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The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition) Paperback – Aug 2 1995
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The classic book on the human elements of software engineering. Software tools and development environments may have changed in the 21 years since the first edition of this book, but the peculiarly nonlinear economies of scale in collaborative work and the nature of individuals and groups has not changed an epsilon. If you write code or depend upon those who do, get this book as soon as possible -- from Amazon.com Books, your library, or anyone else. You (and/or your colleagues) will be forever grateful. Very Highest Recommendation.
From the Inside Flap
To my surprise and delight, The Mythical Man-Month continues to be popular after twenty years. Over 250,000 copies are in print. People often ask which of the opinions and recommendations set forth in 1975 I still hold, and which have changed, and how. Whereas I have from time to time addressed that question in lectures, I have long wanted to essay it in writing.
Peter Gordon, now a Publishing Partner at Addison-Wesley, has been working with me patiently and helpfully since 1980. He proposed that we prepare an Anniversary Edition. We decided not to revise the original, but to reprint it untouched (except for trivial corrections) and to augment it with more current thoughts.
Chapter 16 reprints "No Silver Bullet: Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering," a 1986 IFIPS paper that grew out of my experience chairing a Defense Science Board study on military software. My co-authors of that study, and our executive secretary, Robert L. Patrick, were invaluable in bringing me back into touch with real-world large software projects. The paper was reprinted in 1987 in the IEEE Computer magazine, which gave it wide circulation.
"No Silver Bullet" proved provocative. It predicted that a decade would not see any programming technique which would by itself bring an order-of-magnitude improvement in software productivity. The decade has a year to run; my prediction seems safe. "NSB" has stimulated more and more spirited discussion in the literature than has The Mythical Man-Month. Chapter 17, therefore, comments on some of the published critique and updates the opinions set forth in 1986.
In preparing my retrospective and update of The Mythical Man-Month, I was struck by how few of the propositions asserted in it have been critiqued, proven, or disproven by ongoing software engineering research and experience. It proved useful to me now to catalog those propositions in raw form, stripped of supporting arguments and data. In hopes that these bald statements will invite arguments and facts to prove, disprove, update, or refine those propositions, I have included this outline as Chapter 18.
Chapter 19 is the updating essay itself. The reader should be warned that the new opinions are not nearly so well informed by experience in the trenches as the original book was. I have been at work in a university, not industry, and on small-scale projects, not large ones. Since 1986, I have only taught software engineering, not done research in it at all. My research has rather been on virtual reality and its applications.
In preparing this retrospective, I have sought the current views of friends who are indeed at work in software engineering. For a wonderful willingness to share views, to comment thoughtfully on drafts, and to re-educate me, I am indebted to Barry Boehm, Ken Brooks, Dick Case, James Coggins, Tom DeMarco, Jim McCarthy, David Parnas, Earl Wheeler, and Edward Yourdon. Fay Ward has superbly handled the technical production of the new chapters.
I thank Gordon Bell, Bruce Buchanan, Rick Hayes-Roth, my colleagues on the Defense Science Board Task Force on Military Software, and, most especially, David Parnas for their insights and stimulating ideas for, and Rebekah Bierly for technical production of, the paper printed here as Chapter 16. Analyzing the software problem into the categories of essence and accident was inspired by Nancy Greenwood Brooks, who used such analysis in a paper on Suzuki violin pedagogy.
Addison-Wesley's house custom did not permit me to acknowledge in the 1975 Preface the key roles played by their staff. Two persons' contributions should be especially cited: Norman Stanton, then Executive Editor, and Herbert Boes, then Art Director. Boes developed the elegant style, which one reviewer especially cited: "wide margins, and imaginative use of typeface and layout." More important, he also made the crucial recommendation that every chapter have an opening picture. (I had only the Tar Pit and Rheims Cathedral at the time.) Finding the pictures occasioned an extra year's work for me, but I am eternally grateful for the counsel.
Deo soli gloria or Soli Deo Gloria -- To God alone be the glory.
Chapel Hill, N.C., F.
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Top Customer Reviews
You will realize that long before maybe you were even born, other people working at places like IBM had already experienced those problems and quandries. And found working solutions to them which are as valid today as they were 30 years ago.
The suggestions in this book will help you think better and better manage yourself, and be more productive and less wasteful with your time and energy. In short, you will do more with less.
Some of Brooks insights and generalizations are:
The Mythical Man-Month:
Assigning more programmers to a project running behind schedule, may make it even more late.
The Second-System Effect:
The second system an engineer designs is the most bloated system she will EVER design.
To retain conceptual integrity and thereby user-friendliness, a system must have a single architect (or a small system architecture team), completely separate from the implementation team.
The chief architect should produce detailed written specifications for the system in the form of the manual, which leaves no ambiguities about any part of the system and completely specifies the external spcifications of the system i.e.Read more ›
He covers in great detail critical elements such as team structure, development process, conceptual integrity, and scheduling issues (including the myth of the man-month, for which the book is named). Further, since he draws on experience from classic projects such as IBM's OS/360, the book has interesting history as well.
My only issue is that with recent increases in power of PCs and languages, many "projects" are now of such scope that they need only involve a single developer, in which case a different paradigm is needed.
Some key concepts from the book...
- It is not good project management to divide effort by time to come up with staffing. Adding people adds commuications complexity, so double staff size quadruples the amount of communications links.
- To insure conceptual integrity, the software project needs the design to be handled by a very small group of people.
- The optimal model for a software development team is a hospital surgical unit.
- There is no silver bullet for improved quality, just a lot of best practices.
Mr. Brooks brings a wealth of experience to bear on this. As the head of some of IBM's largest operating system development projects, he's been in the guts of some of the hardest challenges the industry has to offer. He writes in a non-technical style that cuts to the heart of these difficult topics.
In the latest edition, Mr. Brooks takes a hard look at what he got right and wrong over the years. This rare self-critical analysis makes it a valuable re-read for those that enjoyed it the first time.
Most recent customer reviews
I found this book amazing for a software manager like me. Because of Brook's real-life experience, I feel his teachings are accurate and to-the-point. Read morePublished on June 25 2012 by gbarrei
This is a timeless classic. A must read for everyone involved in software developement projects.Published on May 12 2004 by Leonidas Giakoumakis
After reading this book, I was sad about the fact that the managing problems developers had during the "classical" days of coding are still prevalent in 21st century. Read morePublished on April 29 2004 by David Baron
I just re-read Mythical Man-Month for the umpteenth time. This book is like a good bottle of scotch, it gets better each time. Read morePublished on Sept. 18 2003 by Eric Kent
I bought the 1st edition many, many years ago, probably back in the early 80s when I was just starting out as a programmer. Read morePublished on March 18 2003 by Julie in Austin
This is a great book for software engineering. However, it is not a reference book for you to learn the SE in general, rather it is a book pushing you hard to think the SE in... Read morePublished on March 10 2003 by CS Doctor
This book is SO good that I am not even certain that I feel honored to have the ability to rate it!
The mythical man-month draws important distinctions between the management... Read more
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