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Author Topic: Book Mini-Review: The Design of Design - Essays from a Computer Scientist  (Read 2548 times)
mouser
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« on: April 21, 2010, 12:56:49 AM »

This is a very quick mini-review of Frederick Brooks new book, The Design of Design (more reviews and opinions at that amazon.com link).



Brooks is the author of "The Mythical Man-Month", a very influential book about the challenges of real-world, large scale computer (software) project management that was originally published in 1975 but was updated as recently as 1995.

I'm just going to give thoughts about his new book to help you decide if it's worth reading.

I guess the bottom line is that from a practical standpoint, "The Design of Design" can't really hold a candle to "The Mythical Man-Month" in terms of value and insight for a software engineer.  It's a much more self-indulgent and less ambitious book.

The first third of "The Design of Design" is actually highly readable, and highly valuable for anyone who doesn't already have a gut-level appreciation of the concepts it touches on.  For example, if you don't already have an immediate appreciation why having constraints (even arbitrary ones) is often helpful for a designer, then you would be well advised to read the first 150 or so pages of the book.  It's enjoyable reading, with some nice anecdotes, and the ideas are sound and well worth reinforcing.

The last two thirds of the book are easily skipped -- many of the chapters are sort of casual case studies in design based on the construction and remodeling of Fred Brook's house.  Even as some one interesting in architecture and remodeling, i found these chapters very thin on substance and entirely skipable.  I got the same feeling reading those chapters as one gets listening to a friend tell you about the fascinating dream they had the night before.  A few later chapters detailing Brooks' involvement in the creation of the legendary 1960's IBM System 360 computer series are mildly interesting for their anecdotes.

So.. thumbs up for the first 150 pages.. thumbs down for the the 250 pages that follow.  But it's an enjoyable and valuable (if not profound) first 150 pages, so if this is the kind of thing you like, it might be worth seeking out.
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esoito
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2010, 12:02:43 AM »

A well written review! Nice balance between pros and cons.

Thanks for that.

And is that Salisbury cathedral I can see on the cover?
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mouser
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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2010, 12:04:49 AM »

Quote
And is that Salisbury cathedral I can see on the cover?

it is indeed.
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40hz
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« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2010, 09:39:45 AM »

Thanks for the review.

I saw the book and wondered if it could measure up to the expectations set by The Mythical Man-Month. I suppose it's no great surprise that it doesn't quite.

MMM is a pretty tough act to follow - even if it's your own book. smiley

I'll probably read it eventually. I've read almost everything else Brooks has written, and I've always found it time well spent.

(I just wish he'd publish through O'Reilly rather than Addison-Wesley. But that's just me trying to squeeze every last penny out of my Safari subscription before it expires at the end of next month. mrgreen)



« Last Edit: April 28, 2010, 09:41:17 AM by 40hz » Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
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