20th anniversary of Peopleware Panel

At ICSE 2007, they had a retrospective on the 20th anniversary of Peopleware. Ed Yourdon has a report on it at his blog here. You can also read about it in IEEE Software magazine here. I had never read Peopleware before, so decided shortly thereafter to read a copy. The first thing to note is that it’s hard to come by. Maybe not now – but a year ago, I had a lot of problems finding it. Finally the library found me a beat-up old copy. (I’m still waiting for the copy I ordered off ebay – guess I won’t ever see that one).

In a way, reading the book was reminiscent of reading Bill Curtis’ old articles – in the sense that, wow it’s already been said, and that was over 20-30 years ago now. I guess one thing I really liked about the book is that it took a much broader perspective than what I see the field currently focused on. Where many of the issues studied in the human side of software engineering focus on tools, and helping individuals, and some on team – this book looked more broadly at personality, management, even things like furniture. I think those issues are probably closer to bringing about real innovation than creating a new tool – but perhaps not.

Also, the book made me realize the lack of a coherent research agenda in the field of human side of software engineering. Perhaps this is because the literature is spread across disciplines and we don’t have a conference to attend (yet). But what would our “putting man on the moon” question be, as in deciphering the genetic code. And one thing that’s bothered me a bit – is when it comes to the human side of software engineering, what is it about software that is unique? Why can’t we just study management, or organizational behaviour, or innovation, or psychology, or any other field for that matter – why do we need to study these things in the context of software engineering?

Well anyhow, a bit of food for thought – and definitely get your hands on Peopleware – it’s a must read for this field.

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