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231 comments

!MMM (5, Insightful)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433402)

Aside from being in the same room, these programmers were barely working together. This was NOT an attempt to accelerate a single, large, overdue project (the Mythical Man Month problem) - and they explicitly say so! I wonder if the submitter even read the book, or just heard the title somewhere and thought it was a catchy buzz phrase.

Give interns loosely-coupled projects. Our internship program would never have worked if we had assigned a dozen new people to hack on our kernel code--the training time and communication costs that drive Brooks' Law would have swallowed their efforts whole. Fortunately, like any growing business, we had a constellation of projects that lie around the edges of our core technology: infrastructure upgrades, additional layers of QA, business analytics, and new features in the management side of our product. Few of these had elaborate technical interfaces with any of our existing software, so our interns were able to become productive with minimal ramp-up and rely on relatively little communication to get their projects done.

In other words: they had an "embarrassingly parallel" problem and did the obviously right thing.

Re:!MMM (0)

King InuYasha (1159129) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433426)

Submitters don't tend to fully read the articles they submit, which helps the sensationalism that is the "Slashdot Effect." Is that bad? Maybe. Is it going to change? Unlikely.

Re:!MMM (3, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433436)

"In other words: they had an "embarrassingly parallel" problem and did the obviously right thing."

Exaclty I'd like to see the poster try to keep adding people to a game project. I've seen so many abortions from the game industry lately it's disturbing.

Re:!MMM (-1, Flamebait)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433790)

99% of developers are morons, game developers doubly so.

Re:!MMM (5, Funny)

HighJack (20546) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433816)

So, 198% of game developers are morons?

Re:!MMM (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433910)

No, double the nines. Four nines of game developers are morons instead of two nines of regular developers.

Re:!MMM (5, Funny)

Tobenisstinky (853306) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434106)

Vader: I am disappointed with your apparent lack of progress.
Imperial Deathstar Commander in charge of construction: But my men are already working 24hrs a day!
Vader: I want you to double your efforts!
Imperial Deathstar Commander in charge of construction: You want us to work 48hrs a day?
Vader: Listen, I'm a sadist not a mathematician!

(Mad Magazine's spoof on Return of the Jedi)

Re:!MMM (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434056)

IMO, the distribution is rather:

30% college dropouts and recent finshes from questionable schools.
40% "stuck here 'til I find another job", average tenure 3 months.
30% good, dedicated and thus burned out

The rest is doing the work.

Re:!MMM (4, Funny)

raehl (609729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434286)

So, 198% of game developers are morons?

Spoken like a game developer. Anyone with a clue knows that -37% of game developers are morons.

Re:!MMM (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434254)

Exaclty I'd like to see the poster try to keep adding people to a game project. I've seen so many abortions from the game industry lately it's disturbing.

You could, to some degree, if you divide the work up correctly. You probably can't have more than a small number of people working on the game engine or deciding on the story line, but you can massively parallelize the people designing models, skins, etc., letting them pop items from the queue of object requests coming from the people writing the story line.

Re:!MMM (2, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434574)

Not to mention that these are MIT students. #1 computer science program in the world. Not exactly a representative sample.

Re:!MMM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433460)

Or perhaps they deliberately chose the title to get people to link to their start-up's blog?

Agreed (5, Insightful)

golodh (893453) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433506)

You hit the nail on the head. The interns were put on separate problems so there was no need for much communication.

In addition, the article notes that the company was "a bit spoiled" by being in a position to hire from a large pool of MIT students, many of whom they knew personally. I like the subtle understatement here.

Not only did they put the target practically in front of the gun (by having an embarrassingly parallel problem), they also employed an embarrassingly high-calibre gun (i.e. hand-picked MIT students). Scoring has therefore been high. Surprise!

This experiment didn't do anything at all to bust the mythical man-month. Who came up with that title anyway? Must have been some slashdot editor ...

