Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy new year!

Happy new year to all. The new year is starting off again with new promises, new resolutions, new business, new projects. I wish everybody well in the coming year and hope that they will get closer to the realization of their dreams.

There are some interesting developments on my own projects. Project Dune has launched a community site: and I am waiting anxiously for people to start using it. The project has been rising in the popularity ranks at SourceForge and it's quite difficult to maintain momentum at these positions.

The good news is that I will be releasing a Beta release pretty soon. There is more working functionality, the main problems have been dealt with and so I am happy to upgrade the status at this time.

It probably won't answer immediately to your needs in your project, because the rules for ownership transfer and updating are rather generic and default. I'll only be able to make some good improvements when I learn more about how people want to use the software.

See you in the next year! I'm off to the beach to celebrate and will be back tomorrow....


Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I have read a book titled "Measuring and Managing performance in organizations". It really is an enlightener.

As many know, I am working on a project called "Project Dune" on SourceForge, which is related to quality. You could say that quality is highly dependent on measurement. And for measurement, you need to generate data and do that in such a way that you can historically compare one data-set with another. The end result is hopefully some insight in how you are doing as a team/department/organization.

Well, it is not really that easy. When you start to measure in an organization, you need to generate the data and both activities are coming at a cost of that same organization. Effort removed from normal production work. Well, obviously it is required to find a balance between going for production and generate the data anyway since you need to find a way forward to improve and without information backing up any decisions, you base all decisions on intuition, which in general can be very deceiving.

Project Dune is interesting in that the vision is that it should do the measuring for you. It is basically a similar tool like BugZilla, Mantis and so forth, but in addition to helping with standard administration and tracking, it also helps in day-to-day activities. And that is where the automation is plugged in, next to its envisioned integration points.

When you start to connect a system that knows about user activities, it can connect the data for its users and the larger the domain is where it is connecting "dots", the larger is the area that you can measure across.

The good thing about this is:
  • You get the measurements almost for free, always up-to-date and in real-time
  • You are better supported in day-to-day activities
  • You can spend more effort on your productive tasks without worrying about any process or dependent tasks that you do for others
Of course, it is not really that near to completion, but a BETA is coming out not too far from now. I'm just thinking about server-side call control (security) before I can even call it BETA. So far I have no feedback yet, but hope to see that happening at some time soon.

The statistics for the project are ranking up at the moment. The project is available at the third page in the rankings at this time (103) and seems to be going up still. A new ALPHA-3 release was just issued today. Let's see what happens next :)



Friday, December 15, 2006

Progress on Project Dune

I am progressing very quickly recently on the Dune opensource project.

It is a quality automation system. The objective is to make it work similar to BugZilla or Mantis in the sense that it maintains issues, but it also maintains information on:
  • tasks
  • customers
  • projects
  • functional requirement items
  • use cases
  • test cases
  • subversion commits
This way, the project is able to report across the whole area of development eventually. This also opens up the path to automation in traceability and probably therefore control.

I'm thinking of writing a theoretical paper on the subject of quality automation and the information that is supposedly lacking in quality plans, even though data is being "gathered".

check out the Project at Source Forge

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Quality in Innovation

This post is my personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of my employer... yadda, yadda...

I'm reading several books at the moment, one of which is the book to CMMi. This is basically deriving a vision for continuous process improvement in a company. But there are things seriously wrong with CMM. It is geared towards establishing a "static" state atmosphere, because if this were different, it would be very difficult to apply measurements across the process. A dynamic setting like an innovative powerhouse has severe problems adopting more rigid procedures due to the nature of their work. It is *not* a factory and they work with people that are intelligent and know what they are doing. Why insult them with procedures that tell them what to do, if they are the ones that know best?

The final level of the CMMi Zen approach is: "the optimizing level" :). I compare this to an engine room of a ship (I used to work in shipping).

This is where every process is defined and measured, you have all the spare parts you need, you have all the supplies you need and the ship hums along without a glitch. No leaking oil, no weird sounds, there are no bearings about to break or go. The chief engineer only walks around to tweak some settings on regulators for the form of it, puts his ear against a machine to hear its performance. It might tell the 2nd to replace a filter here or there or schedule an overhaul in the future, but overall the performance is so magnificent that everybody can go upstairs to the ship's bar. That's Zen, but software is pretty much different, especially when working on innovative and new products. Technology moves a *lot* faster in IT than it does in shipping. The speed at which new technology can be consumed on the ship is because they are users of that technology, not creators. And in software you may find yourself working on an embedded system to monitor cars first, subsequently followed by the latest technology in Ajax to create a project management system.

