Are there Bugs in Your Quality Gates?

Dr. Dobbs just published an article called “Improving Tests for Reliability” written by Reed Hastings. If you haven’t read it yet please do yourself a favor and take a look. It is absolutely worth your time. Wait a second - Reed Hastings... He is the CEO of Netflix. Where does he find the time? I can only assume that software quality must be a huge passion of his.

Anyway, the article provides a concise yet superbly detailed description of some of the intricacies of software complexity; elusive, yet very expensive types of software bugs; how they relate to bugs in the software quality gates and the need for automated (and generally better) tests.

Oh, I forgot to mention: This article was written in 1993. That’s 20 years ago. Twenty!

Let’s put things in perspective here: Were you born in 1993? Okay, good. Just checking.

What did the software development world look like in 1993? If you needed a really cool, efficient UI component you would write it yourself. For any “serious” development work, the platform of choice was probably some flavor of UNIX. To share your work with a client you would use a floppy disk and put it in the mail. Windows... well, Windows was in version 3.1.

As a refresher, here is an interesting overview of the time by Ken Polsson: Chronology of Personal Computer Software. If you are really interested in the topic, check out the work of the Software Preservation Group.

Let's fast forward to today to nearly universal high-speed wireless internet, social computing, proliferation of 1GHz+ machines to every aspect of our life, virtualization and Cloud transformed IT organizations. Open source tools are just a click away, powerful development platforms (SaaS and PaaS) are taking off, Google is... well, Google, code sharing is instantaneous and the list goes on and on.

Still, Hastings's software quality article about the elusiveness of bugs and limitations of test suites reads like it was written today. How can this be true? What are we doing wrong?

Surely after 20 years of learning about the importance of software quality no one would even think of kicking off a new project without having a strong test automation gate and resources to support it throughout the development cycle.

I really hope this article will look old and outdated 20 years from now. Heck, I hope it looks old and outdated a year from now. We have to make progressive steps in ensuring software quality, there is simply no other way to move forward. Just think of the enormous increase in software complexity and how badly low quality tools can hurt your business. It's not the bugs in software to worry about - it’s the bugs in your quality gates. 

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