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CHAT: software quality (was: SIL Toolbox and IPA Unicode 1.0)

From:Mark P. Line <mark@...>
Date:Thursday, September 2, 2004, 17:53
Philippe Caquant said:
> > This is the topic of a (supposed) science called > "ergonomy". This is exactly the thing that a real, > pure, smart, clever, computer specialist doesn't want > to hear about.
I don't see the need for such hyperbole. I think you're trying to ask the perfectly reasonable question, "Why does not every software development project enforce strict ergonomic quality requirements on their product?" Looking back on about 30 years of software development and its management, I think your question has a pretty straightforward answer in the sense that the obvious answer is the correct one: (a) every software development project reduces more or less to a network of trade-offs among time, money and quality; (b) money is institutionalized in an objective accounting system going back to the Medicis; (c) time is institutionalized in an objective accounting system going back to late 19th century "scientific management"; (d) there is no institutionalized objective accounting system in place for software quality or development process quality; (e) quality doesn't sell software, marketing sells software; (f) the more software you can market, the more you can sell, regardless of quality; and therefore (g) the success of software development teams is generally measured in terms of the existing accounting systems (time and money) -- typically at the expense of product and/or process quality, when trade-offs lead to a crunch. A case could be made (by somebody other than me, though I wouldn't necessarily disagree) that the Open Source movement is at least partially an attempt to refocus the software industry on quality at the expense of time and money. (Think of the opportunity cost of SourceForge volunteer work, for example.)
> The computer specialists are, as a rule, unbearably > satisfied of themselves and their tools.
I guess that depends on how broadly you choose to define "computer specialists". In my book, software requirements engineers, software quality engineers and software ergonomists are computer specialists who are seldom satisfied with the state of the art (and often enough dissatisfied with the final product they're forced to confront). -- Mark