Even among people as logical and rational as software developers, you should never underestimate the power of myth. Some programmers will believe what they choose to believe against all better judgment.
The classic example is the popular fallacy that you can speed up a software project by adding more developers. Frederick P. Brooks debunked this theory in 1975, in his now-seminal book of essays, "The Mythical Man-Month."
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Brooks' central premise was that adding more developers to a late software project won't make it go faster. On the contrary, they'll delay it further. If this is true, he argued, much of the other conventional wisdom about software project management was actually wrong.
Some of Brooks' examples seem obsolete today, but his premise is still sound. He makes his point cogently and convincingly. Unfortunately, too few developers seem to have taken it to heart. More than 35 years later, mythical thinking still abounds among programmers. We keep making the same mistakes.
The real shame is that, in many cases, our elders pointed out our errors years ago, if only we would pay attention. Here are just a few examples of modern-day programming myths, many of which are actually new takes on age-old fallacies.
Programming myth No. 1: Offshoring produces software faster and cheaper
These days, no one in their right mind thinks of launching a major software project without an offshoring strategy. All of the big software vendors do it. Silicon Valley venture capitalists insist on it. It's a no-brainer -- or so the service providers would have you believe.
It sounds logical. By off-loading coding work to developing economies, software firms can hire more programmers for less. That means they can finish their projects in less time and with smaller budgets.
But hold on! This is a classic example of the Mythical Man-Month fallacy. We know that throwing more bodies at a software project won't help it ship sooner or cost less -- quite the opposite. Going overseas only makes matters worse.
According to Brooks, "Adding people to a software project increases the total effort necessary in three ways: the work and disruption of repartitioning itself, training new people, and added intercommunication."