Austin Computer Book Club

Vote: Our March Book

Time again to pick our next book, and I thought we’d try something a little different, and maybe simpler. Instead of taking the best two of four, and having a pretty long wait to get to that second title, let’s just pick one from three. (Second-place books will have another shot in the following poll, just as third-place books always have.)

So – look over these selections and rank your preference using the form at the bottom of the post. Voting closes at noon on the Friday following this month’s meetup: January 25. (And if you come to the meeting, you get a bonus vote…)

Life in Code Life In Code, by Ellen Ullman

– A Personal History of Technology, by Ellen Ullman
320 pages, 2017, $10-$17
On Goodreads; Amazon; Audible

When Ellen Ullman moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s and went on to become a computer programmer, she was joining a small, idealistic, and almost exclusively male cadre that aspired to genuinely change the world. In 1997 Ullman wrote Close to the Machine, the now classic and still definitive account of life as a coder at the birth of what would be a sweeping technological, cultural, and financial revolution.

Twenty years later, the story Ullman recounts is neither one of unbridled triumph nor a nostalgic denial of progress. It is necessarily the story of digital technology’s loss of innocence as it entered the cultural mainstream, and it is a personal reckoning with all that has changed, and so much that hasn’t. Life in Code is an essential text toward our understanding of the last twenty years—and the next twenty.

Becoming a Better Programmer "Becoming A Better Programmer" book cover

– A Handbook for People Who Care About Code, by Pete Goodliffe
341 pages, 2014, $9-$28
On Goodreads; Amazon; Safari Books Online

If you’re passionate about programming and want to get better at it, you’ve come to the right source. Code Craft author Pete Goodliffe presents a collection of useful techniques and approaches to the art and craft of programming that will help boost your career and your well-being.

Goodliffe presents sound advice that he’s learned in 15 years of professional programming. The book’s standalone chapters span the range of a software developer’s life—dealing with code, learning the trade, and improving performance—with no language or industry bias. Whether you’re a seasoned developer, a neophyte professional, or a hobbyist, you’ll find valuable tips in five independent categories.

Data and Goliath "Data and Goliath" book cover

– The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, by Bruce Schneier
400 pages, 2015,
On Goodreads; Amazon; Audible

Your online and in-store purchasing patterns are recorded, and reveal if you’re unemployed, sick, or pregnant. Google knows what you’re thinking because it saves your private searches. Facebook can determine your sexual orientation without you ever mentioning it.

The powers that surveil us do more than simply store this information. Corporations use surveillance to manipulate not only the news articles and advertisements we each see, but also the prices we’re offered. Governments use surveillance to discriminate, censor, chill free speech, and put people in danger worldwide.

Much of this is voluntary, but have we given up more than we’ve gained? In Data and Goliath, security expert Bruce Schneier offers another path, one that values both security and privacy. He shows us exactly what we can do to reform our government surveillance programs and shake up surveillance-based business models, while also providing tips for you to protect your privacy every day.


[Survey closed!]

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