Why Software Gets In Trouble

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Many books have described How Software Is Built. Indeed, that's the first title in my Quality Software Series. But why do we need an entire book to explain Why Software Gets In Trouble? Why not just say "people make mistakes"?
Why not? Because there are reasons people make mistakes, and make them repeatedly, and fail to discover and correct them. That's what this book is about.

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About Gerald M. Weinberg

Gerald M. Weinberg (Jerry) writes "nerd novels," such as The Aremac Project, Aremac Power, First Stringers, Second Stringers, The Hands of God, Freshman Murders, and Mistress of Molecules—about how brilliant people produce quality work. His novels may be found as eBooks at or on Kindle. Before taking up his science fiction career, he published books on human behavior, including Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, The Psychology of Computer Programming, Perfect Software and Other Fallacies, and an Introduction to General Systems Thinking. He also wrote books on leadership including Becoming a Technical Leader, The Secrets of Consulting (Foreword by Virginia Satir), More Secrets of Consulting, and the four-volume Quality Software Management series. He incorporates his knowledge of science, engineering, and human behavior into all of writing and consulting work (with writers, hi-tech researchers, and software engineers). Early in his career, he was the architect for the Mercury Project's space tracking network and designer of the world's first multiprogrammed operating system. Winner of the Warnier Prize and the Stevens Award for his writing on software quality, he is also a charter member of the Computing Hall of Fame in San Diego and the University of Nebraska Hall of Fame. The book, The Gift of Time (Fiona Charles, ed.) honors his work for his 75th birthday. His website and blogs may be found at http://www.geraldmweinberg.com.

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Reviews

Review by: Lyndon Vrooman on April 12, 2011 : star star star star star
I'll be honest, about half way through this book, I thought that I found it rather bland and full of things that I was already doing. This changed however as I was assessing an application that I had been working with for years and we had found some critical faults in.
I started thinking more about the book and the contents of it. After re-reading it, I realized that I hadn't been looking closely enough for faults, only going just beneath the skin. As I started to apply more and more of the information within, I began to realize more and more of what I had been learning was adding tremendously to the quality of the product.

In short, after thinking more and more about this book, it's quickly gone to one that I recommend to everyone that I work with.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Joe Strazzere on Feb. 25, 2011 : star star star star
"Why Software Gets In Trouble" is part 2 of the latest edition of Weinberg's "Quality Software" series.

In it, Jerry describes many of the ways errors occur, the correct way of thinking about errors (such as "Errors are not a moral issue" and "Quality is not the same thing as absence of errors"), how companies and processes get into a state where errors are more likely to occur (increased pressure, high levels of stress, poor estimation, lack of control, etc), and the effects of breakdowns.

This book is fairly short, yet surprisingly thorough over its seven chapters:
Chapter 1: Observing and Reasoning About Errors
Chapter 2: The Failure Detection Curve
Chapter 3: Locating The Faults Behind The Failures
Chapter 4: Fault Resolution Dynamics
Chapter 5: Power, Pressure, and Performance
Chapter 6: Handling Breakdown Pressure
Chapter 7: What We've Managed To Accomplish

For me, this was a very timely book. My team is going through some of the same pressure patterns Jerry writes about. For virtually every point made, I found myself saying "I remember when that happened", and sometimes "That's happening right now!"

If you are a Software Testing professional, you should read this book. You should then give a copy to your manager, and to your manager's boss. Then, be prepared to discuss with them the realities of software development from a tester's point of view. After reading "Why Software Gets In Trouble", you'll almost certainly have a more enlightened (and hopefully more receptive) audience.

One note: You should read the appendices first, so you will understand the diagrams and references to "Patterns" scattered throughout the book.

A disclaimer: Jerry put out a call for reviewers on his website (http://secretsofconsulting.blogspot.com/2011/02/free-books-looking-for-few-more-book.html) and gave a free e-copy of this book to those who would agree to post a review. Since I enjoyed his book "Perfect Software: And Other Illusions About Testing" so much, I agreed - this is my review.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Don Gray on Dec. 10, 2010 : star star star star star
Why Software Gets in Trouble

After three quarterly “successful” releases a company had 453 defects opened in a single day against the “successful” releases.

Many books exist for any given programming language. Every developer had two or three at their desk.

One book on software engineering may exist for every 100 language books. Maybe not. I noticed one developer had one.

453 defects don’t suddenly happen. Something in the process and culture allowed them to build until they could no longer be ignored. It seems to me someone at the company might benefit from learning about system dynamics and the reasons behind software errors.

Why Software Gets in Trouble is the only book I know of that explores the systemic dynamics and reasons behind software errors. Using stories, graphs and Diagrams of Effects, this book explores how different software cultures:

* notice and think about errors
* detect failures
* locate the faults behind the errors
* resolve faults
* apply and handle pressure

The content applies to both managers and developers. If you’ve wondered why you keep experiencing the same patterns concerning shipping software, this book will help you understand why.

If you’ve not read How Software is Built (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25293), you might find reading the appendices on Diagrams of Effects and Software Engineering Cultural Patterns helpful prior to starting the main text.
(reviewed long after purchase)

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