Author: Scott Rosenberg
Publisher: Crown Publishers,2007
Aimed at: Those with interest in development process
Pros: An insight into a real-world project
Cons: Not an inspirational experience
Reviewed by: Mike James
Scott Rosenberg “embedded” himself in the Chandler project to write the definitive book of the software generation. The result is “Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software” which tries its best to explain why software is hard. It documents the personalities and the places where the work was done in an entertaining way but if you program you might well find it a very frustrating read - not because its a bad book but because the subject matter should move you to want to "do something"..
The project is an idealistic open source adventure to create great code and as such it’s untypical as there is no management or real commercial pressure getting in the way. If the project is untypical then so are the characters involved as they seem to prefer doing almost anything to actually coding. It's as if this is there one chance to get it really right and they don't want to commit to realising the software..
They spend great swathes of time contemplating how to do something or, even worse, exactly what Chandler should to do. If you program there will be times when you simply want to reach out and grab the project from them and write a few thousand lines of code yourself. You can’t create great software unless you have a vision and are driven to realise it. None of the people, including some legends of software, seem to be able to make that leap and just do it, and do it right because they know what they want. Clearly they are capable of doing so in the right environment so it must be the situation. It seems not to be enough to get a bunch of good or great programmers together in one place.
What is really surprising is that these guys have it all, in the sense of the opportunity of a lifetime and yet still can’t manage to create anything much. Even so the book is worth reading if only to discover how the “other half” live and exactly why it can go wrong even with so many resources and so much management. It is the flaw that is fascinating.