AntiPatterns - Brown, Malveau, McCormick and Mowbray

Having massively enjoyed The Systems Bible, I thought I'd read another book on How Not To Do It. The first time I saw this book in a bookshop I was disappointed that the antipatterns were mostly at the level of architecture and management, rather than being detailed, low-level ways of getting things wrong (cf the level of patterns in GoF). Since then, I've ended up doing more managing and designing, so it seemed more interesting.

I was wrong. Even if there are antipatterns at these level, this book makes the discussion dull and lifeless, despite the horribly poor cartoons. You could say that the rot starts when the antipatterns they describe have 'refactored solutions', so it's not just all negative. I'd say that's a bit overly harsh - I subscribe to the systemantics view that sometimes things get sufficiently complicated that you can't just glibly say 'here's how we'll fix it', but some hints in that direction are not unreasonable. No, I'd mostly say that, despite the names given to the antipatterns, the main problem is the descriptions are vague and bland enough to be mostly meaningless.

Having said that, I wouldn't be so annoyed if the book weren't so padded and the advice so cheesy. The book starts by saying that one of the complaints about pattern documentation is the verbosity. The book then tediously develops a decidedly uninteresting model before writing out the horribly pedestrian antipattern descriptions. The book also has the sensible advice that there are no silver bullets, and that trendy technologies keep changing, and being tied in is a bad thing...

So, they keep suggesting proper object-orientated architecting as the solution to the various woes. And for the technology, well, they keep suggesting you specify your interfaces in OMG IDL. Which isn't at all tied into the then-trendy CORBA. The fact that this book is a little over 10 years old does help to highlight the trendy ideas of the time it pushes, thus demonstrating the disconnect between what it says and does, in terms of suggesting timeless solutions. In that respect, it compares very badly with The Mythical Man Month, for example.

Naff. I bought it cheaply, and still feel ripped off.

Posted 2012-01-19.