Re:Agreed (5, Informative)

DavidRawling (864446) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433718)

And they deliberately attacked the problem noted in TMMM - that of communication and ramp-up - by seating everyone in the same room(s). And yes, working on independent problems. And those problems were not already late, in that the schedule had not yet started (TMMM is about adding people to an existing, complex project that is already running and having the communications, ramp-up, skills transfer and other sundry distractions causing an increase in work required that is greater than the increase in available effort).

Stupid, wrong, inflammatory and deliberately misleading headline, and summary, perfect for /. ! Go editors go!

Re:Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433990)

Plus as (presumably young) students they probably haven't accumulated prohibitive amounts of bitterness and skepticism about work yet.

Re:Agreed (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434102)

In the real world people get hired are hand picked and are usually people the boss or someone on their teams know.

Its a real problem when you are fresh out of school and no one has ever heard of you. Networking is an important part of a job. This is especially true the more higher up you are on the corporate ladder. CEO's are hired on the basis of having extensive contacts with vendors and other companies to increase sales.

 

Re:Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434306)

In the real world people get hired are hand picked and are usually people the boss or someone on their teams know.

Its a real problem when you are fresh out of school and no one has ever heard of you. Networking is an important part of a job. This is especially true the more higher up you are on the corporate ladder. CEO's are hired on the basis of having extensive contacts with vendors and other companies to increase sales.

Perhaps the difficulty you are facing in the job market can be attributed more to phrases like "the more higher up you are" than to the adage "It's not what you know, it's WHO you know."

Embarrassing parallelism (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433642)

In other words: they had an "embarrassingly parallel" problem and did the obviously right thing.

Yes, they split the problem up into numerous tiny atomic work units to be handled simultaneously by 20 threads, and then had each intern write one.

Re:!MMM (-1, Troll)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433776)

The only reason this "worked" is because the college interns were afraid for their positions and wanted to make a good impression. Like Monica Lewinsky They sucked di**k to keep their positions. I'm not trying to troll, just saying that use those same college interns after being on the job for a couple months/years and your productivity dives. seriously folks let's be real.

Re:!MMM (1)

jketch (1485815) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433934)

I'm not so sure about that. These interns were all there specifically for January term. Yeah maybe they wanted a summer job also, but even today it's not all that difficult to find an internship as a CS major from MIT.

Re:!MMM (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434012)

Exactly. They didn't add people to a late project, they got more people and put them on un-manned projects to get them going. That's quite a different matter and not what Brooks was talking about. And yes, they did the right thing.

Re:!MMM (1)

Dogbertius (1333565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434154)

Is it really a surprise that hiring the best and brightest yielded the best returns?

So far as management is concerned, YES, break the project into modular, independent tasks.
A former engineer (ie: biomedical, computer, hardware, electronics, NOT SOFTWARE (does this count as anything other than a glorified developer position) ) runs the team rather than a liberal arts major/dropout (is there a difference???) running this project), sweeeeeet!

It's amazing, the prejudice against intelligent people. Populism at work/at it's "rights".

Re:!MMM (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434464)

More likely the submitter read the damn article which references the Mythical Man Month, and has never heard of Brooks let alone read the book.

Re:!MMM (1)

Vasheron (1750022) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434558)

We are also talking about MIT students looking to prove themselves, which makes for a smart and highly motivated group - by no means your average group of code monkeys.

Totally misses the point (4, Informative)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433428)

If you RTFA, they don't really address Brook's point. They all worked on small projects. Where the mythical man-month applies is in the combined effort on a large, sufficiently complex project. The real breakdown comes in the collaboration and communication.

Besides, in the real engineering world, nobody is going to tolerate the work conditions they describe. The pay better be 10x what I earn now to pack me in a room with sweaty, overweight 40-somethings.

It's a cute college experiment and nothing more.

Re:Totally misses the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433558)

The pay better be 10x what I earn now to pack me in a room with sweaty, overweight 40-somethings.

It's funny that you say that; most open source developers I know would gladly work among sweaty, unwashed, 40 year old virgins for free.

