Jag Venugopal's Blog

May 18, 2009

Ultra-Brief Review: Heads First Software Development

Filed under: Information Technology — Jag @ 10:14 pm

I just finished a quick read of Heads First Software Development. I both liked the book and was also disappointed by it.

What disappointed me was that the book has a very ambitious title… it promises no less than a complete overview of the software development process. What it does in fact deliver is a very focused sliver; one way of delivering custom built software of low to medium complexity.

I really liked the book as an introduction to agile/iterative software development. There is a lot of good material about many of the buzzwords du jour: user stories, iterations, various testing methods, continuous integration, velocity and the like. For a manager or a developer trying to understand how to write software iteratively as part of a small team, this is a great book.

The book stumbles in addressing other software methods: for example where the architecture is likely to be highly complex, how does the team deal with architecture? Is there an upfront architecture phase? The book seems to recommend the “architecture by accumulation” approach, where the architecture evolves out of a number of small on-the-spot decisions and not a coherent, properly thought through phase.

The book takes a simplistic view of capturing requirements as user stories and then getting the team to estimate based on a very limited understanding of the user story. I have found that in the complex software systems I’ve delivered, requirements need a lot more than a sentence, or a couple on a 3×5 card to document. Furthermore, estimation of the requirements is not a straightforward “x number of days” approach, but is broken up by discipline, based on very specific detailed requirements, and a range rather than a single number.

My concerns notwithstanding, I would recommend the book, with the caveat that the reader keep an open mind about the possible circumstances into which the advocated methodology will fit, and also read, for example, SPSG to get a different perspective.


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