- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; Anniversary edition (August 12, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0201835959
- ISBN-13: 978-0201835953
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 294 customer reviews
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The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition) Anniversary Edition
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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
If you have any interest in philosophy, computer science, or good writing, this book is well worth your time. If you are interested in two or three of them, it's a must-read. This is a classic in the software development space and has been extremely influential for many years.
Mr. Brooks' writing style is impeccable; he carefully dissects and examines each topic, with the wit and wisdom merited by such a technical field, yet he does it without using a lot of double-speak or unnecessary "fluff" - not a true text but rather a collection of essays, each chapter comes across as a polished, finished product, well-focused on a single topic.
This particular edition is also highly recommended. It contains four additional chapters: No Silver Bullet, yet another influential essay by Brooks that was not in the original edition; an overview of all his points (the entire book) in an easy-to-digest format; his thoughts 20 years on from writing the original, and how the industry has changed in that time; and finally, his responses to various criticism he has received over the years specifically in response to the "No Silver Bullet" essay.
This is an excellent purchase and a great read.
Despite what the title suggests, however, the above-mentioned topic is but one of many covered by this work. Other topics include the distinction between the "essential" and "accidental" elements of software design; the distinction between building a computer program vs. designing a "programming a systems product" (and the ninefold difference in complexity and time between the two); the quest for software engineering's elusive "silver bullet"; the importance of documentation; the surprisingly small percentage of time that actual writing of code occupies on the timeline of a typical software-development project (as contrasted with time needed for testing and debugging); large teams vs. small "surgical teams" (and why the latter isn't always the answer for all projects); the "buy versus build" dilemma; and many others.
Much of the material in the first several chapters of the book appears obsolete (although there are still valuable principles that can be gleaned). However, in chapter 19 (a kind of "retrospective" chapter added 20 years after the original publication date), Brooks amends much of the out-of-date material, e.g., his earlier views on program size and space metrics (rendered all but irrelevant in this age of multi-gigabyte memory), and the degree to which the (albeit hard-to-predict) personal computer explosion and the growth of the Internet. However, even since the time of the book's revision (1995), further explosions have taken place in the computing industry - most notably with regards to Web 2.0, the ubiquity of data-driven Web applications (these even obsoleting many shrink-wrapped products), Web services, and development methodologies such as Agile and XP - that even chapter 19 may seem a little out-of-date to the modern developer. In spite of this, the principles of the book are still applicable: the chapters on estimation, team size, and the dismantling of the person-month myth are enough to make this tome required reading for developers and managers alike - especially the latter.
I think this is a definite must-read for anyone that programs on large software projects or manages large software projects. Brooks comes right out and says at the beginning that other engineering disciplines already know about all of the project management overhead, which I agree with, because I am in one of those other disciplines. Apparently the programming people don't see it necessary to teach project management as part of a bachelor's degree program, which might explain a lot of the larger programs in the past few decades. I have to admit though, the entire computer industry, both hardware and software, has been through a tumultuous and extraordinarily rapid history. Other disciplines have a much longer history book from which to reflect and design better processes, management or otherwise.
Finally, the prose is dry sometimes awkward, which I suppose is typical of the professor types with delusions of eloquence. Despite that, I thought it was overall an easy read, though not as humorous and engaging as some of the other software books I've been through.
Most recent customer reviews
Amazing how it applies, even today
Brooks has a keen eye for detail, insight