27 November 2007

A look at Brooks's Law

Nowadays, it's not uncommon to cite Metcalfe's Law or Moore's Law when speaking about the power of the network, which happens quite frequently in my line of business. So when I spotted a new "Law" in Cory Doctorow's new Information Week column on Facebook, I was intrigued. And after a closer look at the "Law" - Brooks's Law - I was amused.

First off, I highly recommend giving Cory's latest column a read. It's about the built in self-destructs in social networking platforms. After the mass of messages we receive and conversations we partake in about the new up and coming "social networking tool" that will save [insert cause, field of discipline, area of study, charity case], it's important to step back and look at exactly why I break out in hives when I hear those words. There is a lot of good that can come from such technologies, but after so much Eyeball 2.0, I get increasingly skeptical.

OK, now on to Brooks's Law. Cory doesn't go into this in much detail, leaving me to do a bit of scouting. Here's the low - down, including a brief refresher in Metcalfe's and Moore's Law :

So, we have Metcalfe's Law: the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of users partaking, used often in discussions about the power of the Web and/or telecommunications technology.

Moore's Law: slightly wonkier, from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, stating that "the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit is increasing exponentially, doubling approximately every two years." (Thanks, Wikipedia) This is a key example of exponential growth, especially since 1965 data density (processing speed, memory capacity, etc. etc.) has doubled roughly ever 18 months. Pretty close to Moore's two-year estimation.

Now, Brooks's Law ... "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." Or, also described by Fred Brooks (this being my favorite explanation), "The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned."

Why do I feel like Brooks just gave the finger to Metcalfe? I think I may need some more caffeine ... ;)

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