Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming
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Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,829 ratings  ·  149 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 (first published 2009)
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Joey
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...more
Michael
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...more
Michael Scott
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...more
Mike
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...more
Todd Nemet
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...more
Ben Haley
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
Jim
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...more
Tom
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...more
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...more
Christoffer Ventus
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...more
Michael Hirsch
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.
Dagmar
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
Gabi
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
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...more
Yevgeniy Brikman
A fun read to hear the stories of famous programmers and to understand how they think about their specialties. It's inspiring to see that almost all of them come across as normal, humble people that are started like everyone else. Unfortunately, not all the interview questions brought out interesting responses: the questions that focused on the programmer's expertise and history were great; the canned/rigid questions like "how do you read code" or "do high level degrees matter" were less great,...more
Nat
Jun 13, 2013 Nat rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
Robb
This is really tough to keep reading. First chapter (Zawinski) just wanders - It's just a transcript of an interview, no synthesis (so far).
Michael
The best book that I read all year was also the best book I read all year.

-m
Joan
A must read for every programmer.
Allison
i had to stop about halfway through because i'm having a frustrating couple of weeks at work and the last thing i want to do when i'm relaxing with a book at night is read *more* about programming. the half i read was really interesting, though, and i'm sure i'll come back to this, though i might read it one chapter at a time as opposed to tackling it all at once. seibel interviews various famous programmers, asks them how they got started, how they recognize talent, what they think of unit test...more
Owen Jones
This is a book by a computer programmer interviewing other programmers and is best read by a programmer. In short, it's very good for a specialized audience. Actually, that's a bit exaggerated as anyone with an abiding interest in computer science and software development will learn something from the opinions of those who have shaped it in so many ways. The reader will definitely need some technical knowledge to understand many of the references - not a bad thing, I'm just managing your expecta...more
Daniel
I enjoyed reading this book but I couldn't feel excited about some of the interviews in it. I didn't know some of the technical topics and techniques referenced, that might be the cause for my lack of enthusiasm but I did enjoy reading people like Knuth or Norvig saying 'No, some folks got it totally wrong and that's why the message most people got is not what I meant!'

Something I have been always annoyed with is the lack of relevant background while I went through college courses, it was more a...more
Eva
Peter Seibel interviews 15 giants of the world of computer programming. I pretty much didn't know any of the programmers before, and my programming skills are definitely far from any of their standards, but this book was an amazing read.

The interviews create detailed portraits, zooming in on the craft of programming, and feature everyone's thoughts, opinions, life-stories, tips and tricks about how they program, what languages they use, how they debug, and if they start bottom-up and top-down....more
Matthew
This is an interesting and informative set of interviews, but one of the things that struck me about the lives of many of these coders is that they defied the commonly held belief that the success of the silicon era ignores birth status and education (see Bill Gates as the most famous example). The fact is that while these coders studied many of the same things that I did as a kid (the ones that are my age), the key difference between them and myself was that many of them were born into auspicio...more
Matt
I liked this book but don't necessarily recommend it. I think what's to be gained out of it is personal.

What I really liked about this book: By various definitions, these people are great ones in our field. Or, if that's too strong for you, they've all had their hand in something great. Something that has shaped - directly or indirectly - what programmers do every day.

And they're mostly regular people. Smart? Yes, often genius. Also lucky. I was fascinated at times with the particular eccentrici...more
Jon
I was initially very excited about this book's concept: a collection of interviews with many of computer science's best programmers. Unfortunately, this book is little more than that, and I came away a bit disappointed.

The quality of each individual interview is quite good. The reader gets a good sense of the interviewee's personal story, development philosophy, and personality.

But taken as a whole, the interview format becomes rather repetitive, and there is little to tie the book together othe...more
Grace Yeo
Steele: "If I could change one thing-- this is going to sound stupid-- but if I could go back in time and change one thing, I might try to interest some early preliterate people in not using their thumbs when they count. It could have been the standard, and it would have made a whole lof of things easier in the modern era. On the other hand, we have learned a lot from the struggle with the incompatibility of base-ten with powers of two."

This was both an interesting and informative read, heavy on...more
Sundarraj Kaushik
A wonderful book which gives insight into the thinking of the "Programming" Gurus or the "Coding" Gurus.

Most of them consider Donald Knuth's books "The Art of Computer Programming" as an important set of books to be ready by all programmers.

There is no consensus on if they consider themselves to be a Scientist, a Craftsman, an Artist or an Engineer. Most agree that they are not Scientist although the word "Computer Science" seems to be use freely. If one summarizes their statements it would appe...more
Matt
I loved this book. It's simple -- it's the transcripts of 15 interviews done by Peter Seibel, each one preceded by a one page bio of the interviewee. I felt like I grew as a programmer through the course of reading this book. I learned a lot of computer history (recent and distant), including historial computer politics, which I enjoyed a lot. I also liked that, now and then, the interviewee would mention another one of the interviewees -- it always made me smile to see what they had to say abou...more
Chamara
Coders At Work: Reflections on the craft of programming. I recently got my hands on this wonderful book. Peter Siebel has put in a lot of work compiling a set of interviews that give an interesting glimpse into the minds of some of the greatest names of the history of computing. Fifteen programmers, each of whom had left their mark on computing and helped turn it into what we know today.

I admit I was expecting the interviews to be discussions on each persons view on programming and their approac...more
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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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