2004-06-18 13:24 in /books/mmm
Today there is lots of discussion of Willis’s review of The Mythical Man-Month. Mostly I agree with the general consensus (at least at rating 4+) that this review is a little simplistic and even childish. The sad part is that he is so busy laughing at anachronisms that he doesn’t even recognize when they’re still true. For example,
Regarding source code documentation:
"The most serious objection is the increase in the size of the source code that must be stored. As the discipline moves more and more toward on-line storage of source code, this has become a growing consideration. I find myself being briefer in comments to an APL program, which will live on disk, then on a PL/I one that I will store as cards."
For who among us is this not true? Honestly, you just can't shut me up on cards.
However, I still hear people object to adding inline documentation to their code on the basis that it would make a subroutine longer than 24 lines, and therefore no longer fit in the now-mythical single VT-100 screen. I have suggested perhaps making one’s window a bit larger (I tend to have Emacs windows 50-60 lines high), or even that if comments were added, the increased clarity would obviate the need to have everything visible at once. Typically I have no success with this, though.
He also laughs at the idea of renting software and memory, despite the fact that many companies do lease hardware, and software subscriptions and support contracts are also still current concepts.