Review: Peopleware, Productive Projects and Teams

PeoplewareHere we go for a review of Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, 2013 (1st edition in 1987) by Tom DeMarco, Tim Lister. Another long overdue review since I read the book twice again since I first decided to write this review.

This is a book about teams of software developers, what makes them produce exceptional software and how (for the management) to avoid being in their way of such a noble aim. To me, this is also the logical sequel to the Mythical Man Month (reviewed here a few years ago).

The core idea is that developing a software product is an intellectual work (of communication and reflection) in an environment (market and technology) that is changing fast.

I would group the other main ideas in the following categories:

  • software projects are unlike traditional ones
  • teams and motivations
  • creativity and change management

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Review: The Mythical “Mythical Man Month”

This is a long overdue review of a long overdue read of the famous software project management book: The Mythical Man Month by Fed. P. Brooks, 1995 (1st ed. 1975).

I’ve heard about it several years ago, about how relevant it still was to current projects and more precisely how well it described what is systematically going wrong in software development. And all of that is true, impressively so !

Despite the vintage touch you can expect from a software-related book written at the dawn of software development (1975 !), the permanent disbelief of even the best educated developers toward the unavoidable occurrence of bugs and schedule slippage and managers’ natural tendency to look for manpower and neglect the productivity gains that could come from improving the information and tools available to a team, all of this is finely described and analyzed in this book.

Interestingly the author extended the book in 1995 to add more information and jeopardize his own previous assessments: answering some of his critics and reckoning some of his mistakes. This book embeds its own review !

This book is obviously a must read for anybody interested in project management and yet the first thing that struck me is how well the author characterizes the pleasure of programming, listing:

  • the joy of makingblack-24645_150
  • the joy of being useful
  • the fascination for puzzles and minutes mechanics
  • the joy of always learning
  • the joy of working on “pure thought” stuff

In the following, I will try to categorize a selection of the main other arguments that struck me, into three categories: Planning, Development and Organization.

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Some components for the “other” information infrastructure on the internet (rss feed etc)

Disclaimer: this started essentially as note-to-self listing a few interesting projects to spare me another internet search session.

RSS feeds (and their twin brothers Atom) are ubiquitous over the internet making it possible to easily get a summary of the latest publications of a given website.

Interestingly a huge amount of websites produce this kind of feeds (most blogs obviously but also sites like  twitter[en]) and from this point of view the RSS format is quite lively.

But on the consumer side, I’m pretty  disappointed with the “offer” in terms of RSS readers. Over the time I’ve tested several well-known desktop readers (liferea, rssowl, thunderbird…) and most of then ended up synchronizing with Google Reader. This one has consequently come to be my main newsreader and it appears to me as clearly dominating the world of internet based newsreader. However such a predominance is not that much a good sign1.

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  1. a quick glimpse at HackerNews shows that people are regularly trying to reinvent the newsreader service so there is hope I guess []