Re:Totally misses the point (5, Funny)

startled (144833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433682)

They all worked on small projects. Where the mythical man-month applies is in the combined effort on a large, sufficiently complex project.

You're just quibbling about details. If they can get 40 interns to do 40 small problems quickly, they can certainly get 40 interns to do 10 large problems even faster. Just like 9 pregnant women can make a baby in one month. Or they can keep the original 9 month schedule, but pool their efforts to create one super-huge baby.

Re:Totally misses the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433880)

obligatory XKCD
http://xkcd.com/605/

Re:Totally misses the point (4, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434088)

Or they can keep the original 9 month schedule, but pool their efforts to create one super-huge baby.

And that, folks, is what happens when you cross the streams. Never cross the streams!

Re:Totally misses the point (3, Informative)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433844)

If you RTFA, they don't really address Brook's point. They all worked on small projects. Where the mythical man-month applies is in the combined effort on a large, sufficiently complex project. The real breakdown comes in the collaboration and communication.

They addressed Brooks' point by having lots of small projects instead of one big ball of spaghetti code.

Here's a quote from the 20th anniversary edition ("The Mythical Man-Month after 20 years" chapter):

Parnas Was Right, and I Was Wrong about Information Hiding

In Chapter 7 I contrast two approaches to the question of how much each team member should be allowed or encouraged to know about each other's designs and code. In the Operating System/360 project, we decided that all programmers should see all the material -- i.e., each programmer having a copy of the project workbook, which came to number over 10,000 pages. Harlan Mills has argued persuasively that "programming should be a public process," that exposing all the work to everybody's gaze helps quality control, both by peer pressure to do things well and by peers actually spotting flaws and bugs.

This view contrasts sharply with Davin Parnas's teaching that modules of code should be encapsulated with well-defined interfaces, and that the interior of such a module should be the private property of its programmer, not discernible from outside. Programmers are most effective if shielded from, not exposed to, the innards of modules not their own.

I dismissed Parnas's concept as a "recipe for disaster" in Chapter 7. Parnas was right, and I was wrong. I am now convinced that information hiding, today often embodied in object-oriented programming, is the only way of raising the level of software design.

The underlying reason that man-months are mythical is because of communication overhead; if everyone has to know what everyone else is working on, your team can not scale. In the section I quoted Brooks goes on to talk about easier reuse and fewer errors, but proper encapsulation also has the effect of dramatically reducing the overhead of extra people -- now instead of operating on the system as a whole, the law operates on individual subsystems or modules.

In this case Brooks' Law was addressed by whatever design or happenstance led to (1) the projects being independent instead of intertwingled, and (2) there being enough of these independent projects for all the interns.

Re:Totally misses the point (1)

edmudama (155475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433938)

Agreed. From TFA:

"had a growing queue of important engineering projects outside of our core technology"

outside the core technology is the important part

No Indians on their team. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433434)

It's no wonder they succeeded. There were no offshore Indian developers on their team to fuck things up!

Team photo: http://blog.ksplice.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/ksplice-iap-21.jpg [ksplice.com]

Re:No Indians on their team. (0, Offtopic)

Chelmet (1273754) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433484)

That looks like a party just waiting to happen.

Re:No Indians on their team. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433724)

Twenty people, three of which are women. Three times three holes each will accomodate nine men. Subtract the two of the males who appear to be faggots(Jheri-curl guy on the right, I'm looking at you) plus the two retards behind Jheri-curl faggot and the puny Asian whose dick is too small for caucasian females.

We are left with three men who are last in line for the gang-bang.

The MM-M is more what you'd call a guideline (4, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433454)

than an actual rule.

Re:The MM-M is more what you'd call a guideline (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434104)

Someone hand that guy a modpoint or two, because adding manpower to a late project can have beneficial effects. If, and only if, it is done sensibly.

Hire someone who makes sure the programmers have all the pizza and egg rolls they need so they ain't going to be distracted by having to call the pizza place for one. You all know how much time is killed with you get interrupted by something important. Like, say, a rumbling stomach. It takes ages to get back into the code afterwards.

