New: Book Report: Dreaming in Code

Tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day, but I'll probably buy some food. Usually, I Buy Nothing for Buy Nothing Day. To make that work, I stock up on food ahead of time. I was going to do that late Wednesday night, but I was sick then. I guess I could have picked up some leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner just now, but I didn't think of it. So I'll buy some food tomorrow. I guess I can make myself feel like less of a consumer whore if I share this book report on a book I got from the library, Dreaming in Code.

It's a book about software projects and where they bog down. Scott Rosenberg hung out with the Chandler Project for a few years and watched them stagger towards creating a working piece of software. He also talks plenty about software projects in general. I get the impression that this book is supposed to be accessible to the layman, sort of a "Soul of the New Machine" for the aughts. I can't tell whether it succeeds--I've been soaking in this stuff for too long to figure out what does or does not make sense to outsiders. But there's plenty in this book that rings true. I've worked with teams who argued about which approach to take--and argued about it longer than it would have taken them to code up both versions and measure which was faster. (On the other hand, you also worry about programmers who just jump in and spend a week coding using some approach which they would have known couldn't possibly work if only they'd talked with someone about it for five minutes.) Anyhow, reading about another project that bogged down... oh, it was kind of sad. Maybe it's a good thing for folks to read when they wonder why the IRS/FAA/etc can't replace its antiquated software.

The best part of this book was a cameo by Ducky Sherwood. Ducky was an intern at my place of employment after the events described in this book. I talked with her at an ice cream social and she was pretty cool. Since she was an intern I didn't think to ask her about her past--all too many interns can only answer "Well, I've been in school, you know?" (Kinda like when I made the mistake of attending my 5th year high school reunion.) But Ducky's actually worked on plenty of projects. Peeking at her web page now, I see that she's working on her MS in computer science, specializing in... programmer productivity. Hmm, maybe she got tired of working on projects that bogged down.

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Posted 2007-11-22