The later parts of my 729-page CMMi guide talks about "statistics" and "statistically managed subprocesses". Surely it must be evident that if you are not continuously repeating what you are doing, you are not building any historical data and thereby not creating the data necessary to improve your processes.

The real reason why it is so difficult to integrate with these quality visions is because in IT we are learning new things every day or encountering problems that are not standard. If I was working on a project with really new technology or bending the rules of what is possible with that technology, I would deserve a couple of days extra to find out ways and alternatives. I might choose a wrong alternative first and then have to rework. I might have to read through books of protocols in order to even start with architecture or coding. I may have people in the team that need to be trained.

Is a quality process that relies on repeatedness able to improve the quality of what I am doing?


I am not convinced!

( also check out )

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Software Quality

This is one of the first posts on software quality. Since 2002 I have been working on a project called "Dune", which is basically an automated system that helps you in the process of quality (it does not inspect, nor write code for you, nor writes documents), but if your company has strict processes regarding baselines, inspections, document control and especially traceability, this may be an interesting thing for you to try out.

The software is at: and
Yep, it is GPL'd, so anybody can download, help out and use it, however you cannot take the sources and close it down for any commercial product.

There are some good rationales behind the project that I am going to write and design soon and put on the site. The whole work on the project is good to understand quality a lot better. I read through entire books about software quality (dry reading material about "process", "audit" etc. *yawn*), but in the end just discover that whatever they are talking about.... it can be automated! And how many tools do you know that automate traceability and have import functions for project plans, RF and UC documents?

A "quality process" in the end is nothing but the definition of responsibility. Setting the boundaries where the responsibility of one person ends and the other starts. So if you believe that a process is going to improve your software, I wouldn't really think so. The only thing able to do that are the people that you have in your time. The process should only help to create an environment wherein this team can flourish! And as written before, definition of processes is not always good, because if the process writer 'forgets' to write down a certain responsibility, it is likely that this issue falls through the cracks with no one to blame (blame it on the process, not yourself :).

The rationale for adopting a software quality standard doesn't really have much to do with actual software quality. That is, a software standard certification need not be in place in order to write good software. Good quality depends on good people, not on processes of any kind. It may help, but only if the process is defined and adopted by the people in the company. Rather, a process must be seen as the formalization of how work is done in that company with that culture, not an enforced method of work by a select few in the organization that read a good amount of books on software quality and then run around crazy with the theory.

I have not yet read CMMi in its entirety, but I understand what it is about. I am not yet sure whether what I am building will comply with CMMi or vice-versa. I do expect though that the "rules for certification" of CMMi fit in nicely.

Any quality "system", whether this is a quality plan, a set of software tools or adopted method of work should aim for a couple of objectives to achieve software quality:
  • transparency
  • traceability
  • control
Control is the means that a team has to exercise control over the 'states' in the project. There are initiatives, purchases, work items, bugs, features and change requests to be managed. The better the software is aligned with how the team wants to manage this information, the more effective it will be.

Traceability has much to do with the CMMi and ISO standards. This is often interpreted as a "paper trail", but I argue that it might just as well be a set of records in a database (it is actually much better). Traceability has much to do with "auditing" as well. To know when, how and who is basically the question that for each initiative, bug and feature needs to be answered.

Transparency means a system where the information is close to the surface. One should not have to open a separate locker with a key that only the manager has to go through drawers of paperwork to find out what happened to bug #35. This is one extreme transparency problem, but it shows how transparency is important in a system. Transparency is basically a measure how easy it is to get to the information in the system. The easier it is, the more value the system generates for its users.

So, this is what I am building. An automated quality support system. The system by itself is incapable of guaranteeing quality, but it helps to lift the effort in maintaining the audit chain and ties control, transparency and traceability together. This is very important for people involved in software development. It relieves the people involved from a couple of hours of effort a week (as an estimate), which can be directed to something really productive.