No good deed goes unpunished

At this government-connected facility, all software development needs a final approval from upper management before it goes into production, says a pilot fish working there.

"The approval meetings involve a short presentation of the software, what has changed from the previous version and what bugs have been fixed," says fish. "If upper management agrees, it's approved and released and we go back to work on the next release.

"Up to a certain time, we only submitted bug reports for bona fide bugs that needed to be tracked for fixing, not for all code changes. If the change was an improvement, it went on our list of improvements for the future. If someone checked in a version with a missing comma, we just made the change to fix it."

Then an edict comes down from management: Going forward, all changes to code, no matter the size or complexity, require a bug report.

Fish's manager thinks this is dumb, but he complies with the new marching orders. By the next review, fish's group has amassed more than 400 bug reports -- of which maybe 20 are actual bugs, with the rest just bookkeeping of changes.

The day for the approval meeting arrives, and fish's group is preceded by the presentation of another group that develops software of similar complexity -- and it's immediately apparent that the manager or that group has decided to blow off the new edict, and just file bug reports for actual bugs.

According to that manager's report, his team had 13 bugs that needed fixing in the release and 11 of them have been fixed.

Upper management congratulates that team on their ability to fix bugs and the stability of their code. Their release is approved.

Then it's fish's team's turn

"We do our presentation, and our manager honestly presents multiple pages of bug report headers," fish says. "He reports that of the 400 or so reports, 370 are closed -- including 'missing comma from code' -- 28 are improvements for the future and 2 unfixed bugs exist.

"Management is outraged that our code is so bad that there are 400 bug reports. They do not approve it, pending review of the software."

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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