Angry Wild Legends

Writing, authoring, publishing, literary stuff of all kinds – plus anything else!

Who Needs Quality? (Or, Let’s Sack the Testers!)

Now then, how many of you know anything about the manufacture and production of software? Or, what about the manufacture and production of anything, software or not? Everybody knows something about this, I’m sure.

Let’s hypothesise. Let’s say you are a company that produces something and wants to market it to the general public. It doesn’t matter what that somethingis, and it doesn’t matter if the distribution of it is free or requires the public to purchase it. Hmm, his is a bit general, so let’s be a little more specific.

 Let’s say you produce some software which you freely give away to the public. Your eventual intent, not unnaturally, is that you will eventually command a share of a given market sector, and make money in some way, perhaps by selling advertising space, or offering a premium membership, or something along those lines. How do you go about it?

Well, you get the product written (manufactured), promote it with a suitable advertising campaign (be that traditional media adds, employing expert agencies, or viral marketing). Basically, you tell your potential audience what your software does, why it benefits that audience to use it, perhaps why it should be a preferred choice to its’ competitors, and how good the software is at achieving its’ aim. Then you distribute the software. Perhaps you make it available for download.

“Visit www.s******w.com and download the latest whizzy kit! You know it makes sense!”

So.

Why should the audience believe you? Why should they trust the software you’ve created? What proof do they have that (a) it ‘does what it says on the tin’, and (b) that it wont have any detrimental effect on any of the other software you currently have installed on your PC? Hmm. That’s a problem, isn’t it? Essentially, all you, the potential subscriber to the software, can do is trust that it has been properly designed, developed, and tested within reasonable limits. You have to trustthe manufacturer.

Now, with some products the quality aspect is absolutely essential. It’s obvious that if, say, the software that controls the movement of aircraft around JFK, or Heathrow, or any other airport, or the software that controls the dispensing of medical presciptions, has not been quality assured then the results would be catastrophic. Of course, most of us don’t actually download software that is quite that critical. However, we do download software that could, potentially, be harmful. We all know about viruses and worms and trojans and so forth, but could there be a problem with the software itself, even if it hasn’t been infected? What assurance do we have that the software we download will not have any adverse effect on the rest of the files on our home PC? How do we know the phonelist we made, or the thesis we’re writing for university, or the scores of photos of the new baby we archived, or the personal data we’ve stored, will be safe?

What we do is we trust the manufacturer. We assume and trust that they have tested the software they’ve provided, and that we can be confident that it works as it should. This applies both to applications that we install, and to websites we visit if there is interactivity between the website and ourselves. For instance, maybe we want to upload a file to a social networking or community website. Maybe the website offers us the ability to upload that file. Do you know how it does it? Do you know if it, for example, locks out the file on your PC in order to ensure a clean upload? Do you know if it resets the lock when the upload has finished? Do you know for sure that it hasn’t grabbed some other file instead, or maybe taken an extra copy of the file and logged its’ content without your knowing? Or, what if you use a client application to do the upload? The same questions can be asked.

You know, I worked for a company that actually produced a utility that uploaded files from your PC to a server. You told it what files to upload, and it did it. Unfortunately, it had a side effect at one point where it actually deleted the original files. Don’t worry, the Quality Assurance (Test) people discovered the problem, and the version of the product with that particular ‘bug’ did not get shipped! The testers had done their job, just like they do in any other company – at least, in any other company that actually employs test engineers!

How do you know if the company from whom you have obtained a piece of software actually does have professional, experienced test engineers to assure the safety of your data? How do you know?

I have just been made redundant from such a company. Not just me, mind you – ALL the quality staff have been made redundant. If you obtain any software from that company, then you should be aware that it has NOT been tested in any organised, competent manner. A decision was taken (without, I should add, the full board of directors being advised of the fact) to remove the whole of he QA team from the manager down, because it was decided that ‘due dilligence’ was sufficient to vet the product before it was shipped, and that it would be quite acceptable for the general public to find any ‘bugs’ that might be present. In other words, the people who use the software (that’s you, incidentally) could be given it in an untested state, and who cares if they risk losing data in the process?

This is my fourth redundancy, but in each of the previous cases there were financial reasons for the ‘downsizing’. In this last instance, however, that is not the case. The company was extremely well backed. I wonder how many of the investors know they are now financing the development of  product that (a) does not have any formal design/development process, (b) is not quality checked, and (c) relies on developers who are also employed by direct competitors of the software? Boy, are they gonna look stupid if something goes wrong! I wonder what would happen if, and let’s be generous, the product actually becomes popular in the near future, and they find there is a need to expand the business. They get to compete with the ‘big boys’ like YouTube or MySpace. Now I know those companies employ testing staff and quality regimens, yet this poor relation wont be able to employ testing staff because they made the positions redundant! Oh dear! How sad! What a shame!

Is this a case of sour grapes on  my part? I guess it probably is, but it doesn’t make it any less true. You see, I actually care about quality.

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November 14, 2007 Posted by | General, investors, IT, quality, redundancy, Software, Testing, trust, work | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments