2010-05-30

Book review: The Mythical Man Month

A classic book about the development and management of large scale software projects. One of the industries veterans shares his experience and his views gathered mainly during the development process of the IBM OS/360 operating system. Yes, this book is more than 20 years old - which makes it even more interesting (or shall I even say: sad?) to see that many of the observed shortcomings and pitfalls are still the industries greatest problems today. Maybe all management and developers alike should be required to read this book prior to getting a job in the field. Although the book does feature some code examples these are few and far in between, it's main focus lies on the coordination and management aspects of software projects. The somewhat poetical title hints at one of the most stressed points, namely that men are not interchangeable and that twice as many engineers don't cut development times in half. Brooks also offers his opinions on the psychological aspects of systems design, backed up by his experience and occasional statistical evidence. This anniversary edition features a review by the author, where he sums up what points he thinks remain valid in hindsight more than twenty years later. I particularly enjoyed a beautiful chapter titled: 'The joys of the craft' where Brooks tries to explain what fascinates and captures him about programming. If you happen to be stuck on a frustrating stretch of your project - read this chapter and you'll feel better - I did.