Thursday, March 19, 2009

It’s Not a “Bug”, It’s a Defect – And You Put It There

Copyright 2008-2009, Paul Jackson, all rights reserved

DevTopics has a little bit about there now being 100-million lines of codes in some automobiles – it and its source article are an interesting read, but it starts with a little song that really set me off …

100 million lines of code in your car,
100 million lines of code,
If one of the lines develops a bug…

It’s the last line there that did it for me – see, I don’t like the term “bug”.  I know it’s an ubiquitous term in our industry; I know it’s even used in products like Team Foundation Server; I know, even, that the term predates the software industry; but I still don’t like it.

The days of software problems being caused by insects getting crushed in mechanical switches are far behind us – these days, if there’s a problem with software, it was put there by a programmer.  It didn’t crawl in and it didn’t “develop” – it’s a result of someone’s screw-up.

This doesn’t mean that I think my code’s perfect … I can screw up right along with the best of them … but the number of developers I’ve met who seem to abandon all sense of responsibility in favor of the “all software has bugs”-mentality concerns me.  The sort who think the Test Team is there to find defects, where I think their job should be to validate that there aren’t any.

It may seem a subtle difference, and I definitely don’t want to get involved in the web-debate on “quality matters” that’s going on, but I really think the “bug” term is detrimental to our industry.

I remember my first job as a development lead and the first team meeting I held.  One of the things I told the team was that I wanted us to have a goal of achieving a zero-defect turnover to the Test Team.  After the meeting, one of the developers pulled me aside and told me that hearing that one goal made him proud to be on the team.  And his comment made me think I’d done at least one thing right on my first day, so it’s stayed with me all these years.

Especially with younger developers (and I could just be becoming a curmudgeon), it seems to me that there’s less real pride these days and more celebrity, flash and arrogance.  Real pride and real craftsmanship aren’t about cool, they’re about quality.

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