Fred Brooks spoke about the history of how he came to write The Mythical Man Month, as one of the first studies of information systems development. In this talk, he gave some thoughts on how collaborative development at a distance changes (and doesn’t change) the work.
A new characteristic of design in the 20th century is the dominant use of teams to do design. We design with teams both because we are in a hurry and because our creations require more skills than one mind can master. Yet we want our designs to have excellence, and that requires conceptual integrity. Achieving conceptual integrity in team design is then a formidable challenge. Telecollaboration is now, in the 21st Century, not only possible but even fashionable. The mantra of “telecollaboration” assumes implicitly that collaboration is a good thing per se. The more one collaborates, the better. This is far from self-evident; it probably is not true. Nevertheless, there are parts of the design process where collaboration not only shares out the work, but also produces a better design. Here telecollaboration can be most fruitful. Analysis of these aspects of design inevitably generates opinions on how design should be done and taught.