FSFE and promoting software quality

Carsten Agger agger at modspil.dk
Thu Feb 18 09:10:01 UTC 2021

On 2021-02-18 09:55, Bernhard E. Reiter wrote:
> There has been some cooperation in the past (I'll have to look it up),
> this is why I know that it is not easy and a wide field. For most people, the
> quality aspect of software development is not what they are interested in
> initially. And in general higher quality means defining it, measuring it and
> funding it and overal in IT this is often not happening. It feels like in this
> field we are trying to get the basics right. My idea is more along the lines
> to teach and enlight people about the specific quality aspects that a nice
> Free Software and community development can contribute to IT.
I think, also responding to points made by Vitaly and Paul, that 
software quality guidelines are mainly the responsibility of the 
projects. As for software quality in Free Software:

The ultimate goal of the free sofware movement is that /all/ software 
should be free software and respect the users' freedoms. A sensible 
sub-goal is that producing free software should be the industry standard 
whenever new software is commissioned.

Thus, if an organization needs some software and finds it does exist, it 
would a) hire developers or b) commission another company to make the 
software, with everyone taking for granted that of course it will be 
free software.

Then, as in all other kinds of engineering, the contractors would be 
expected to adhere to recognized industry-wide quality standards, which 
nowadays means coding guidelines, linting, code reviews, automatic 
testing and many other things.

A lot of existing free software does not adhere to such standards mainly 
because it's old-ish and not made as you would do a similar project 
today. But that is not specifically because it's free software - the 
same is true of a lot of proprietary software as well. It's more because 
it was built on practices that were normal at the time but considered 
legacy today.

So a lot of the work to improve quality in free software is /political/ 
- and is that of changing people's attitudes to make free software the 
automatic default in /all/ software procument. This is going to be a 
process, because in many areas the software needed to support daily 
workflows and infrastructure doesn't exist as free software yet. So 
decision makers need to be convinced to start that process.

And then, the issue of quality in free software will become /the same/ 
as the larger issue of quality in software in general.


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