“Dreaming in Code” – a review


I did not actually read Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software – I listened to it as I pounded treadmills and pulled cross-trainers and so on in the gym.

1-2-3 boingmash... Mark Frauenfelder, Xeni Jar...

1-2-3 boingmash… Mark Frauenfelder, Xeni Jardin, Cory Doctorow and Mitch Kapor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That ought to be a giveaway that it doesn’t actually contain any code or maths or anything else that might require some dedicated concentration, but that does not mean it is not worth reading (or listening to) if you are a programmer, manage programmers or in some way are responsible for the development or purchase of software (it is plain that few or no people at the DWP have read this book – given their travails over the “Universal Credit” project – someone should stick a copy in each minister’s red box pronto).

I have never worked as a professional software developer – though I have written code for money – but still I found this book had a lot of insight, and even manages to explain things such as the halting problem and infinite recursion in a way that non computer scientists are likely to grasp without boring those of us who know what these are.

The book is incomplete, though in that it was written before what looks like the final collapse of the project it describes – the Chandler PIM – in 2008/9 when founder Mitch Kapor withdrew. Chandler sounded like a great idea (like Universal Credit?) but, as the project drags on and on, one begins to wonder what on earth the development team were up to for most of the time they worked on it.

Well worth reading.

One problem about the audio though – I know the American fashion is to mispronounce French words and I don’t want to sound like a European prig (after all this book is about a vital technology in which the US leads the world) – but it goes too far when Albert Camus‘s name is repeatedly made to rhyme with bus!