On software quality and engineering

Tomasz Ciolek tmc at dreamcraft.com.au
Sun Nov 3 10:38:34 EST 2002

Hi All

I think my issue is that if you are avle to describe operarting
specifications for piece of mechanical gear, using approprieate jargon,
surely you are able to do so for the interfaces, pre and post conditions
of a software module using a set of logic notation.

"Documentation" is this case should mean a description that is readbale to
another - that another may be an automated  development system, a test suite, or a human.

> >Documentation in this sense is largely useless.  It communicates these
> >ideas in natural language, which is open to misinterpretation and
> >ambiguity.  A practical form of a software contract is an agreed upon,
> >machine readable, testsuite.

To me the whole issue of Software vs Other engineering is the fact that
we try to aplly standard engineering practices, mostly designed to deal
with the physical domain, to the information domain. This is where the
bugbears (pardon the pun) lay. 

In my opinion, the problem is that we are dealing with a discipline, that has really had about 30 years of vigorous development in terms of us humans building up undertsanding of information and how to process it. Other forms of engineering have had many more years of this, I woudl dare say somewhere about 200 years or so, and in case of what we call Civil (as opposed to Military) or Structural engineering - even longer. If you look at history of engineering as a whole, you will see many a painful lessons there. Luckily as a body, engineersa were able to learn form the mistakes, and take advanatage of the scientific discoveries around them. Unfortunately for us, when society as a whole hears the term "engineering" then automatically, they come to expect the same standards of reliablility and rebostness as we see in most mechanical devices.

Answers to the problem: I really do not have many apart from education
and perhaps standards.

Tomasz Ciolek

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