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Software Creativity 2.0 Paperback – November 27, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


Bob Glass is one of these rare individuals in the software business consistently worth listening to. -- Gerald M. Weinberg, 2005

I hope this book will help creativity in our industry to move at least a little beyond lip service. -- Tom DeMarco, from the Foreword

From the Publisher

Dedicated to all the software people trying to change the world.

"...because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." --Jack Kerouac

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 484 pages
  • Publisher: developer.* Books; No Edition Stated edition (November 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977213315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977213313
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,616,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert L. Glass (Bob) has recently done something completely different. He has written a whimsical story based on the Snow White fable in which he takes liberties with the characters involved, including changing their race! The title of the book is Ebony Black and the Seven Giants, and it has just been posted on Amazon as an ebook.

Before this new and odd change, Bob did what he is most well-known for, he meandered the halls of computing for almost 60 years now, starting with a three-year gig in the aerospace industry (at North American Aviation) in 1954-1957, which makes him one of the true pioneers of the software field.

That stay at North American extended into several other aerospace appearances (at Aerojet-General Corp., 1957-1965) and the Boeing Company, 1965-1970 and 1972-1982). His role was largely that of building software tools used by applications specialists. It was an exciting time to be part of the aerospace business - those were the heady days of Space Exploration, after all - but it was an even headier time to be part of the Computing Field. Progress in both fields was rapid, and the vistas were extraterrestrial!

The primary lesson he learned during those aerospace years was that he loved the technology of software, but hated being a manager. He carefully cultivated the role of technical specialist, which had two major impacts on his career - (a) his technical knowledge remained fresh and useful, but (b) his knowledge of management - and his earning power (!) - were diminished commensurately.

When his upwards mobility had reached the inevitable technological Glass ceiling (tee-hee!), Glass took a lateral transition into academe. He taught in the Software Engineering graduate program at Seattle University (1982-1987) and spent a year at the (all-too-academic!) Software Engineering Institute (1987-1988). (He had earlier spent a couple of years (1970-1972) working on a tools-focused research grant at the University of Washington).

The primary lesson he learned during those academic years was that he loved having his Head in the academic side of software engineering, but his Heart remained in its practice. You can take the man out of industry, apparently, but you can't take the industry out of the man. With that new-found wisdom, he began to search for ways to bridge what he had long felt was the "Communication Chasm" between academic computing and its practice.

He found several ways of doing that. Many of his books (over 25) and professional papers (over 90) focus on trying to evaluate academic computing findings and on transitioning those with practical value to industry. (This is decidedly a non-trivial task, and is largely responsible for the contrarian nature of his beliefs and his writings). His lectures and seminars on software engineering focus on both theoretical and best-of-practice findings that are useful to practitioners. His newsletter, The Software Practitioner, treads those same paths. So does the (more academic) Journal of Systems and Software, which he edited for many years for Elsevier (he is now its Editor Emeritus). And so do the columns he has written regularly for such publications as IEEE Software, Information Systems Management, Communications of the ACM, DataBase, and ComputerWorld. Although most of his work is serious and contrarian, a fair portion of it also contains (or even consists of!) computing humor.

With all of that in mind, what are his proudest moments in the computing field? The award, by Linkoping University of Sweden, of his honorary Ph.D. degree in 1995. His being named a Fellow of the ACM professional society in 1999. And his tenure as a semi-regular columnist for those several leading computing publications.

On the personal level, he is the father of two biological and two adopted interracial children (thus began his early interest in matters having to do with race), and he is married to Iris Vessey, an Information Systems academic. In 2005, they moved to Australia, the country of her education, and have lived in the Brisbane area ever since. Recently they moved to the leafy suburb of Toowong, where they live in a condo overlooking the beautiful Brisbane River.

