New: Book Report: The Mythical Man-Month (leftover cheap joke)

Last week, I posted a rough draft of a study guide for The Mythical Man-Month. I left a cheap joke out of that study guide. That study guide was serious business and had no room for cheap jokes. So I'm posting this separately.

One part of the book discusses how to divide up a programming team's labor among a few people, letting the best programmer concentrate on programming, while offloading minutiae to others. They use the analogy of a surgical team:

A proposal by Harlan Mills offers a fresh and creative solution. Mills proposes that each segment of a large job be tackled by a team...organized like a surgical team... one does the cutting and the others give him every support that will enhance his effectiveness and productivity. ... Can it work? Who are the the anesthesiologists and nurses on a programming team, and how is the work divided?

Because I'm a technical writer, I was flattered that this proposed team has a role for a technical writer: the Editor.

The editor. The surgeon is responsible for generating the documentation—for maximum clarify he must write it... The editor, however, takes the draft or dictated manuscript produced by the surgeon and criticizes it, reworks it, provides it with references and bibliography, nurses it through several revisions, and oversees the mechanics of production.

Why mention a tech writer? Maybe Brooks was thinking about this because he was writing a book. I have another theory, though: he wanted to answer the question he raised earlier: Who is the anesthesiologist of the surgical team? Anyone who's tried to stay awake while reading my documentation can answer that question. Uhm, they can answer it after you wake them up again, I mean.

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Posted 2009-11-15