88Pro Thinking

cat /senthoor/mind | grep thought > blog

Thursday, December 25, 2003

The Mythical Man Month – A Non-Technical Perspective

I recently met up with my best friends, and among other things the conversation turned to a classic book on Software Engineering “The Mythical Man-Month” by Brook. In a nut shell Brooks’ Law suggests that…

Adding manpower to a late software project only makes it later. - Brooks' Law

My friends’ immediate reaction was predictable yet understandable “How can you say that? Greater capacity means greater throughput right? Isn’t that the basic dynamics of production”? This response is understandable since in most engineering disciplines, like construction and manufacturing, adding more man power and other required resources, meant that a late project could be finished on time. I did my best to engineer an explanation to my friends’ question, but was not very satisfied with what turned out.

May be the explanation lies in first understanding how software projects differ fundamentally from other more traditional engineering models and philosophy – let us keep in mind however, how important it is to learn from the traditional –

I agree with Richard P. Gabriel that software engineering is a creative activity, and is not about building bridges. I am sure most of us will agree that building software is very different to other engineering disciplines and if you are still not convinced, here are few quotes that may add food to thought.

Where I come from we make things from nothing - from dreams and fantasies. The laws of physics don't apply. Our products weigh zero. We've explored just about every product development approach there is - extreme or otherwise: waterfall, iterative, rapid prototyping, community development, and mobs. – by Richard P. Gabriel (from Lessons From The Science of Nothing At All)

Hackers need to understand the theory of computation about as much as painters need to understand paint chemistry. - by Paul Graham from Hackers and Painters

When I'm writing poetry, it feels like the center of my thinking is in a particular place, and when I'm writing code the center of my thinking feels in the same kind of place." – by Richard P. Gabriel from The Poetry of Programming.

A painter is given 10 days to paint a mural with a photograph as his/her requirement spec, yet by the 6th day only 30% of the mural is complete. The immediate response maybe to increase staff strength by adding on 3 more painters in order to complete the mural on time. As you will notice we have taken a linear complexity and made it an exponential one. The painting itself is just one part of the mural project, with many more complexities now becoming part of the work dilemma.

These are just some of the issues that perhaps one may have to deal with when working on such a project. What is more likely is that the remaining 4 days of the project will be spent attempting to answer the above, rather then actually putting paint to canvass, in turn extending the duration of the project, and proving to all the hard reality of Brooks Law.

Men and months are interchangeable only when a task can be partitioned among many workers with no communication among them. – Brook

What amazes me, is that even after 25 years The Mythical Man Month still makes blaring sense and is still a great book, that sells 10,000 copies every year.

There is good news and bad news from this story. The good news is that even in today’s context, with books out dating themselves within 2 years as a result of new technologies, methodologies and frame works. A book that has survived 25 years certainly deserves a reading. The bad news is that it still looks like we are making the same mistakes we made 25 years ago, and that is probably why this book still makes so much sense.

posted by 88Pro / Thursday, December 25, 2003

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Inability does help afterall !!!!

Whilst on a mission to help my friend set up a weblog amidst loads of bugging about the quotes used in my blogs, he came up with a very interesting quote by Jaon Wooden which says:

"Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."

Immediately I was reminded of an interesting weblog by James Gosling about the book The Peter Principle and here is the summery of the book in Gosling words:

In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence. Why this should be is pretty obvious: if someone is good at what they do, they get a promotion. Eventually they get to where they're not good enough to get the next promotion, so they stay there: at their level of incompetence.

Putting these together it feel it could also be stated that:

"Ability may get you to the top, but it takes inability to keep you there." - Senthoor

Sadly it neither takes ability nor character to take you to the top these days ... probably inability takes you a long way :-)

For those who only believe mathematical proofs you can find the proof here for Peter Principle.

There ends the fun part.

Here is a PDF "The Peter Principle: A Theory of Decline" from "Journal of Political Economy". Moreover, if you think the whole thing is a joke get serious now.

See also Inverse Promotions

posted by 88Pro / Thursday, December 18, 2003

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Does Google Really Drops the "common words"?

This is a Google Hack I posted at http://hacks.oreilly.com which I am reposting here since I messed up the formatting in my original post :-)

When there are common words like [from, to, on,…] in your search text Google says those words were not included in the search? Does that mean those words won't affect the final search results?

Search for [Pictures from Jaffna] in Google and you will notice that the result excludes the word [from] in the search. Google explicitly says that "from" is a very common word and was not included in your search". This misleads people to think that even if they don't include the word [from] or any other common words in the search text, the search results will be the same as the case where we purposely include it. The [Pictures from Jaffna] search returns www.senthoor.com as the first result.

However if you search for [Pictures Jaffna] excluding the word [from] the results returned by Google are different. This time the first result is Jaffna, Sri Lanka, pictures. This raises the real question whether Google really omits the common words from its search??? Therefore, in my opinion it is better off, including some of the common words in your next search, even if Google says its those words are not included in your search.

By the time you check these search text the order of the results might have changed. However you can try out with your own search text to verify whether information presented here still holds true.

See also:

posted by 88Pro / Wednesday, December 17, 2003

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