Thursday, 4 October 2001

Software runaways and more

Listening to:

Puccini, La Bohème.

Holiday reading:

Robert L. Glass, Software runaways.

I read this in Australia because it was in a friend’s book-case, not because I took it with me. It’s a repackaged collection of articles, including a big chunk of someone else’s masters thesis, about software projects that went disastrously wrong, usually costing the earth, and/or taking much longer than expected to finish, or not finishing at all.

As a collection, it doesn’t hold together particularly well. The introduction is OK in terms of introducing Glass’s theories about project failure, but the rest of the book makes pretty dull reading. Many of the failures were due to political squabbles (rather than bad technical decisions), but there’s nothing much in the way of human interest in the presentation of these stories. Further, the technical problems are not described in anything like enough detail to allow anyone to take away any sort of technical lessons.

My link du jour is (part of) the sad story of how more and more free “content” on the web is disappearing. The New York Times hasn’t given free access to its standard archive for a while, but as a result of the Tasini case explained above, it has now removed lots of pre-1995 book reviews from its site that were apparently available before. The New York Review of Books is doing something similar, and Salon has moved most of its politics coverage to subscriber-only access.

However, Salon does have this neat article/review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s latest Earthsea books available for all. (OK, I admit it, I call it “neat” because I find myself in almost complete agreement with the reviewer about everything she says.) I just hope it continues to remain accessible indefinitely.