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Dreaming in Code
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About the Author

Scott Rosenberg is a writer and editor who started making web pages in 1994 as an editor of the San Francisco Free Press and as a co-founder of Salon in 1995, where he was both a technology and managing editor. He began blogging in 2002, and is currently a contributor to Backchannel, Steven Levy's technology-focused publication. His book, Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters, tells the story of blogging. His follow-up, Dreaming in Code, discusses software development and its discontents.

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Software is easy to make, except when you want it to do something new," Rosenberg observes-but the catch is that "the only software worth making is software that does something new." This two-tiered insight comes from years of observing a team led by Mitch Kapor (the creator of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet) in its efforts to create a "personal information manager" that can handle to-do lists as easily as events scheduling and address books. Rosenberg's fly-on-the-wall reporting deftly charts the course taken by Kapor's Open Source Applications Foundation, while acknowledging that every software programmer finds his or her own unique path to a brick wall in the development process. (The software is still in development even now.) With equal enthusiasm, Rosenberg digs into the history of the computer industry's efforts to make programming a more efficient process. Though there's a lot of technical information, it's presented in very accessible terms, primarily through the context of project management. Even readers whose computer expertise ends at retrieving their e-mail will be able to enjoy digressions into arcane subjects like object-oriented programming. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Salon.com cofounder Rosenberg asks, "Why is good software so hard to make?" and answers the question by telling the tale of a group of programmers using open-source software to create a "killer PIM (Personal Information Management) application." Throughout, he interweaves historical developments in programming languages, methods for writing and documenting code, project-management theories, and predictions for the future of programming. In addition, he introduces the reader to programming concepts and an amazing cast of characters from the past and present. Though anyone who has worked on a programming project will appreciate this educational and entertaining work, the subject is one that laypeople will also enjoy. An index and detailed notes for each chapter round out the volume and prove useful for those wanting more information. A good read; highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Colleen Cuddy, NYU Sch. of Medicine Lib. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"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

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