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9781400082476

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software

Rosenberg, Scott Author

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Our civilization runs on software. Yet the art of creating it continues to be a dark mystery, even to the experts. To find out why it’s so hard to bend computers to our will, Scott Rosenberg spent three years following a team of maverick software developers—led by Lotus 1-2-3 creator Mitch Kapor—designing a novel personal information manager meant to challenge market leader Microsoft Outlook. Their story takes us through a maze of abrupt
dead ends and exhilarating breakthroughs as they wrestle not only with the abstraction of code, but with the unpredictability of human behavior— especially their own.

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In the 80s, Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine attempted to define the story of the development of a minicomputer: from the new science to the business and nascent culture of electronic hardware and software that was characteristic of that time. Scott Rosenberg's Dreaming in Code draws on Kidder's model as it attempts to document the state of software, the Internet, and everything circa 2006 through the lens of Chandler, an as-yet-unfinished software application for the management of personal information.

The Chandler project--driven by Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development and main author of its 1-2-3 spreadsheet, and later co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation--isn't the primary point of Dreaming in Code, though reading about software people and their social behavior is at least as interesting as reading about that of meerkats or monkeys. Rather, Chandler is a rhetorical device with which Rosenberg takes on the big questions: How do software development teams work (or not)? Why does the reuse of software modules rarely work altogether correctly? Does open-source development by volunteers on the Internet lead to innovation or just insanely bifurcated chaos? Chandler helps his readers think more clearly about all of these issues; however, "answers" to these questions are, of course, not to be had, which is one of his points.

The problem with books about technical subjects that aspire to appeal to a general audience, particularly computers and software, is that such subjects are so far outside the realm of familiarity of most people that the prose bogs down in analogy and metaphor. Rosenberg manages to avoid too much of that and deliver a readable account of software development and culture. --David Wall

From the Inside Flap:

Our civilization runs on software. Yet the art of creating it continues to be a dark mystery, even to the experts, and the greater our ambitions, the more spectacularly we seem to fail.

Big software projects regularly crash and burn--just ask the FBI and the IRS, the Pentagon and the FAA, or any decent-size corporation. The software that runs our personal computers is just as trouble prone: The latest version of Microsoft Windows took years longer than planned, and it will still have mountains of bugs. Never in history have we depended so completely on a product that so few know how to make well.

Why is it so hard to bend computers to our will? Is creating a great program more like building a bridge or making a movie? Why do software projects display an almost metaphysical capacity for making time come to a stop? And will there ever be a bug-free program?

To answer such questions, Scott Rosenberg spent three years following a group of men and women--led by Lotus 1-2-3 creator Mitch Kapor--who are developing a novel personal information manager named Chandler (as in Raymond) meant to challenge market-leader Microsoft Outlook with elegant innovations. Their goal: to build something truly different--an application versatile enough to allow you to take emails, appointments, and notes and effortlessly transform one into another, organizing and displaying them as you please.

The team included legendary programmer Andy Hertzfeld, author of much of the original Macintosh operating system, and Lou Montulli, the Netscape cofounder who invented the Web browser "cookie." Chandler's first manager, Michael Toy, dreamed of speedy releases but found himself stuck in quicksand; its second, Katie Parlante, resolutely held together a crew of gifted but stubborn programmers--including John Anderson, a philosophical coder who frequently found himself chasing elusive bugs down "ratholes," and Andi Vajda, a database expert who once hacked open his high school's minicomputer and found his future inside.

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 methods, both brilliant and misguided, that litter the history of software development, from the famous "mythical man-month" to Extreme Programming.

Not just for technophiles but for anyone captivated by the drama of invention, Dreaming in Code offers a window into both the information age and the workings of the human mind.

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Rosenberg, Scott Author
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Book Description Crown Business, 2008. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "Technology people like to call complicated problems 'nontrivial.' Scott Rosenberg has taken an extremely nontrivial topic and made it accessible. He plainly admires the people who create code, but shows them as the complex, flawed beings we all are- and how human talents, quirks and passions become part of what people create. Dreaming in Code is stellar reporting and writing." Dan Gillmor, Director, Center for Citizen Media and author of We the Media "We live in a world increasingly governed by the near-invisible logic of software, and yet most of us know almost nothing about that hidden world inside our computers. Dreaming in Code is a fascinating and sobering exploration of how the challenges of programming both inspire and undermine our human drive to create new tools. Beautifully written, it's a book for anyone interested in the roots of creativity and innovation, for coders and non-coders alike." Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Emergence "The great software genius Bill Joy likes to say that writing software is like building a cathedral: It's art, science, architecture, and manual labor all rolled into one. Dreaming in Code illuminates the truth of that metaphor in all its subtlety and fullness. It has drama, comedy, pathos, and poignancy- and its center, in Mitch Kapor, is one of the most fascinating and yet least understood figures of the digital revolution. It's also so smart and insightful on its subject as any book I know." John Heilemann, New York Magazine columnist and author of Pride Before The Fall: Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era "Dreaming in Code is the first true successor to Tracy Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, and is written with a combination of technical sophistication and narrative skill not seen in many years. Read it to understand what all these software wizards actually do." James Fallos, The Atlantic "Dreaming in Code bravely goes where no nonprogrammer has dared to go before: into the whirlwind where human imagination struggles to become code. Scott Rosenberg brilliantly interweaves the story of a start-up software company with the history of our (endless) attempts to rationalize the process of programming. He brings the reader close to the programmers: to root for them, then worry for them, as their project begins falling into all the old traps. Yet Rosenberg's admiration for the visionaries and coders shines through, until one almost believes they will one day succeed at creating their own 'Key To All Mythologies,' their repository of all things digital. Most people do not understand what goes into the creation of computer software, but now they will." Ellen Ullman, author of Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents From the Hardcover edition. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_1400082471

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Book Description Three Rivers Press. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 1400082471 A noted journalist chronicles three years in the lives of a team of maverick software developers, led by Lotus 1-2-3 creator Mitch Kapor, intent on creating a revolutionary personal information manager to challenge Microsoft Outlook. Reprint. 30,000 first printing. Bookseller Inventory # 4122352

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 201 x 130 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. Our civilization runs on software. Yet the art of creating it continues to be a dark mystery, even to the experts. To find out why it s so hard to bend computers to our will, Scott Rosenberg spent three years following a team of maverick software developers--led by Lotus 1-2-3 creator Mitch Kapor--designing a novel personal information manager meant to challenge market leader Microsoft Outlook. Their story takes us through a maze of abrupt dead ends and exhilarating breakthroughs as they wrestle not only with the abstraction of code, but with the unpredictability of human behavior-- especially their own. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781400082476

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Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. 132mm x 23mm x 203mm. Paperback. Our civilization runs on software. Yet the art of creating it continues to be a dark mystery, even to the experts. To find out why it's so hard to bend computers to our will, Scott Rosenbe.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 403 pages. 0.363. Bookseller Inventory # 9781400082476

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 201 x 130 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. Our civilization runs on software. Yet the art of creating it continues to be a dark mystery, even to the experts. To find out why it s so hard to bend computers to our will, Scott Rosenberg spent three years following a team of maverick software developers--led by Lotus 1-2-3 creator Mitch Kapor--designing a novel personal information manager meant to challenge market leader Microsoft Outlook. Their story takes us through a maze of abrupt dead ends and exhilarating breakthroughs as they wrestle not only with the abstraction of code, but with the unpredictability of human behavior-- especially their own. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781400082476

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