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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 ·  2,765 ratings  ·  237 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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Eric_W
May 02, 2009 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
...more
David
Oct 25, 2009 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
...more
Rustam
Jun 20, 2008 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
...more
Craig Cecil
Feb 24, 2012 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
Susan
Oct 30, 2009 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
...more
Nick Black
Dec 05, 2007 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
Jacques Bezuidenhout
Enjoyed listening to this book.
It touches on a lot of issues in a software developer/managers life.

The problem that I had, was this book mostly state all the problems, without giving any helpful solutions to try out.
That and the fact that the main case-study was still in early stages of development by the time the book was completed.

Besides mostly not getting anything valuable out of the book, it is a breath of fresh air that you are not alone in having certain problems.
And basically that there
...more
Kian
May 18, 2008 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
Gingeraltoids
Sep 06, 2008 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
...more
Brittany
Apr 22, 2009 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
...more
Al Swanson
Mar 30, 2009 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
...more
Lorenz Klopfenstein
Great book, very interesting. The main topics are many of the technical and not-so technical aspects of software development, explained clearly and in an understandable way, even for non-programmers.
Sometimes reading about the development cycles of "Chandler" is quite exasperating, as the people commit all sorts of errors (as programmers or as humans) while you scream "don't do that" in your head. But while one of the programmers decides for the n-th time to change the "object storage system", y
...more
Topher
Oct 03, 2007 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
...more
Philip Hollenback
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: computer, history
This was an ok examination of the difficulties of actually developing software. My biggest complaint is that (view spoiler) ...more
Joseph
Aug 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Very well written book with some insights into the difficulty of creating large complex programs.
Jessie Young
Aug 04, 2012 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
...more
Venkatesh-Prasad
If there is only one thing I can to say about this book, then it is “This should be a must read for software developers, software product managers, and software engineering CS students.” Yes, it is that good.

The book chronicles the development of a personal information manager software named Chandler in early 2000. It does so in the light of how we view, have dealt, and are dealing with software engineering and its woes.

While it talks some about code, its narrative about people developing the so
...more
Greg Stoll
Mar 07, 2017 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
...more
Mihai Leonte
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I kept seeing this book getting recommended on Hacker News and I finally decided to give it a go. And it did not disappoint. The book offers a good overall summary of the state of the Software industry - and it’s both a good intro for “laymen” and an interesting book for people who work in the industry. I never heard of Chandler before reading the book, but the startup project quickly grew on me because of the subject-matter (a PIM app - Personal Information Manager), the project being open-sour ...more
Abhishek
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Interestingly enough, the book has 354 references and is comprised of 355 pages in total. This comes as no surprise considering that the author’s primary writing style is to continuously quite another person, paper, article or book. There is little original content in the book. Author’s perspective - if there is much - is probably less than a page of the entire text.

The book also suffers from lack of clarity about the target audience. A non IT person is unlikely to be attracted to “why large so
...more
Irwan
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, finished, it
Making software is hard. That was the general conclusion by the time the book was written in the mid 2000. And now I can testify that it is still hard.

Reading this book is like opening a time capsule. Given the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that the solution that they were chasing is easier solved infra-structurally (a comprehensive PIM application vs web-based/cloud/smartphone app): sharing, interconnectivity of different domains like calendar, todo entries, etc can now easily achieved
...more
Matt
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: computers
I thought this would be a fun read. It details the trials and tribulations of a team of programmers trying to create some world-changing software. Grand ambitions devolved into something far less grand, though. The devil is in the details, as they say, and that derailed the project. What was supposed to take a year to complete took around seven, but with reduced scope.

While informative and entertaining, this book also hit a bit too close to home. It was stressful. As a professional programmer, t
...more
Shirley
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
People joke about how awful JavaScript is but I think I should consider myself lucky to have missed the bad old days of desktop software development. Reading the middle parts of the book, when their schedules were slipping by months and they were missing release deadlines left and right, made me fear that software is doomed. But I can't help being optimistic (ironically, one of the factors mentioned in the book that cause projects to be late is overoptimism about schedules) that things are bette ...more
Ninja
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great exposition on the Chandler team, regarding a specific project, as well as software in general. Didn't check the final mix, but it was feeling like the project was only about a third of the material.
Great references too, from Kay and Lanier, to the coining of Software Engineering and its first conferences. The issues of scale, the comparisons to other disciplines and art vs science.
Whilst it instantiates many instances of pain as the team slip backwards and sideways on their grand vision -
...more
Siddhant
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Donald Knuth once wrote that software is hard. Dreaming in Code captures the essence of this statement in the story of Mitch Kapor and his Open Source Applications Foundation's (OSAF) quest to build a novel personal information manager called Chandler. It tracks Chandler's painful journey, complete with twists and turns, mired in Sisyphean tasks confronting Kapor's team of superstars.
Scott Rosenberg's narrative is interspersed with discussions on software philosophies and methodologies and touch
...more
Manderson
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting read on the complexity and intransigence of software development. I kept thinking about parallels to the enterprise of public education, a similarly complex endeavor in which it is easy to get caught up in the mire, however strong the organization's conviction and drive might be at the outset. Since this particular project, Chandler, that Rosenberg picked ended up coming to naught after he finished his book, you can see him struggling a bit at the end to fit a tidy cap onto the pr ...more
Charlie So-and-so
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Scott Rosenberg does a wonderful job crafting a multilayered and expansive narrative that begins by examining the daily travails of an ambitious team of industry vets and precocious newcomers pursuing the goal of building the One Software To Rule Them All and, in the course of three hundred or so pages, attempts to discover why so many teams with similar ambitions have failed to slay the Development beast.

Well paced, filled with tidbits on the history of software development and even presents p
...more
Igor
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting narrative of the mishaps of software projects. The thing that makes me sad is that almost 15 years have passed and nothing has changed. Everybody is continuously chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow... Software does not need to be an artistically crafted piece of poetry that wows your peers. It just needs to work and provide the minimum lovable product. But goldplatting continues to be the norm...
Dave Cheney
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I was expecting a more thorough documentary of the Chandler development process but the author, having found that after three years the team were only shipping at a glacial pace spends more than half the book in a literature review of the history of software estimation and planning. This may have been interesting in 2006 but 12 years later it has not aged well.

If you were looking for a spiritual sequel to Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, sadly this book is not it.
Onorio Catenacci
A very well written examination of the inherent complexity of software development. Highly recommended reading for anyone trying to understand why software is so hard to build on a schedule.

A very well written examination of the inherent complexity of software development. Highly recommended reading for anyone trying to understand why software is so hard to build on a schedule.
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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
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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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