Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book review: The Mythical Man-Month (by Frederick P. Brooks)

January 8, 2011, No Comments

The book is 35 years old and it shows in many places. What is fascinating in the book is not so much the solutions that they came up with at that time (obviously some technology hasn’t been around at that time), but that many of the problems they faced are still problems today.

For example in the chapter “Why did the tower of Babel fail?” he writes:

“So it is today. Schedule disaster, functional misfits, and system bugs all arise because the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. As work proceeds, the several teams slowly change the functions, sizes, and speed of their own programs, and they explicitly or implicitly change their assumptions about the inputs available and the uses to be made of outputs.”

His suggestion to using the telephone often, regular project meetings and a (physical) workbook (that needs to updated by each engineer) are outdated of course. However it is interesting to see, that he pointed his finger on a big problem that is still valid today. We’re still looking to solve that. In the meantime, a lot of things have addressed these concerns: Javadoc, Wikis, Design by contract, Unit tests etc.

So if you decide to read this book and expect to get solutions out of it, you will probably be disappointed. But you will be amazed, that many of the big problems from back then are actually still big problems today. Even more, they seem to be problems that still catch projects by surprise as they rediscover them. In that regard, the time spent reading this small book is time very well spent!

Secrets of Consulting - Gerald Weinberg

May 1, 2005, No Comments

As the subtitle of this book suggests, it contains a lot of thoughts about how and when you should give advice. It also says why this is the case.

You have to know: as a programmer I never understood why nothing ever happened when I pointed out a problem. I never understood why people wouldn’t embrace my idea to solve their problem. I hoped I would find answers to this (and similar) questions in the book - and I wasn’t disappointed!

The book itself is well written, humorous and has a lot of little stories that illustrate the points the author wants to make. After reading the book I found variations of those stories happening in my environment - and by remembering the stories, I was sometimes able to remember the advice.

I really enjoyed to read this book and quickly finished it. I’m sure I will reread it again some time in the future. Too bad I didn’t read this book a few years ago, when I tried to move the company I was working for in the direction I thought best. I now have a better understanding of why things didn’t go my way.

There is so much good advice in this book and it is such a quick read, that I recommend you get a copy yourself. You probably get your moneys worth even if you are not a consultant (which I am not either) or planning to become one.

Author Gerald M. Weinberg
Title The Secrets of consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully
Pages 248
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