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Programming IT Linux

"Mythical Man-Month" Supposedly Busted By MIT Startup 231

An anonymous reader writes "We all know about the Mythical Man-Month, the argument that adding more programmers to a software project just makes it later and later. A Linux startup out of MIT claims to have busted the myth, using an MIT holiday month to hire 20 college student interns to get all their work done and quadrupling its productivity."
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"Mythical Man-Month" Supposedly Busted By MIT Startup

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  • Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by igny ( 716218 ) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @09:28PM (#31433498) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @09:46PM (#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.
  • Disappointing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tracy Reed ( 3563 ) <[gro.teloivartlu] [ta] [deert]> on Wednesday March 10, 2010 @10:53PM (#31433996) Homepage

    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:basic fail. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gewalker ( 57809 ) <Gary...Walker@@@AstraDigital...com> on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:34AM (#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.

  • by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @12:46AM (#31434598)

    There are two things here. Several things can happen in term of 'scheduling theory'

    -you can have 'super linear speed up' : put 2 workers and go 4 times faster. Think about building an ikea furniture that REQUIRES 2 people alone. Or about specialized workers : it might be better to add a microwave to a kitchen than a second oven. In computer systems, cache/memory can lead to super linear speed or dedicated hardware acceleration like graphic cards.

    -you can have 'linear speed up' : put 2 workers and go 2 times faster. This is usally the case when the problem can be divided in a lot of independent task like painting 20000 doors. In computer systems this happens when uncompressing videos for instance.

    -you can have 'sublinear speed up' : put 2 workers and go 1.3 times faster. This happens when you need to do extra work to allow some several workers to work at the same time. As in tagging files so that other people can handle them (In computer science, computing a prefix sum array in parallel follows this principle). It also happens when there is not enough work for everybody (the 9 pregnant women case)

    -you can also have 'negative speed up' : put 2 workers and go 1.3 times slower. This happens when people get in each others way fighting for the brush to paint. In computer systems, this is often the case when adding processors increase communication too much.

  • Re:!MMM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr. Droopy Drawers ( 215436 ) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @09:26AM (#31436678)

    I wish I had mod points. This needs to be modded up.

    I work for a large FW company and we host interns regularly. I am always surprised (shouldn't be) at what passes for projects assigned to them. I participated in a code review for one of these. Nothing prepared me for the abomination of code I encountered.

    Now, 6 months past, I noticed another team deployed that code in their group and is coming back to our team to fix it since it originated from our group.

    Smart ne Experience. This article was short on detail but long on dumping on Mr. Brooks. I think they need to (re)read his book.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"