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The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  10,995 ratings  ·  725 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, Anniversary Edition, 322 pages
Published August 2nd 1995 by Addison-Wesley Professional (first published 1975)
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Stavros Sachtouris You don't need to be experienced in anything to understand this book. To enjoy it, though, it might be necessary to be familiar with engineering or pr…moreYou don't need to be experienced in anything to understand this book. To enjoy it, though, it might be necessary to be familiar with engineering or project management. It doesn't have to be software or electrical engineering, any kind would do. IT people will enjoy it even more for its historical and anecdotal value.(less)

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Average rating 4.04  · 
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Manny
Dec 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In this classic book on the software development process, Fred Brooks demolishes several persistent myths. They never quite go away: every new generation just has to learn them over again.

The first and most dangerous of these myths is the belief that putting more people on a project means it'll be completed more quickly. Brooks includes one of the most brilliant graphs I've ever seen, plotting number of women against time required to produce a baby. Would you believe it: the graph is flat at ni
...more
David Bjelland
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: cs-software
As far as I can tell, the core tenets of this book aren't really even up for dispute anymore. I don't mean to sound like the grumpy reader mentioned in the epilogue, complaining that the book offered "nothing I didn't know already know" (however experienced he might have been, I still doubt it), but whether from my limited experience in the industry first hand or second-hand through the various managers I've had over the years, the tenet that developers and time aren't interchangeable resources ...more
Daria
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Except blatant sexism* it was a pretty good book. It's a series of experiences that you gradually pick up when you're working in the software industry. It's a little outdated, e.g. we don't have printed manuals anymore and we don't have to deal with the woes of constantly updating them, but a lot of wisdoms from this book are still valuable.


* the entire book never uses a female pronoun. ever. it makes it sound like engineers, managers, technical leads, clients are always only male. plus there's
...more
Jan-Maat
Since what I know about programming probably could be written on the back of a postcard and wouldn't be worth reading there's nothing worthwhile that I can say about the software engineering side of this collection of essays about software engineering.

Further Brooks was writing in the 60s, in part based on experience from the 50s, which I suppose means I'll be making some claim to wider applicability with regard to project management & people management and understanding the nature of tasks.

I re
...more
Pratul Kalia
Apr 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to print many copies of this book.
I want to print many copies and roll them up.
I want to roll them up and take them to meetings with my clients.
I want to take them to meetings and hit them over the head repeatedly while screaming "more... than... 30... years... and you... still... don't... understand... anything... stop... making... me... write... bad... software...!"

Seriously.
Brian Yahn
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
The Mythical Man-Month starts of strong--with a solid mix of good humor, great story-telling, and even better analogies and metaphors. Most interesting, the claims Frederick Brooks made more than 40 years ago remain true today. But even so, the book has not aged well.

Chapters 5-8 and 9-15 seem wildly out of date. I give some reasoning below, but the gist is that the middle is mostly skippable. Worse is that the religious overtones get a little out of hand in this section. And to make it even mor
...more
Graham
Nov 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computer-books
I read this book originally in college and then re-read it after a couple years of coding professionally. While there are certainly some dated sections, such as the idea of having the analog of a surgical team to code, many of the suggestions have held against the test of time.

The two most popular are "no silver bullets" and "adding developers to a late project makes it later." The former is that no new technology/technique will make an order of magnitude difference in productivity over 10 year
...more
Dorin
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was underwhelmed with how badly this text has aged. The references, which made sense 15 years ago, no longer hold water, and the most-referenced-project is certainly no longer the way we write software nowadays. While the idea remains valid, I think people writing about this text are more relevant than the text itself, holding only historical value, at most.
Matt Diephouse
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm really surprised that people still recommend this book. It's primarily concerned with very large scale software projects (i.e., an operating system), much of the "data" is anecdotal, and many of the assumptions are simply outdated. For instance, Brooks writes about (1) creating paper manuals with documentation about the system that get updated daily for the engineers, (2) strategies for time-allocation on centralized computers, and (3) about optimizing for compiled code size. Those simply ar ...more
Canan
May 09, 2019 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
en bilinen kısmı unutmuşum:) “The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned. Many software tasks have this characteristic because of the sequential nature of debugging.”
Bill
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I re-read this recently after recommending it to a colleague, mainly just for nostalgia and planning to read a few of the more popular essays, like "The Tar Pit." Instead I read the entire book again and still found it fresh and insightful, over 40 years since publication. The prose manages to be dense with ideas but brilliantly clear and often witty. Now as I read contemporary writing (blogs but even books), I deeply lament this lost art.

Aside from his bold statements, most famously Brooks' Law
...more
Nente
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This is more of historical importance than a go-to book nowadays. Still, I'm glad to have read it.

I agree with the points made in these two reviews, especially the ones about the default male programmer and the overextended Christian viewpoint, which actually makes Brooks misstate one of his examples.

Still, I loved the positive and realistic message of "There is no royal road, but there is a road." I can stand behind both parts of this one.
...more
Philipp
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Interesting book with a pretty narrow focus, a collection of essays on the management and planning of good software engineering. The author instilled the mistakes and successes of his work on the IBM 360 Operating System in the 70s, and most of what he found still applies today. For example, wisdom like: more programmers make a project only late, and if you add programmers to an already late project, results will arrive even later. Have an architect and a manager, hopefully in two different pers ...more
James Oden
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: computer
Many times when I read a book that is dated, its pearls of wisdom are still there in clear view to be harvested and made use of. I can't say the same thing about the Mythical Man Month. I will grant that Brook's Law still holds, and managers still today stumble over this one. However much of his advice fell flat in the face of the more recent agile development movement and still more recent devops movement. In the end he was still preaching a kind of waterfall type approach to development which ...more
Megha
May 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
04/23/11

Dr. Brooks is the founder of our department, more than enough reason to read his book.

