REVIEW - Dynamics of Software Development


Dynamics of Software Development


Jim McCarthy, Michele McCarthy



Microsoft Press (2006)




Pete Goodliffe


February 2007



This is a reissue of a classic software development tome originally released in 1995. It was a worthwhile read then. Time has been kind to it, and a lot of the points discussed are still perfectly relevant 11 years on. In fact, the McCarthy's ideals can clearly be seen as precursors to many fashionable "agile" disciplines.

The original book presented a series of ideas and rules of thumb to help shape better dynamics in software development teams and processes. These items ranged over the lifetime of the development process: from the "opening moves", through shipping, and the launch, and beyond. It also provided an appendix on hiring and keeping good people.

This 2006 edition reproduces the original book and adds a little extra material (28 new pages, added to the original 150-odd). It introduces some very superficial updates to the original material: mostly the addition of cross-references to the new material.

The "old" 1995 book content has been largely left alone and called "Part 1". The book therefore has an slightly odd structure: the original book's appendix is reproduced at the end of part one, BEFORE part two's new 2006 material. There is a kind of logic here.

The authors originally intended to weave all of the items into a richer "tapestry" in subsequent editions. The rules don't interconnect as much as they could. The 2006 update doesn't touch the old material, and so doesn't attempt to complete this weaving. This edition adds three new rules of thumb, and then provides a fantastically brief summary of the McCarthy's "The Core System 3.0" - a process/system for interacting teams as described in their 2002 book "Software For Your Head".

To be honest I felt this "Core Protocol" stuff was a total waste of time. The material is presented so briefly - a mere summary of another book - that without any proper discussion it serves to confuse and baffle the reader more than add any value. It's 20 pages of quick overview and bulleted lists. As it's about 3/4 of the entire "new" material, it doesn't makes a compelling case for buying the new edition.

The book includes CD ROM with a video Jim McCarthy giving his famous "23 1/2 Rules of Thumb" presentation, upon which the book is based.

This is a good book, but I was left with the feeling that a more substantial update could have been very interesting. This edition seems like a release for marketing purposes alone. If you don't already own the original book, then it's an interesting read; for historical purposes as much as anything else. If you do have it, read that copy again, and spend your money elsewhere.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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