. Not knowing something doesn't mean you're dumb--it just means you don't know it yet."

Crockford: "Readability of code is now my first pri
Christoffer Ventus
Jan 14, 2010 Christoffer Ventus rated it really liked it
This book is made out of interviews with influential and well known people from both the academical side and from the industry of software development. It gives the reader a good glimpse of how these people conduct their work and their history with programming and computer science. It was very rewarding and inspiring at times and also burst some bubbles about these hero coders.

A lot of the interviewed people are computer language creators or evangelists (Steele, Armstrong, Allen) and many have
Michael Hirsch
Mar 31, 2014 Michael Hirsch rated it really liked it
Very good interviews with well known coders. They were all over the spectrum--from some folks who never graduated college, to Stanford professor Knuth. It was good to see how such a disparate group answered the same questions in such different ways. I liked thinking about whether I would want this or that person, who is a far better programmer than I, in my team. There were some I definitely don't want even while I respect their ability.
Dec 27, 2009 Dagmar rated it liked it
The book was requested by my 20-year old son, who is a computer science major studying programming language, for his birthday. I browsed through it, found it interesting and ended up reading the whole thing. This book satisfied the geek in me. It was self-validating for me to read about others who are passionate about software development - its not something you read about often. Quite a few of the people interviewed were actually quite a bit older than me - so it was interesting to read about t ...more
Jan 26, 2010 Gabi rated it really liked it
I'm not saying that my code is as good as Bernie Cossell's but, as it turns out, I work like he used to. I try to think many steps ahead, I use any change in the client's requirements as a good excuse to fix things that actually work, then feel guilty about the time spent that way but stay hopeful that the resulting increase in elegance and reliability will somehow pay off someday. I'm happy he approves of doing business that way, though it's discouraging that he gave up on the whole field. I'm ...more
Bob Grommes
Nov 08, 2009 Bob Grommes rated it it was amazing
A must-read for any software developer, this book consists of at-length interviews with top talent in the craft. This book drives home that software development is about clear, literate communication and deep thinking about philosophical approaches to problem solving, as much as it's about tools and techniques. It'll also be eye-opening for some to see some of the popular fads and fetishes that these experts call "BS" on.

As s software developer I found this book inspiring, invigorating and valid
Filip Kis
Feb 08, 2016 Filip Kis rated it really liked it
A book of 15 interviews with programming legends like Norvig, Knuth, Deutsch, etc.. Or in other words, guys that invented UNIX, JavaScript, Erlang, LaTeX and some very early parts of Internet and the list goes on.

It was a very interesting to read their reflections on how they started programming (most of them started on one of the early PDP systems, I've barley heard about before), what they thing about the practice today and how it is learned.

After first few interviews it quickly became evide
Jaime Silvela
Aug 07, 2014 Jaime Silvela rated it really liked it
Fantastic myth-busting book. A very good book to get for a programmer.

I have to admit I haven't read it in full. Context-switching between the different interviews tires me, and I find some of the people more interesting than others.

Aside from the pure enjoyment of hearing people who love programming talk about their craft, this book can serve as an antidote to today's sanctimony - you could even say dogma.

For instance:

Ken Thompson basically doesn't use debuggers, and opts for print statements.
Steve Whiting
Feb 17, 2016 Steve Whiting rated it really liked it
I've always been attracted to books of this type, and read another one (Masterminds of programming) a couple of months ago.

Where I was a bit disappointed with the other book, this one ticks pretty much all the boxes for me - it goes into a lot of depth with each of the interviewees, and asks a lot of the questions that I would like to ask them - "why did you choose that language? how do you debug stuff? which languages do you like/hate & why? what drives you?" etc. It also helps that the boo
Feb 27, 2010 Kellan rated it really liked it
Starts very strong. I found it a fascinating and useful tool for some meditation I'm doing right now on dogma and heresies in programming/programmer culture. Reading it on my Kindle and I've "dog-eared" hundreds of lines using the notes features.

That said it doesn't maintain the altitude. I'm up to Peyton-Jones and its starting to be a bit of a slog.
Jeroen Vaelen
Dec 20, 2015 Jeroen Vaelen rated it really liked it
Valuable resource for programmers who take their work seriously. Throughout the book, the interviewer asks interesting and practical questions. Learning about the perspective of different coders that have proven their worth gives new insights that can help anyone grow in their own development as a software developer.
Apr 25, 2015 Ahmed rated it really liked it
A bit long on some of the interviews, but a great insight into the minds of highly skilled programmers and how the get stuff done/learn/improve the field forward. If you're into Computer Science or Programming is a good book to have on the nightstand and come back to it at least once a week to read a chapter.
Jun 13, 2013 Nat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-ten
This book is fantastic. It has easy chunks to get through and each interview is with someone very interesting. You get a view into the lives of people who all experienced computers a different way and helped affect the art of programming.
Jun 12, 2013 Robb rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
This is really tough to keep reading. First chapter (Zawinski) just wanders - It's just a transcript of an interview, no synthesis (so far).
Apr 26, 2015 Krzysztof rated it really liked it
The book consist of interviews with 16 famous programmers. The interviewer himself seems to have programming background as well. His questions are about how did programmers start with programming, how do they structure their code, how well do they work with others etc. Each interview reveals a story about achievements in their lives like inventing a widely-used programming language or coming up with a solution to scale first(?) social networking application. The book may be interesting for someo ...more
Dec 31, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing
The best book that I read all year was also the best book I read all year.

Apr 01, 2013 Joan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: programming
A must read for every programmer.
Deiwin Sarjas
Jul 19, 2016 Deiwin Sarjas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the presented viewpoints to be very interesting and at times entertaining. I was looking forward to reading more about how younger but established programmers work, but wasn't disappointed by the highly experienced perspectives I ended up reading.

Some interesting commonalities I found between some or all of the authors
a) that I agree with:
- They find ability to write good prose to be both important and a great deal similar to writing good code.
- They think reading other people's code
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  • Masterminds of Programming: Conversations with the Creators of Major Programming Languages
  • Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think
  • Programming Pearls
  • The Practice of Programming
  • The Passionate Programmer
  • Seven Languages in Seven Weeks
  • 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts
  • Joel on Software
  • The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist
  • The Architecture of Open Source Applications
  • Hacker's Delight
  • The Joy of Clojure
  • Working Effectively with Legacy Code
  • Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!
  • Real World Haskell: Code You Can Believe In
  • The Little Schemer
  • Elements of Programming
  • Test Driven Development: By Example

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“Zawinski: Sometimes. I end up doing all the sysadmin crap, which I can't stand-I've never liked it. I enjoy working on XScreenSaver because in some ways screen savers-the actual display modes rather than the XScreenSaver framework-are the perfect program because they almost always start from scratch and they do something pretty and there's never a version 2.0. There's very rarely a bug in a screen saver. It crashes-oh, there's a divide-by-zero and you fix that.” 1 likes
“And once I realized that code I write never fucking goes away and I'm going to be a maintainer for life. I get comments about blog posts that are almost 10 years old. "Hey, I found this code. I found a bug," and I'm suddenly maintaining code.” 1 likes
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