But more sensibly, fire all the paper pushers and hire project managers worth their salt. And I don't mean "idiots that can set arbitrary milestones". We got plenty of those. A good project manager makes or breaks the project. What I need from a project manager is:

1) Making sure I have the hardware and software I need. Not "the company thinks I need". The ones I need.
2) Making sure external sources keep their deadlines or route around those bottlenecks. Know what makes most of my software late? That I finish my modules only to hear "uh... testing can't commence, we're waiting on something from X." A good PM knows that BEFORE it happens and tells you to drop that module and work on this one instead, because the guys at Y are done and we could start testing that part instead.
3) Most important: SHIELD ME FROM POINTLESS MEETINGS and go there for me. And there, his answers are "no". "Can't do that". And "has to be done on your end". I.e. the crap I usually get to hear in those meetings.

If necessary, hire more PMs. Not more programmers.

Can it really be true? (3, Funny)

willow (19698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433468)

You mean hiring awesome staff to work on independent projects designed in advance breaks Brooks Law?

Genius! Pat yourself on the back some more. /sarcasm

MM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433472)

Surely if adding people to a project increases productivity, then you're actually confirming the existence of a Mythical Man month?

To put it another way, you're busting the "Mythical Man-Month' is actually a myth" myth.

MIT holiday month (3, Informative)

asolidvoid (964293) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433476)

FWIW, the MIT "holiday month" described here is a sort of inter-session called IAP (Independent Activities Period), and is expressly intended for students to do this sort of thing. Or go to charm school, either way.... Go Beavers!

Re:MIT holiday month (1)

edmudama (155475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433948)

Or drinking copious amounts of booze while it's too frackin cold to go outside anyway.

They didn't add to a late project (4, Insightful)

MMORG (311325) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433492)

They didn't add programmers to a late project, they added programmers to a bunch of small, self-contained projects that hadn't been started yet. That's a very different thing.

The point of Fred Brook's argument is that if you take a project that's already late, that means it already has systemic problems of one type or another (or likely, several types at once). Adding bodies without solving the systemic problems just makes those problems grow, not go away. That's not the situation this company had and that's not what they did. Saying they "busted the mythical man-month" is just trolling.

Nope (4, Interesting)

igny (716218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433498)

A Linux startup out of MIT claims to have busted the myth,

No they didn't. The communication cost remained O(n^2), they just improved the constant multiplier, not the order. To actually bust the MM theory, they should have quadrupled a couple times more, and see whether the productivity going down the drain or is as scalable as they claim.

In other news (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433502)

College kids claim to know it all.

Yes, it may be MIT. However let's see what happens AFTER you graduate...

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434150)

They'll do just fine.

Doesn't negate Brook's adage at all (2, Insightful)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433524)

Put these same kids on an existing program that is a year late and already has a team of 20 programmers working on it. Get back to me in 6 months telling me just how fine things are.

Re:Doesn't negate Brook's adage at all (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433836)

Put these same kids on an existing program that is a year late and already has a team of 20 programmers working on it. Get back to me in 6 months telling me just how fine things are.

In that case, I suspect firing the right 5-7 people (some of them programmers, but not all of them) would get the job done faster.

The Mythical Commenter-Post (3, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433546)

We also know about the Mythical Commenter-Post, the argument that adding more commenters to a thread just makes the posts dumber and dumber.

Where am I? Digg? (5, Funny)

noisebar (1641161) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433562)

How did this kind of crap show up on Slashdot?

Re:Where am I? Digg? (2, Funny)

Dalambertian (963810) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433770)

Buried as inaccurate: I really thought this article would be about my monthly reproductive cycle.

Re:Where am I? Digg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433926)

You're on Slashdot. You have no reproductive cycle.

Niice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433564)

Is it bad that all I could think when reading the article and looking at the posted picture, was man I really wouldn't mind "writing some code" with the lady to the far left.