The recent extension to our department building was named after Dr. Brooks. Apparently the money for the building came as an anonymous donation from an alumnus, on the condition that it be named after Dr. Brooks. That is the kind of respect he has won from several people.
...more
James
Feb 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This book had some insightful ideas regarding software engineering practices, but a large portion of the book is no longer relevant.

The author dove into some specific details about situations that he had encountered, for example, practices involving developers planning how they would divide the debugging computers amongst themselves.

Modern machines can handle much more than computers could in the 70s, and this book needs an update to reflect that.

The main takeaways I got from this book are that
...more
Mouly
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing

* Estimating software project completion time is really hard. (Requirements change, software is intangible and it has to fit with idiosyncrasies of human systems)

* Aristocracy in managing projects is better. There should be one final decision maker. Metaphor is a surgical team.

* Cost of coordination and communication within large teams is often ignored. This causes poor estimation.

* If a project is delayed - rescheduling or reducing scope is recommended. Adding manpower will result in further de
...more
Joan
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating series of essays about building software and managing teams. Some bits really resonated, especially about the craft of software engineering. Brooks said that the hardest part about learning to program is adjusting to the necessity of perfection, which I think is still true today. He also had the most apt description of what it feels like to actually write code, and the differences between the essential work of building software and the "accidental" work imposed by poor tools, process ...more
Tiago
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have read it as part of my PhD, since it's part of the classical books of software engineering. Yet the book tackles very important issues not only about management but how people interact during software development. I've recognised myself in many situations described by the author (even that I'm not part of a software development team).
One might wonder, as I did, how many of the concepts explained by the author apply to current technology of the 21st century, but the author tackles that in t
...more
Senthil Kumaran
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: computer-science
This is a master piece of software engineering. Many people have read this one because this one is an extremely approachable account. When I read this book in 2007, I felt how much of value this one book brought which was written more than 20 years ago brought even then. Since then, I have heard many people talk and swear by this book. I have one gripe against the readers and people who talk about this. They use this book to support their stances and most often these people do not possess the ki ...more
Jim
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Everybody should read this book, not just programmers or project managers. It's easy and fun. There are 9 chapters, but you only need to read 3 of them. You'll know which ones. When he starts slinging equations, skip over those parts. He uses cooking metaphors where most software books use building construction metaphors. The unconscious gender bias, typical of the time, is almost funny. He keeps saying how many "men" does it take to do a project.

I'm frequently surprised at how many software pro
...more
Shyam
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech-books
Even for an inexperienced undergraduate student like me, this book made a lasting impression and left me pondering on the various human dynamics involved in software engineering. Definitely a must-read.

Warning: It does get a little dry at times, and most of the examples are very outdated,but the principles explained are timeless.
John Mehrman
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Originally written in 1975, prior to the PC explosion in the mid-1980s, Brooks book is still relevant today. The same systems management "rules-of-thumb" and potential pitfalls still exist in largely the same form. Many of his bigger lessons expand beyond just software development and apply to program management as a whole. A must read for anyone in that develops complex systems.
ABC
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I just leave my rating at here and dont say anyfuckinthing.
Maria Ines Parnisari
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: it
Don't add people to a late software project or you'll make it later.

There, summarized the book for you.
Regis Hattori
I love to read "old" books. The fact they were written a lot of time ago and are still relevant prove that it really worth reading them.

But I didn't like this book as much as I wanted to. Maybe because I had an expectation far from reality based on so many good reviews of a lot of people I admire. I know its content is still relevant today. But some parts are not. And some parts are still relevant but we need to "translate" to our days. And some parts have been better explained by other books li
...more
Jeffrey
Dated, unapproachable, and in some ways misogynistic (systemic but unintentional I'm sure). I really understand why this is still the #2 most popular programming book on Safari Books Online (right after Clean Code).

Probably more than half the lessons and suggestions don't make sense in the modern world of high-level languages, agile software development, and continual development/release.

Other lessons are still widely applicable... so widely applicable that they're near-universal knowledge alrea
...more
Marcin Jałbrzykowski
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reading this book was time-travel for me. It's a pretty outdated book from nowaday perspective. That was amazing to read about totally different everyday problems like techniques and strategies of updating paper-based documentation.

Nevertheless, software engineers, architects, IT project managers, in spite of nowadays agile techniques and experience of previous generations, are still struggling with some problems like correct project estimations of time and cost. A lot of rules are still valid,
...more
Ramanan Balakrishnan
Picked it up as it is often cited as one of the most popular books on software engineering. The slightly dated nature of the book (originally written more than 30 years) does come across in many sections.

Some portions of the text have now been made into legendary quotes ( Brook's Law adding manpower to a late software project makes it later ), but the rest of the book is probably hit-and-miss.

Also, the terminology used is different now, a software architect, as described by the book, is closer t
...more
Thomas Dietert
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the context of this history of software engineering and management best practices for effectively building software systems and managing all sizes of projects and teams, this book is invaluable. I recommend every software engineer who is interested in building software systems at a meta-level (technical/social systems that help you build software systems), or wants to gain insight into these processes. Remarkably, only the specific methods and tools mentioned have changed since this book was ...more
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