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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting insight
This book is a set of informal interviews with a variety of well-known programmers. Peter Seibel's interviewing style is informed and probing and yet he covers similar topics in each interview, which makes for interesting comparisons. The style is like a drama with a number of actors rather than dry prose, which takes a little getting used to.

Some of the...
Published on 1 Nov 2009 by Mr. G. Normington

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A collection of interviews
This book is literally the transcription of 15 interviews, do not expect more than that. Interviewed are fifteen programmers who have left a visible imprint on the world of programming as it stands now. The author reminds us in a short introduction that the field of computer programming is only 70 years old and a large part of the programmers he interviews started in the...
Published on 6 Feb 2010 by Olivier Andre


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting insight, 1 Nov 2009
By 
Mr. G. Normington (Winchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is a set of informal interviews with a variety of well-known programmers. Peter Seibel's interviewing style is informed and probing and yet he covers similar topics in each interview, which makes for interesting comparisons. The style is like a drama with a number of actors rather than dry prose, which takes a little getting used to.

Some of the interviewees are clearly brilliant individuals, others would like us to think they are, and yet others are open and humble - which makes them all the more likeable.

What came across most to me was the common love of programming in these people and how they found their way into their various areas of expertise. Reading the book increases my confidence in my own abilities as I can relate to many of the stories described. There are times of inspiration, but lots of hard work and application to build successful software.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the craft of programming and what makes programmers tick. It helps practising programmers, like myself, reflect on the essence of what we do and why it is so enjoyable.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A collection of interviews, 6 Feb 2010
By 
Olivier Andre - See all my reviews
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This book is literally the transcription of 15 interviews, do not expect more than that. Interviewed are fifteen programmers who have left a visible imprint on the world of programming as it stands now. The author reminds us in a short introduction that the field of computer programming is only 70 years old and a large part of the programmers he interviews started in the field punching cards roughly 40 years ago. The author asks similar questions to all his interlocutors enabling the reader to draw comparison on some topics such as: How do you proceed when you write new code? How do you debug code? How do you approach other coders programs? What do you look for when hiring programmers? How did you start coding...

I read that book cover to cover, in places it could have been better edited. In terms of content, I found it both interesting and lacking. Interesting, because the programmers interviewed achieved a lot and one always gain something from learning about the circumstances of those achievements. On the lacking side of my impression, well it is hard to define: The author promises on the back-cover to give us insight into how great programmers learned how to code and how they go about programming and he certainly delivers that in their own words, but, as could be expected, out of 15 interviews you get 15 different answers and it is impossible to draw any conclusion.

In a sense I am not sure the question "how do you code?" has a lot of meaning, I get the feeling that it is similar to asking mathematicians how they think when they do mathematics. In the end it probably is the body of produced code that should be the focus of our interest and actually, quite a few of the programmers interviewed in the book mentioned that they themselves devoted time to reading other programmers code to further their mastery of the field (or satisfy their curiosity about how programs, be they compilers or applications, work). I think the book would have gained from leaving aside the questions of how the interviewed programmers code and focusing more (because there is some of that in the book) on their opinions about the evolution of their different fields of expertise.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, dip into it at random or read it cover to cover., 24 Oct 2009
By 
J. Erlank (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is like a history textbook of the computing generation.

It's basically a collection of interviews with notable programmers, done in a very natural and readable style. If you're a techie, or you're in the technology industry in any way, then you should read it to get a sense of where "it" all came from, and especially to hear from some of the people who made it happen.

The contrast between the different interviews is interesting in its own right - you can go from one guy to the next to get a completely different or even opposing viewpoint, so the end result is a broad perspective.

It made me nostalgic for those days I spent hunched over a ZX Spectrum keyboard POKEing memory to see what happened :-)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming, 16 Dec 2012
By 
J. Bond "Xelous" (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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Having looked at this book time and again, I was waiting for Santa to bring some vouchers and pick it up, its sat on my wishlist to that effect for weeks. Luckily a friend already had a copy and I've had a good old read... Thank goodness...

