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The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition) Paperback – August 12, 1995

ISBN-13: 858-0001065793 ISBN-10: 0201835959 Edition: Anniversary

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; Anniversary edition (August 12, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201835959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201835953
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (234 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

0201835959P04062001

Customer Reviews

A classic book of essays on software development and engineering project management.
Thomas
If you plan on managing software projects and want to know the how and why of the way things turn out, you need to read this book.
Charles
I was initially sceptical that a book on software engineering written twenty-five years ago could still be relevant today.
Adam Rutkowski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

351 of 360 people found the following review helpful By A. Imran on May 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you have managed some software projects or have worked on some non-trivial software systems, undoubtedly you have faced many difficulties and challenges that you thought were unique to your circumstance. But after reading this book, you will realize that many of the things you experienced, and thought were unique problems, are NOT unique to you but are common systemic problems of developing non-trivial software systems. These problems appear repeatedly and even predictably, in project after project, in company after company, regardless of year, whether it's 1967 or 2007.
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.
Conceptual Integrity:
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 Manual:
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.
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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful By B. Scott Andersen on February 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
There are few must reads in this industry. This is one. First published in 1975, this work is as applicable to software engineering today as it was then. Why? Because building things, including software, has always been as much about people as it has been about materials or technology--and people don't change much in only 25 years.

In the preface to the First Edition, Brooks states "This book is a belated answer to Tom Watson's probing question as to why programming is hard to manage." This short book (at just over 300 pages) does a masterful job answering that question.

It is here we first hear of Brooks's Law: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." Brooks doesn't just drop that on the reader without explanation. Instead, he walks through the reasoning, discusses how communication in a group changes as the group changes or grows, and how additions to the group need time to climb the learning curve.

Those new to the industry or who are reading the book for the first time might be put off by the examples and technology discussed. Indeed, even in the newly released edition, the original text from 1975 is still present, essentially untouched. So, talk of OS/360 and 7090s, which permeates the text, is perhaps laughable to those not looking deeper. When talking about trade-offs, for example, Brooks offers "... OS/360 devotes 26 bytes of the permanently resident date-turnover routine to the proper handling of December 31 on leap years (when it is day 366). That might have been left to the operator." This is 26 bytes he's talking about!

Brooks provides a light, almost conversational tone to the prose. This isn't to say the observations and analysis were not very well researched.
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140 of 158 people found the following review helpful By Bruce F. Webster on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In giving testimony before Congress a few years ago on IT issues, I said the following:
"Humanity has been developing information technology for half a century. That experience has taught us this unpleasant truth: virtually every information technology project above a certain size or complexity is significantly late and over budget or fails altogether; those that don't fail are often riddled with defects and difficult to enhance. Fred Brooks explored many of the root causes over twenty years ago in The Mythical Man-Month, a classic book that could be regarded as the Bible of information technology because it is universally known, often quoted, occasionally read, and rarely heeded."
I have been involved in software engineering for over 25 years, have written many articles and even a few books on the subject. Yet every time I think I've discovered some new insight, chances are I can find it tucked away somewhere in The Mythical Man-Month. And the tarpits and other dangers he lays out plague the IT industry today. I wonder when we will grasp and apply the fundamental insights that Brooks, Jerry Weinberg, and others laid out nearly three decades ago. ..bruce..
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Daneman #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a classic, but recently revised and corrected. The amazing thing is how relevant the book still is to software product development. If you are involved in software, this book is a must-read.
The most valuable part of the book, I believe, is the "plan to throw out" prototype chapter. While the goal is always to make a bigger, better, fast whatever, it is almost an axiom that you WILL build something that has to be discarded and reworked. This absolutely happens every time, I can tell you from first-hand experience. Therefore it is vital to plan to throw out so you can migrate your users to whatever will follow. If you dream that the first product is THE ONE, you risk abandoning them on a product that will inevitably evolve. Planning the throw-away also helps meet the schedule goals by setting reasonable milestones that can be met.
In my role as a product manager for a top-selling software product in its class, I found that the Mythical Man-Month was absolutely vital. However, some additional reading is recommended; Walker Royce's Software Project Management was published in 1998 and adds the dimension of software project evolution. This goes into more detail why you can't write all the specifications upfront, and even if you do, they are certain to change by the time the product is released.
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