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The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering (1974)

by Frederick P. Brooks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,083323,243 (4.06)9
Few books on software project management have been as influential and timeless as The Mythical Man-Month. With a blend of software engineering facts and thought-provoking opinions, Fred Brooks offers insight for anyone managing complex projects. These essays draw from his experience as project manager for the IBM System/360 computer family and then for OS/360, its massive software system. Now, 20 years after the initial publication of his book, Brooks has revisited his original ideas and added new thoughts and advice, both for readers already familiar with his work and for readers discovering it for the first time.   The added chapters contain (1) a crisp condensation of all the propositions asserted in the original book, including Brooks' central argument in The Mythical Man-Month: that large programming projects suffer management problems different from small ones due to the division of lab∨ that the conceptual integrity of the product is therefore critical; and that it is difficult but possible to achieve this unity; (2) Brooks' view of these propositions a generation later; (3) a reprint of his classic 1986 paper "No Silver Bullet"; and (4) today's thoughts on the 1986 assertion, "There will be no silver bullet within ten years."… (more)
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» See also 9 mentions

English (30)  Russian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
.
.
About the Author
Preface
Contents
1. The Tar Pit
2. The Mythical Man-Month
3. The Surgical Team
4. Aristocracy, Democracy, and System Design
5. The Second-System Effect
6. Passing the Word
7. Why Did the Tower of Babel Fail?
8. Calling the Shot
9. Ten Pounds in a Five-Pound Sack
10. The Documentary Hypothesis
11. Plan to Throw One Away
12. Sharp Tools
13. The Whole and the Parts
14. Hatching a Catastrophe
15. The Other Face
Epilogue
Notes and References
Index ( )
  knoba | Oct 12, 2020 |
What is relevant about a book, in its second edition, that was originally written a generation or two ago about managing computer projects? The author Brooks led the management of the project for IBM decades ago.

The answer to this question is simple and is evident in the title. Scaling software projects from smaller-to-larger does not scale linearly. In case you don't know what this means, scaling non-linearly means that a project twice as big does not require twice as many "man-months." It more likely requires four times as many "man-months" because of the need for communication among programmers.

Brooks shows the aged wisdom of the idea that computer programming is indeed part communication and not fully mathematical problem solving. Brooks then tries to figure out how to manage projects that are larger and that require more communication. Many of the references are aged and not for those who don't appreciate the history of computation. Nonetheless, for those who like to dabble in history, Brooks' take - always bright - makes us see that the problem of successfully managing software projects is not a new one. Indeed, there are timeless values which undergird technical success.

This anniversary edition includes a retrospective account that evaluates many of the propositions originally put forth decades ago. (Brooks was mostly right, we see.) However, I wish Brooks would also lend some ink - in the light of the additional experience of a couple of decades - to the questions of what makes a software project successful in the first place. Merely being right should fade while understanding timeless values should come to the fore. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
While a classic, the book is obviously dated. Some of the advice is dated and some of it no longer relevant (concerns about tape drives, documentation on microfiche, etc.), but some of it, including the classic advice about adding people slowing down projects, is still relevant. And I have a certain fondness for even the outdated parts, although some of it goes over my head by referencing things I've never heard of (including OS/360, his prime example). ( )
  teknognome | Nov 14, 2016 |
An interesting read of a classic - mostly not relevant to today I would suggest, but some lessons which remain valid. ( )
  rlangston | Feb 8, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brooks, Frederick P.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knight, C. R.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
Dedication of the 1975 edition:
To two who especially enriched my IBM years:
Thomas J. Watson, Jr.,
whose deep concern for people still permeates his company,
and
Bob O. Evans,
whose bold leadeship turned work into adventure.
Dedication of the 1995 edition
To Nancy,
God's gift to me.
First words
No scence from prehistory is quite so vivid as that of the mortal struggles of great beasts in the tar pits.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Few books on software project management have been as influential and timeless as The Mythical Man-Month. With a blend of software engineering facts and thought-provoking opinions, Fred Brooks offers insight for anyone managing complex projects. These essays draw from his experience as project manager for the IBM System/360 computer family and then for OS/360, its massive software system. Now, 20 years after the initial publication of his book, Brooks has revisited his original ideas and added new thoughts and advice, both for readers already familiar with his work and for readers discovering it for the first time.   The added chapters contain (1) a crisp condensation of all the propositions asserted in the original book, including Brooks' central argument in The Mythical Man-Month: that large programming projects suffer management problems different from small ones due to the division of lab∨ that the conceptual integrity of the product is therefore critical; and that it is difficult but possible to achieve this unity; (2) Brooks' view of these propositions a generation later; (3) a reprint of his classic 1986 paper "No Silver Bullet"; and (4) today's thoughts on the 1986 assertion, "There will be no silver bullet within ten years."

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