Re:Niice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433694)

I have 23 code modules I'd like to share with her, heh heh heh

Re:Niice (0, Offtopic)

Miseph (979059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433796)

The brunette in the middle is kinda cute too, in an "officer, she told me she's 19, I swear!" kind of way.

10 years ago (5, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433578)

Ten years ago the NASDAQ reached 5132, no long after it lost more than half the value. The reason was that people believed the rules no longer applied. For some reason, conservation of energy, momentum, mass, were considered to be obsolete antiquated concepts. Sometimes it takes a smack in the ass to get people back to reality.

The real issue here, and one that is not addressed, is the quality of code. What the MMM addressed, IMHO, was adding developers to a project with defined metrics and ending up with code that met those metrics and integrated well with a larger code base. The reason that adding people did not work was the overhead needed to communicate between the develpers, which is 2^n proposition

As such, until the code is proven in service one cannot really say if the experiment worked. If the code is just going to have to be re-factored, or interfaces rewritten, then nothing was done other spending money to achieve a minimal product to meet a deadline. This is important, but does not prove or disprove anything.

Re:10 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433860)

At risk of sounding like a complexity (or something) nazi...

The communication overhead is actually n^2, quadratic, not exponential.

Re:10 years ago (1)

volsung (378) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433952)

Now if every possible subset of developers has to meet, then you have a problem.... :)

Re:10 years ago (1)

fintler (140604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434008)

If the developer is schizophrenic, then it might be n^2, otherwise it's probably (n(n-1))/2.

Re:10 years ago (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434502)

O(0.5 * n^2 - 0.5 * n) is still O(n^2). That's the whole point of big-O notation, you only care about the terms that dominate.

Re:10 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433978)

Isn't it a (n(n-1))/2 proposition? Where the fuck do you get 2^n? That's just retarded.

This is MIT, remember (5, Interesting)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433582)

One thing I hear a lot from programmers, particularly programmers unhappy with their Pointy Haired-Bosses, is, "I don't need to be managed as much as my bosses think I do!", and then pointing to a place like Google- which has one of the lowest managers-per-programmer ratios in the industry yet still produces amazing products- as an example.

The thing is, though, Google gets away with this because they hire the best of the best, and the best of the best can manage themselves pretty well. Most programmers are nowhere near as talented as the ones working at Google, they're the ones who need to be supervised. Managers are for programmers who write code that ends up on The Daily WTF, which is many of them.

I suspect that's what's going on here. Of course a bunch of MIT students can just hop on a project and be productive, that's why they're going to MIT. This result does not apply to the world at large.

Having said that though, I bet some of the techniques they used would apply to the world at large. I for one am going to see what I can learn from this with regards to getting people up-to-speed on new projects.

Re:This is MIT, remember (2, Insightful)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434000)

Now be careful, plenty of TDWTF stories are about the idiocy established by decree -- managerial, corporate, you name it.

Re:This is MIT, remember (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434408)

No. No! I need a project manager! And I pride myself with being a fairly good programmer. And even the guys at MIT can benefit from one.

But I, like every programmer, need a good project manager. One that helps me instead of standing in my way. I don't need someone who checks my "progress" on some arbitrary measure that has nothing in common with the project at hand and peppers my calender with meaningless milestones. I also don't need someone to tell me how to write my code. I need a project manager that understands what he and I are trying to do together: Make a project work out. My job is to create it. His job is to make that possible to me.

And for that I need a project manager that deals with what I tend to call the "unpleasantries" of projects. In other words, clients, management, in a nutshell: PEOPLE. People make a project late. Especially when they start to meddle with it for some reason. The perfect project manager would lay down the project together with the client, do all the yucky legal stuff around it, give me the specs (not "and here kinda-sorta like $other_program", I mean specs you can work with), then keeps customer, management and all the other unnecessary evils of a project busy while I do my job so I don't get pestered. By meetings. And dumb questions.

I once actually had a PM like that. And it was a dream. We (him, me and a few other very motivated and talented people) created projects in record time. It was the best year of my life!

