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Why Don't We Have Better Practices?


Why Don't We Have Better Practices?

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Steve Jones
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Gary Varga
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I think that part of the reason is that we are not regulated so there is nothing to comply with. The other reason is that because we deal with abstract concepts, as opposed to the real world with its laws of physics, there are far more ways to do something and for it to work. Whilst it can be easy to pull apart practices which are clearly poor, it is not so easy to find one competing practice that is the sole shining light. Often many are suitable, usually none of them more so than all the others.

So as an industry we are left fractious and and rudderless.

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What's needed is a kind of SARBOX for the IT industry.
But I guess we haven't encountered a big enough scandal to motivate/justify this.
Thank Heaven? Hehe
Koen Verbeeck
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Gary Varga (5/15/2014)
I think that part of the reason is that we are not regulated so there is nothing to comply with. The other reason is that because we deal with abstract concepts, as opposed to the real world with its laws of physics, there are far more ways to do something and for it to work. Whilst it can be easy to pull apart practices which are clearly poor, it is not so easy to find one competing practice that is the sole shining light. Often many are suitable, usually none of them more so than all the others.

So as an industry we are left fractious and and rudderless.


Indeed. If a bridge collapses because the contracter made a fault, there will be a scandal, lawsuit and who knows what else.
If you get a blue screen because of a bug? Nobody dies, you just get frustrated. Usually people don't die because of bad coding practices, unless you work in military, aviation, space programs,... I do hope they have good coding practices :-)



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I think the key to this is insurance. If you buy agricultural products, it is possible to insure the quality and there are specialist companies that do this (SGS, Cotecna). They inspect the shipment and pass it as being of a certain quality. Then when it arrives, if it falls below that quality they pay out. Something similar could work for software. The insurer would come in, check the software and certify it then if it failed, they would pay out. The premiums could be substantial, depending on the software, but it would give organisations some peace of mind.



david.wright-948385
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Software and IT operations for the banking sector are already regulated, and rightly so. So too is software for military and health purposes. But it isn't reasonable to impose the same regulation on a mobile phone game. Also, regulation stifles imagination and innovation and greatly increases the cost of entry to the market place and the cost of development.

I'm not saying everything in the garden is rosy - clearly some areas may need more regulation than they have, but 'fit for purpose', due diligence and data protection legislation already play a role. To suggest that all software should be the subject of the type of regulation used in civil engineering, is to ignore the breadth and diversity of the industry and its dynamic, innovative nature. It's the sort of plan that the European Commission are so happy to suggest.
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david.wright-948385 (5/15/2014)
Software and IT operations for the banking sector are already regulated, and rightly so. So too is software for military and health purposes. But it isn't reasonable to impose the same regulation on a mobile phone game. Also, regulation stifles imagination and innovation and greatly increases the cost of entry to the market place and the cost of development.

I'm not saying everything in the garden is rosy - clearly some areas may need more regulation than they have, but 'fit for purpose', due diligence and data protection legislation already play a role. To suggest that all software should be the subject of the type of regulation used in civil engineering, is to ignore the breadth and diversity of the industry and its dynamic, innovative nature. It's the sort of plan that the European Commission are so happy to suggest.


That's all very true.
But if I buy a very expensive software product - be it an operating system or Photoshop or something similar - I'd like to expect some quality. Not a half broken product riddled with bugs. "Oh yeah that feature doesn't work, but we'll have a patch in a few months..."
I'd like to see that if my business is losing money because of faulty software, that the vendor can be held responsible in some way.

Yes, software is very complex and you can't expect something like SQL Server to be completely bug free, but on the other hand do we just have to accept what the vendors shove down our throat?



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Koen Verbeeck (5/15/2014)

... software is very complex and you can't expect something like SQL Server to be completely bug free, but on the other hand do we just have to accept what the vendors shove down our throat?
No, we don't.

To take your example, SQL Server is used in some very constrained circumstances, and Microsoft publish which standards they comply with, and how far their liabilities extend. Their customers have a duty of due diligence in what they produce, so they are responsible for ensuring that third party products they use are of sufficient standard for the purposes they wish to put them. If a customer isn't happy with what is offered, or if the vendor isn't clear about their standards, then they have the option of going elsewhere, or producing something themselves that will meet their needs - not just in functionality, but also in terms of quality and reliability. If the product isn't up to the standards the vendor declares, then the buyer has recourse through existing legislation.

Your argument seems to suggest that all database products should meet the same rigorous standards, where I think the vendor should be able to sell more cheaply for a lower standard (or indeed an undeclared standard) of product.
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david.wright-948385 (5/15/2014)

Your argument seems to suggest that all database products should meet the same rigorous standards, where I think the vendor should be able to sell more cheaply for a lower standard (or indeed an undeclared standard) of product.


I wasn't suggesting that (although it seems that way). I was stating two view points: on one hand, it is pretty impossible to get complex software - such as SQL Server - completely bug free. On the other hand, vendors have too much power in the sense that they can just shrug it off as "it's just a bug and we'll patch it someday. If you don't like it, just buy something else."



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Koen Verbeeck (5/15/2014)
I was stating two view points: on one hand, it is pretty impossible to get complex software - such as SQL Server - completely bug free. On the other hand, vendors have too much power in the sense that they can just shrug it off as "it's just a bug and we'll patch it someday. If you don't like it, just buy something else."

I agree - there are two viewpoints, but imho mandatory industry standards aren't going to help.

Perhaps there's a case for an organisation that certifies products or vendors to a given standard (if there isn't one already?). If it is demonstrably independent of vendors, buyers will have confidence that the products they buy are up to that standard. Vendors will be able to justify higher prices as a result of certification, so they benefit. For vendors that can't, or don't wish to meet the standard don't have to, and prices will necessarily be lower. Buyers then have a choice, and buyers with limited funds and flexible standards are free to use them.
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