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IntroductionThe Other Side of Software

The Other Side of Software

This book is about the other side of computer software, the side facing outward. This face of computing touches and is touched by people—technology people, like you and me, and ordinary people, like you and me. The essays here compiled explore the many diverse aspects of peopleware—that interface between software and its developers and between software and its users.

My editors, both at the magazines in which this material originally appeared and at Prentice Hall, have allowed me to range widely in my explorations. The enormous breadth of the topic of peopleware has enabled me to write about almost anything I desired: from organizational culture and project organization, coding chaos and coding discipline, programming tools and programming techniques, to users, usability, and user interfaces. This far-reaching landscape spans the peculiar in-between world where the boundaries between technical and social issues blur, where psychology meets cybernetics, and where theory and practice intermix. The picture reflects my enduring personal and professional interests in both people and in computer software.

This book is a revised, expanded, and updated successor to Constantine on Peopleware (Prentice Hall, 1995). It is too radical a revision to be called a second edition, yet too closely related not to be connected with its forerunner. For the readers of Constantine on Peopleware and new readers alike, a wealth of new material is included to round out the subject matter. To the chapters from the original volume, this compilation adds 25 new essays being published here for the first time in book form. These incorporate all 52 of my original “Peopleware” columns from Computer Language magazine and Software Development magazine, including a “lost column” from the very end of that series (see the Appendix). In addition, I have assembled seven closely related essays from Object Magazine that might otherwise be difficult for readers to obtain. These are particularly important in providing an overview of usage-centered design. This approach, first introduced in my columns, has been refined and expanded into the award-winning book, Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Models and Methods of Usage-Centered Design (Addison-Wesley 1999), written with Lucy Lockwood.

One of the great advantages to writing about people is that people change far less rapidly than technology. In rereading and editing the material for this compilation, I was often struck by how little has changed during the many years over which I have been writing about the people side of technology. Projects are still running way over budget, products are still delivered unconscionably late, resources are still hopelessly inadequate for the job, and managers are still wrestling with how best to inspire and channel the creative potential of their counterdependent developers. Developers, for their part, still chafe at the constraints of design diagrams, modeling tools, and disciplined methods for developing software. Users, in turn, still struggle with making sense of software that speaks well with computers but poorly with ordinary human beings.

Nevertheless, while people have changed little, the technology has altered so radically as to make some of the examples and references in the earliest columns seem almost quaint. An essay on the move from monochrome to full-color monitors, for instance, may seem like a return to prehistory for newcomers to software development, even though the use and misuse of color, the central subject, is as current as the Web. So, with full respect for the original intent and flavor, I have updated the essays where needed for currency and correctness.

This expanded collection has been organized into nine topic areas, with the reprinted columns arranged within each section to form a more-or-less logical unfolding of ideas. New sections—on usability in relation to software objects and on organizational culture—have been added. The reader will quickly learn that each of the essays, while interwoven with others, stands on its own. I suspect this was part of the appeal of my original column and of the first compilation—each chapter could be read independently of the others and in the time of a short cab ride or a break between meetings.

New chapters have also been interspersed in meaningful blocks to make them easier for readers of the first volume to locate them. The new chapters are: 22-25, 31-32, 40-41, 43-49, and 53-61, as well as the Appendix.

In assembling this material from its scattered resting places, I hope I have created a resource of lasting value, a book that will continue to provoke and inspire and enlighten the wonderful people who work in the software industry. It is for them—the designers, developers, and managers who invent and implement software—that I wrote in the first place and that I continue to write today.

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