Recent books include Software Conflict 2.0 and Software Creativity 2.0, from developer.* Books, Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering, from Addison-Wesley, and The Dark Dide of Software Engineering, from Wiley/IEEE CS Press.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Steve McConnell on January 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Creativity is mentioned frequently in software discussions, usually with only a bare awareness of the factors that contribute to true creativity and usually with only the most superficial understanding of the role creativity should play in software development.

These common references to creativity might be misguided, but they speak to an important truth: creativity is a topic of central importance to software development, and this seminal book provides a vivid explanation of how and why.

Most of the book is structured as a study in contrasts: discipline vs. flexibility, quantitative vs. qualitative, process vs. product, theory vs. practice, and so on. This is not just a tidy, contrived organizational structure. These contrasts define longstanding, conflicts in software development -- "essential tensions" if you will -- that are not likely to disappear anytime soon. Indeed, the intellectual energy generated by these "essential tensions" prod the explorations and spark the debates that, over time, keep the software industry moving forward. Glass explores these contrasting & conflicting positions with a rare appreciation for the value that both sides contribute to the software field.

Glass's writing style is light which sometimes has the effect of understating the importance of his subject matter. It's easy to breeze through the chapters, viewing the content as entertaining but not particular substantitive. It's only later -- when you see an agile zealot debating a process bigot, or when you a see an academically-authored article bemoaning the poor state of real-world practices -- that you think "none of these people seem to understand what the real issues are," and you realize that you've gained some uncommonly powerful insights from this book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Shawn McKenna on June 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Too often pragmatic concepts in software fall victim to zealot practitioners whose ideology includes panacean promises of one-click programming and ideas that good process guarantees a good product regardless of personnel. Too many people still promote their ideas and methodologies as cure-alls. These people treat software as a franchise with a factory-line assembly and replaceable parts. It is anathema for many to think of software as a creative endeavor. However, this idea that software development lives and breathes with creativity is what software curmudgeon Robert Glass takes on in his sagacious book on software. This book is a newer version of his original 1995 "Software Creativity" which has been unavailable (cheaply) for many years.

This book is divided into four parts. The first part (and I feel the most important of the book) is the exploration of software creativity. Here he takes on nine dichotomous subjects (discipline vs. flexibility, formal methods vs. heuristics, optimizing vs. satisficing, quantitative vs. qualitative, process vs. product, intellectual vs. clerical, theory vs. practice and industry vs. academe, fun vs. serious) and explores the advocates on both sides and tries to find definitive answers (or at least raise more questions).

What I found fascinating about several of these chapters like quantitative vs. qualitative and industry vs. academe is that they can apply to many different industries and not just software. How many times has quantitative reasoning been used in business only to fail miserably in the hands of MBAs? How can academe differ so much from practice (like getting your Juris Doctorate compared to really practicing law)?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By irotas on July 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Can I give it 10 stars?

I could write volumes about this book, but perhaps the most important thing is that it allowed me to rid myself of guilt about not following rigid software process. In the back of my mind, I always knew that software process as I've learned it is impractical and in many cases infeasible. However, it was taught in school as if it's (obviously) the only way, and therefore I had a lingering guilt about not being able to follow it precisely.

Glass speaks with a thundering voice from the practitioner's perspective exactly what is wrong with rigid software process and creativity-stifling management styles. He also explains the evolution of software process, and makes it very clear that we're no where near a satisfactory solution.

Why should you care what Glass has to say? For one, he's been in the software industry longer than most current software developers have been alive. He's also spent many years in academia, and has excellent insights on what's wrong with that side of the fence as well. But, above all, because what he says is true. Every once in a rare while you read something that rings so loudly that it can be nothing else but true. If you're a frustrated software developer, this is that book.

I applaud Glass for presenting such an honest discussion of the role of creativity in software process and management. I have no doubt he's made a few enemies along the way, but the discipline is certainly the better for it.

In short, if you're in the software field, and care at all about the future of the discipline, go out and get a copy of this book and read it cover to cover. Your career and the discipline as a whole will be the better for it.
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