Software is hard. really hard. Having been involved in creating complex software for the last twelve years (first as a developer, then as a VP Engineering, and currently as a CEO), I can attest that things are always much harder than they seem.
The book follows the creation of "Chandler" -- a be-all personal information manager developed by some of the world's best software developers (and led by Mitch Kapor) that was supposed to take the world by storm but instead was never completed.
the book interweaves some of the history of software and some ideas from best practices (like from Joel on Software).
Anyone undertaking a big software project should read this book and do your best to learn from the mistakes of others.
my take-aways on some best practices for software development:
- hire a smaller team that really works well together
- focus on rapid iteration
- avoid all the software development fads of the day and be highly skeptical of any silver bullet
- ensure your engineering managers are meeting their peers in other companies to share best practices on how to manage a complex project