The company did what it does in such cases: They promoted him away from the position he was born for.

9 women and the baby (4, Funny)

teknikl (539522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433720)

Is this the same rule as "9 women can't make a baby in 1 month"? I tried to explain the rule to our HR lady and it didn't go over really well with her.

Re:9 women and the baby (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433954)

That's because your comment was sexist. Don't you know in today's workplace saying the words "Women can't" is grounds for termination. Don't you dare tell a woman what she can or can't do even if it's ridiculous. Plus she works in HR, so she's a barren cunt by default.

Re:9 women and the baby (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434422)

But seriously and aside of sexism and stereotypes: I had my share of companies to work with, from employee to consultant, and without fail the HR head was female and by any standard a true, absolute and impossible to stomach bitch. Please note that I have nothing against neither woman nor people who find pleasure in working in HR (they do a job I wouldn't want to touch with a ten foot pole. Both of them, actually...). But why is is that the HR bitch is by default the dragon of the company everyone would slay if they had half a chance of getting away with it?

Tiger Woods (3, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434322)

Is this the same rule as "9 women can't make a baby in 1 month"? I tried to explain the rule to our HR lady and it didn't go over really well with her.

I thought Tiger Woods was trying to prove that rule wrong.

Re:9 women and the baby (3, Funny)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434346)

"9 women can't make a baby in 1 month"

Ah, yes, 1 baby per month is what you would expect for the classical case, but if we model the baby as a particle in a time box we actually expect 2/9*sin^2(n*pi*t/9) babies.

Some people just don't stop to think about the realism of their model!

The ORIGINAL development project (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433850)

I tried to get nine women to have a baby in a month, and all I got was bitch slapped.

Re:The ORIGINAL development project (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434046)

I tried to get nine women to have a baby in a month, and all I got was bitch slapped.

It was the latency of the pipeline that got him.

Sensational Headline Drives Click Throughs (1)

Mag7 (69118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433856)

But like the body of this post, the reality is not the revelation you were hoping for.

On The Other Hand (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433876)

I once worked for a company that hired a few extras to appear as if they were hard at work on computers in order to land a large contract. We only had them set up to look like they were working for one day.

Re: On The Other Hand (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434436)

Hmm... that explains why in a company I worked for an (unemployed) dancer was working as a temp... allegedly he did interface design, but after reading your comment, I'm not so sure anymore that this is the entire story...

Theres also the obvious possibility... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433966)

...that perhaps the original programmers at the 'linux startup' sucked in the first place, and that the other guys they hired were actually much better programmers.

Showering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31433972)

I wonder how much effort it took to convince everyone to shower daily?

Disappointing (5, Interesting)

Tracy Reed (3563) | more than 4 years ago | (#31433996)

I have been a slashdot reader since darn near the beginning (see uid). And I finally have to admit that the quality of information here has seriously gone downhill. As everyone else has rightly pointed out, the article is bogus. They didn't break Brooke's law.

Just yesterday a server I administer which runs a very non-optimized PHP and graphics and database heavy site was linked in a story on the front page. The server barely noticed the load. A hit every other second or so. And it was a direct link, no coral caching or whatever. I remember a day when slashdot had enough readers to utterly destroy a single server. It looks like a lot of people have taken off. If this continues I may have to take off too. As it is reddit, hackernews, and many other tech news sites with superior content in my rss feed are competing with slashdot for my eyeballs. I may finally have to trim slashdot from the list if this keeps up.

Re:Disappointing (1, Insightful)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434090)

To be fair, the article didn't claim to really 'break' Brooke's Law. The submission did. TFA just pointed out that it doesn't always hold. And that they've totally lucked out and have a perfect situation where it doesn't hold. Infact, I saw this article on Hacker News first. The discussion there is way more interesting, even if half of it is just people arguing about the legality of 'unpaid interns', cause they're not spending their whole time going "OMG NO THEY DIDN'T". It's a fucked up submission.

