I think this meeting must have set the record for the number of people who read the book but couldn’t make it along. As I mentioned before, Steven, the person who kept suggesting this book had already read it and posted a review to his blog.
So it was just down to me, Tom and Miquel to discuss Dreaming in Code at the pub. Our discussion was quite short as much of the book covers areas that are well known to software professionals. Miquel kicked off by pointing out that it covered quite a lot of the history of software. There are mentions of Fred Brooks, Dijkstra and Knuth in there.
Tom said that he had downloaded the current version of Chandler (they are at version 0.7) to have a play with. He couldn’t get it to work because it insisted on having an IMAP account to connect to. Otherwise he found it to be much like an ordinary email client.
Miquel said he thought that the project was too ambitious. I agreed but also suggested that one of the problems was that it was too wooly. The spec was little more than “The Soul of Agenda”. In Miquel’s opinion there was too much talk and not enough coding. Tom pointed to the fact that they seemed to spend all of their time building frameworks to do this, that and the other.
I knew that Steven was talking about giving this book to his wife to explain what his job is about. So I asked if people thought it would be a good book for non-coders. Tom wasn’t really sure. He thought that the sections aimed at the non-technical reader would be boring for the technical reader and vice versa. I thought it was pretty good from that angle, but I’m sure how gripping it would be for someone not involved in software development.
Tom thought that the best parts of the book were the short essays that were scattered through it. He would have preferred just to have read them. The story of Chandler was secondary as we already knew how that was going to turn out. Miquel suggested that the Chandler project was just an excuse to write the book.
Finally, I pointed out that it was odd that in the chapter ‘Engineers and Artists’, the author didn’t mention the collection of essays by Paul Graham with almost the same title ‘Hackers and Painters’. The essay which gives its name to the collection covers many of the same themes, especially the debate about whether software development is science/engineering or art/craft.