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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

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,033 ratings  ·  239 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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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  3,033 ratings  ·  239 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm a developer and this book was a little painful for me to read. Dreaming in Code covers the development of Chandler, an ambitious project that fell very short of its goals.

There were lots of points in the book where I wanted to yell "What the heck are you doing!?" It seemed like a textbook trainwreck of what not to do in a software project.

What I found valuable is that the author is a journalist and not a programmer so he was able to provide a different lens for viewing the successes and fail
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
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
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
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
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
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
Irena Pasvinter
Dec 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: my-audio-books
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
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
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
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
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
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry, but I found this book to be terribly boring and not very informative. In a deeply ironic way, the book seems to share the predicament of the failed software project it describes: it keeps on meandering without getting anywhere. I kept hoping for some turning point or climax, but instead it just sort of petered out into nothingness. ...more
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
Costin Manda
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
In my own quest to find interesting books that would help me understand my place as a software developer I've stumbled upon Dreaming in Code, something I knew nothing about other than it featured the word "code" in the title. It had to be good!

Book cover In the end the book surpassed my expectations by describing software from a totally different point of view than the programming books I am used to. Dreaming in Code is not a technical book. It can be read by software developers and bored housew
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
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
Josh Hamacher
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: computers
I only became aware of Chandler after the project was already dead; I remember downloading it once, finding it useless, and moving on. I had been looking for the kind of program that it originally promised to be, a PIM to end all PIMs. I have not yet found such a program even now.

I expected this book to be a post-mortem about what went wrong. It was not. The author actually wrote it during the first three years of Chandler's development, when expectations were high and optimism reigned supreme.
Zhenia Vasiliev
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
An informative investigation into the life of one software project (Chandler at the Open Source Applications Foundation), written in a lively form of an autoethnographic study. Contains a plethora of digressions into the historical and practical topics, explaining theories of programming paradigms, notable figures in history of computing and the practices of software production which are as relevant today as they were over a decade ago when the book came out. All of these components come togethe ...more
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
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, it, 2017
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
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 -
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
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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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