Dreaming in Code: sound and vision

Today Mark Frauenfelder chatted with me for a while on Skype and then whipped our interview around into a fine little podcast (here’s the direct MP3 link), part of his “Get Illuminated” series. (My interview succeeds talks with Douglas Rushkoff, Rudy Rucker, Loren Coleman and Steven Levy — extraordinary company!)

Mark described Dreaming in Code as “addictively good reading” — a compliment that bears special weight from the founder of the blog that, more than any other, has defined the addictions of the mid-2000s Internet. More important to me, I’m happy to get word about Dreaming in Code out to the devotees of what we used to call “digital culture” (I was calling it that in the San Francisco Examiner way back in the early ’90s, when the term tended to elicit strange looks). It’s as much a book about the culture around software development as it is about programming itself, and that aspect so far has been a little overlooked.

Since we’re talking multimedia manifestations, this is probably a fine place to post links to videos of two of my talks that are now available. Here’s my talk at Microsoft Research, and here’s my talk at Google. Please note that these are very similar 35-40 minute presentations, though the Q&A sessions — and the camera angles — are different. (The Microsoft link, alas, won’t work except in IE, because they’ve done something proprietary in how they’ve hooked up the presentation video and the slides.)

My talks describe how I came to write the book and discuss its themes. They make reference to Ibsen’s Master Builder and the Sumer game, and Ellen Ullman and Link Wray, and various other things. And they explore a couple of points in depth that really aren’t in the book at all: Does Web-based software invalidate the “software is hard” problems? (My answer: it solves many of the previous generation’s problems, but opens us up to a bunch of new ones.) And what would happen if software developers treated the bugs they face daily as opportunities? What if “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature” weren’t a sarcastic joke, but rather a kind of wisdom? (If you don’t want to hear me blab about the book but are interested in these points, you’ll find the Web-based software argument in the Google video at around 17:50, and the discussion about bugs and creativity at 30:00.)

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  1. Jessica Weissman

    Not sure where else to make this comment, but the programmer/novelist category you mention has at least one other prominent exponent: Richard Powers. He made his living as a programmer for several years before he started writing, and his books include several convincing descriptions of what programming is like for programmers. Try Plowing the Dark, for one.

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