Re:Disappointing (1)

seifried (12921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434304)

Agreed, the quality of articles has nose dived hugely, and the timeliness is terribly (I usually see things on one of the sub-reddits I subscribe to a day or three earlier than on Slashdot). Slashdot either has to become MUCH more timely (take the reddit route), or add value with analysis/etc. (ala economist.com). Fortunately the discussion at +5 is still reasonably good (there's usually at least 2-3 comments per technical story worth reading once it's had 8-12 hours) which is the only reason I'm still here.

Re:Disappointing (5, Insightful)

Wayne247 (183933) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434324)

Not as old as you (in terms of Slashdot readership), but I've been here quite some time as well.

I think that, as readers left this site, editors slashed into the content quality and try the quantity approach. I used to be able to read the site daily and have time to post replies here and there. Now, I have it set in an RSS reader because the volume is much larger to the point that if I miss a day, 20 to 30 stories fly by.

It's not that there are more things to report now than 10 years ago, it's all these crappy filler stories, blog posts about nothing interesting, jokes and whatnot that make this site less and less relevant.

Additionally, while Slashdot used to be where the breaking news was happening, I can now find interesting and important stories up to THREE days later on this site than on digg, for example.

Me and some other people have submitted, days ago, important stories (in our opinion) about a FOSS company that is suing the Quebec government for the right to bid on contracts that went directly to Microsoft. This is being heard by the supreme court right now. The supreme court! And it's not even making slashdot!

It's not too late, but the editors really have to try and voluntarily lose a few percent point of page views in order to bring back quality and, more importantly, fellowship of readers.

Re:Disappointing (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434474)

Can I have your ID?

Ok, ok, seriously. Well, times change, so does the IT audience. Turn back the wheel by, like, ten years. Peak of the dot.com bubble. The news were different, the audience was different, many of the people reading here today weren't even part of the workforce back then (you pretty much have to be near your 30th birthday if you are). Without wanting to invoke "get off my lawn" replies, I think this might be the reason.

Unlike "older" people, like me and probably you, these people grew up with the internet having "always been there". Much like cable TV has always been there for us. And just like cable changed the way TV news have to be to be noticed, I guess the internet generation changed the way internet news have to be to be on the frontpage of /., digg and the rest. They have to be more sensationalist. Content? Fact-checked? Ffft, who cares, it's going to be forgotten anyway in 20 minutes.

Quick, without looking: Name 3 headlines of yesterday's news on /.. Not to me, just to yourself.

If you passed, you probably grew up without internet and its "here today, forgotten tomorrow" attitude.

Re:Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434508)

Nah, they must have changed the rules and allowed people to comment with out reading the article

Re:Disappointing (1)

Ambush Commander (871525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434568)

Dude, just jump ship already. I just read Slashdot these days for the perverse pleasure of silly stories. :-)

P.S. This article hit front page YC and Proggit several hours before Slashdot.

Once is fine, but is it repeatable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434070)

My main problem with this story is exemplified by this:

So, how do you quadruple the size of your engineering team in one month and still keep everyone productive?

(Followed by their list of dot points of what they did)

This makes it seem like they have found a technique that enables you to achieve the mythical man-month with reasonable reliability. That's not true: they tried a set of things once and it worked. That's far from demonstrating that their team's organisation, environment and process is at least likely to work for you too. For that, we need to have lots of cases where what they recommend works -- but we don't. If and when we get that, then I'll believe them. Until then, this is just a list of things that you might like to try for yourself to see whether they work for you.

Don't forget (3, Insightful)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434100)

all projects have a point of diminishing returns.
The key to limiting, or exasperating this problem is good or bad project management.
Of course, if the 'project' is a large series of little projects that don't have dependency on each other, you can greatly increase personnel easily, such as the people in this argument.
They didn't really bust the myth, rather they used a situation where they didn't exceed the number of optimal personnel.

Re:Don't forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434112)

I hate it when I exasperate a problem, but far worse is when I exacerbate it.

