Software Process and Measurement (SPaM Cast) podcaster, author, and Agile Consultant Thomas Cagley ran a re-read Saturday series on Dr. Fred Brook’s classic computer science book “The Mythical Man-Month“.
I replied to all 18 of Thomas’s Mythical Man-Month wordpress Posts.
Essay 7 reply (August 26, 2015) …
Why Did the Tower of Babel Fall?
Reduce the need for communication: Dr. Brooks states the D. L. Parnas has proposed a radical solution (back in 1970s), information hiding in modular programming. A person doesn’t need to know everything, (p. 78) “the programmer is most effective if shielded from, rather than exposed to the details of construction of the system parts other than his (her) own”.
We see this everyday; I can know the time without knowing how the clock works. I can drive a car without knowing how the motor works. I can “leave a reply” without knowing how the web-site works.
My favorite quote from this chapter (p. 80): “Thinkers are rare; doers are rarer; and thinker-doers are rarest.”
Essay 8 reply (August 30, 2015) …
Calling the Shot
Thomas, you nailed this chapter.
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
– Nils Bohr
I like Brooks good-enough estimating rules for his time / situation (p. 93),
“My guidelines in the morass of estimating complexity is that compilers are three times as bad as normal batch application programs, and operation systems are three times as bad as compilers.”
Essay 9 reply (September 06, 2015) …
Ten Pounds in a Five–Pound Package
Thomas to amplify on #3 above and something I see a lot. Brooks (p, 100) “Fostering a total-system, user-oriented attitude may well be the most important function of the programming manager.”
From Lean, we learn the words “may well be” can be replaced by “is”. And for that matter, “programming manager” can be replaced by “everyone”, certainly everyone that strives to provide leadership.
Another quote I like (p. 98) “Like any cost, size itself is not bad, but unnecessary size is”.
Essay 10 reply (September 13, 2015) …
The Documentary Hypothesis
It was the Brook’s reference of Conway’s Law (p. 111), which I was researching months ago, that sparked my interest in re-reading The Mythical Man-Month.
p (112) “But only the written plan is precise and communicable. Such a plan consists of documents on what, when, how much, where, and who.”
Brook’s must have been thinking about project management / project execution when he wrote this. The “why” is missing. We all, on occasion, fall into the trap of assuming the “why” is understood. Or worse, telling people to “just get it done”.
Essay 11 reply (September 20, 2015) …
Plan to Throw One Away
As Thomas states above, Brooks understood the nature of software development and foreshadowed much of what we now call agile.
Brooks also discussed software defects in this chapter, see figure 11.2 (p. 121) “Bug occurrence as a function of release age”
“These things get shaken out, and all goes well for several months. Then the bug rate begins to climb again. Miss Campbell believes this is due to the arrival of users at a new plateau of sophistication”
Essay 12 reply (September 27, 2015) …
There are many ideas to think about this week. I will respond to something that wasn’t around when The Mythical Man-Month was written and take a broader definition of software tools – open-source.
Specifically the open-source that finds its way into the software product / solution being delivered. Security concerns do need to drive the list of software tools / components selected to a smaller and vetted list.
1) Reduce the products attack surface
2) More focused response when security vulnerabilities are found for the organization