The book is okay, it does contain simple straight forward interviews between the author and the programmers at hand, but the interviews are not really what I was expecting. I had expected pearls of wisdom, some insight into the work at hand, instead the interviews are very much more about the programmers past, what they did in a sort of poor biographical style, not very technical at all.

Even the interview with Ken Thompson, the main one I was interested in reading, is not very technically insightful at all.

This is perhaps my fault, I did expect a lot from this book, most of which being a technical insight, but there simply is none. So, if this might be why you want to read this, don't buy it. If you check out say the interview with Bjarne Stroustrup over at BigThink (you can see this on youtube also) regarding the development of C++, that's the kind of thing I expected this to be, or some sort of coverage of "we had to solve X problem to ship Y product on Z platform" and this is how I did it, but there's little to none of this.

The writing style was okay, and the interviews had small snippets of interest, but on the whole I found it hard to read all this book, I have however read it all, and I'm so glad I didn't actually buy it, my friend can have their copy back and good luck to them, very mediocre fair.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The concept sounds good but in reality it's rather dull, 19 Mar 2014
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As a coder I bought this because Joel Spolsky said I should. And it does have moments of interest but mainly it's fairly dull and rambling. Coders chatting about stuff might sound good but unless they're solving the sort of problems you face every day it's pretty uninteresting and of little value. I've read about half on my Kindle but I doubt I'll read the rest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars stories, perspectives and experiences that make you think, 5 May 2011
I'm a professional software developer for about 11 years. I have some stories and ideas about software development and programming in specific. I got acquainted with the writing style of Peter Seibel by reading his Practical Common Lisp book.

This book with its 15 well conducted interviews with several of the top programmers of our days contains rich and very interesting stories on software development. It has also perspectives by these programmers on the field of computing and software development in particular.

A very good thing is the personal perspective on how these persons attack a software development project. How do they recognize other good programmers for hiring. What do they think is beautiful code, etc.

I read it cover to cover and I might read it again in about one year, a full interview each time (i.e., in a more disciplined way than I did it in the first time).

There are funny stories (1st interview with Jamie Zawinski), deep perspectives on what and how should be the programming experience (Dan Ingalls and Donald Knuth) and what his programming more related to (maths, art, music, etc in all interviews).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable insight into how real programmers think, 10 Mar 2011
By 
Marcus (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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A book of interviews with programmers: why would that be interesting? It is because Siebel asks just the sorts of practical questions you would want to ask if you were face to face with Donald Knuth, or the other great practitioners of the craft in this book. How do you do debugging? Where do you use asserts? What questions do you ask at interviews? This book should rate alongside The Little Lisper or The Art of Computer Programming as one of the must-buy books for programmers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone interested in the craft of programming, 17 Sep 2010
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J Root - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this book. Each of the interviees had an interesting tale to tell and the questions Siebel asks are well targeted to bring these out. While not an overly technical book there is enough depth here to give an insight into how different the programming process is for different people and how their approaches differ.

While there are some interesting lessons to learn from these experiences, this is not a book about learning programming skills but about the history,thoughts and motivations of programmers who have demonstrated their ability through the significant projects they have been involved in.

The interviews seemed about the right length to me and I found this format made it a good book to dip into occasionally, partly to ration it out otherwise I'd have read it all in one go!

Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look into what makes these software pioneers tick, 6 Dec 2009
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I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, especially the parts where people like Donald Knuth tell of their learning processes, how they came to think about the profession and how they cope with the intellectual challenges of this line of work. It will probably also mean that I will pick up some programming for fun again. This book will interest anyone who has ever programmed professionally and should also be on the reading list of people trying to manage software projects or even companies, to understand what a great profession software development is.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just go buy this book, 12 Oct 2009
By 
Vishal Vatsa (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This is one of those quintessential books that all Software Engineers need to read.
It will help validate and correct many of the foibles that we pick up throughout our professional life.

I can't recommend this book enough.
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