Not at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434118)

By their own description they did not "bust" anything. The idea is that throwing more people at a mess will make the mess go away faster. People have to communicate, which takes too long when it is 1 on 1. The n(n-1)/2 means 1 on 1 connections. The MIT folks sat in the same room shoulder to shoulder so communication was way more efficient.

Also the book says that you can't toss in more people(no matter how qualified in general) without adding hierarchy... the MIT folks had everything planned ahead of time. They allocated the jobs ahead of time.

The lessons of what not to do were not done, so the situation was successful. Theory is still valid

Diminishing rate of return (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434146)

You should be able to increase productivity the more people you add. However, the return gets smaller and smaller [wikipedia.org] as you add more people.

Think of a McDonalds. If you walk into one with only 2 people working you would end up with slow crappy service. Three would be ALOT better as one can man you, the cash registers, and the drive thru. Four workers would be a nice increase, five would be ok I guess, 6 would not bring "your burger much faster, by the time 7 and 8 go in you would not see much improvement, etc.

With add more workers to a complex project it would appear that a negative return and more delays would happen. This is because even the most hardcore programmers will need help to understand the project and not scew it up with their code. My guess is you would see a negative graph and then a bump up later with each new programmer. Notice results only quadrupled and did go up 20x?

Something like Linux would be a nightmare for even the best C hackers to understand within a month or two without special training. Linux .1 would be only a few hours.

Subjective myth, cannot be busted (1)

101010_or_0x2A (1001372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434156)

This is such a subjective myth, and is more a general understanding in software development than a rule. Its impossible to "bust" this, the article is ridiculous and the title even more so. Incidentally, today I just busted the "all managers are technically incompetent morons" myth by writing an awesome piece of code...

basic fail. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434298)

the fundamental problem with trying to measure compeltion time by man hours and expecting more man power to get the job done faster in every instance, is that one hour of programmer b's time is not equal to one hour of programmer a's time.

a million monkeys on a million type writers WILL NOT produce shakespear

Re:basic fail. (2, Interesting)

gewalker (57809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434542)

A million monkey's is nothing for this problem. If you had 1E100 monkey/typewriter pairs (>> atoms in universe), banging out random text at 200 WPM would will still never see a single copy of Comedy of Errors (his shortest play, 16,263 words) even if you waited 1E100 years -- You really need an infinite number of monkey/typewrites pairs, in which case you will have a Complete copy of ALL or his plays, translated into every language (representable by the typewriter character set) in under 3 hours (200 WPM needed to bang out hamlet's 32,253 words) -- OK, some languages may take a little longer because of their verbosity, call it 6 hours at most

As a bonus, you also get copies of every possible (sufficiently short) software program, etc. in the process too -- including the one referred to by the original article.

Adding (or subtracting, dividing or multiplying) monkeypower to infinity won't make it faster or slower other (infinity * 4 = infinity)

Never confuse "really big countable numbers" with infinity.

...but it still makes a late project later (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434362)

The paraphrase of Brooks famous phrase omits a critical element: adding more people makes a _late_ project _later_. Therefore, Brooks' maxim does not apply to projects that originate with a large number of people. This also explains why the success of open source projects with a large number of developers is not a contradiction: no one is added to meet a deadline.

Suggestions on how to beat it : a theory (1)

Teunis (678244) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434390)

Get a team of any size together with <i>compatible</i> communication styles, reasonably similar skill set and a culture <i>of</i> communication, and there will likely be great results - possibly greater than any one acting alone. Synergy is an interesting thing.

I've seen this in the open source world for instance.. and I'd love to take part (if I can only find a project with problems I can identify)

they disproved mmm, or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31434546)

... maybe their real engineers were just lazy and/or stupid. i love interns, but if a group of interns can 4x your productivity you might have a problem with your full-time people :p...

So Wrong (1)

JonSimons (1026038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31434592)

Others have already pointed out how absolutely retarded this is, and have explained how "Brooke's Law" has not in any way been understood.
Large project productivity does not scale linearly with the number of developers working on it.
It's not _just_ communication, either. Large software is complex.
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