Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Book Review: "Dreaming in Code"

I took my daughter to the library a couple of weeks ago. As we were walking toward the checkout line, I realized that I needed something to read, too, and looked at the books on the nearby "New Arrivals" stand. A title "Dreaming in Code" caught my attention. Brief look at the back cover confirmed that the book was indeed about software development. A non-technical book on software development written by a journalist? You don't see that every day. I borrowed "Dreaming in Code" from the library and I'm certainly glad I did.

After spending over a decade in the industry I knew from experience that most software projects are delivered either late, way over budget, or with significantly reduced features. I have read "The Mythical Man-Month" and understood that there are dark forces at play. Still, deep in my heart I believed that somehow somewhere exists a group of people that knows exactly how to avoid all common project pitfalls. Wouldn't it be great to learn who they are and how they do it?

Scott Rosenberg's book follows the life of one project launched in the heart of Silicon Valley by none other than Mitchell Kapor, creator of Lotus 1-2-3. The idea was to create a revolutionary personal information manager that would also be cross-platform and open-source. Kapor personally financed the venture, so there was no pressure from the "suits". Some of the brightest programmers started to work for Open Source Applications Foundation. And yet the project (code-named "Chandler") had its share of disappointments, delays, and trade-offs. Six years from launch, it is currently at version 0.7 alpha 4 which contains only the calendar (original vision also includes email, tasks, notes, and contact management).

"Dreaming in Code" is much more than a chronicle of Chandler and OSAF, though. It weaves into its storyline short essays that introduce reader to concepts like open-source development, structural and object-oriented programming, methodologies such as capability maturity model and agile. The book contains quotes from Engelbart, Raymond, Knuth, Brooks, Dijkstra, and many many other outstanding people. I guarantee you will learn something by reading it.

Book's website http://www.dreamingincode.com/ has links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

1 comment:

Sasilvia said...

Well said.