Should Software Application Testing Be Less Competitive?

Posted on Sep 20, 2012 in blogGeneralQA

In traditional capitalism, self-interest is the driving force behind innovation. Under this framework, concepts like cooperation and collaboration are somewhat antithetical to the profit maximization model.

Every time you share, you enable a potential competitor. This is especially true in a world of finite resources where sharing literally makes your own pie smaller.

In many ways, software application testing tools have followed this model. Programmers and testers often work in high security environments, eager to block leaks of any kind. Reluctant to share, they keep insights and developments within their respective silos. This only makes sense given the huge profit potential of a successful product launch.

And yet, I’ve noticed a growing shift towards the very types of collaboration that traditional economics says shouldn’t exist. Part of this trend stems from recent developments in computing and networking. In the digital world, we don’t face the same resource constraints that neighboring farmers or rival factories might face.

Wikipedia, open source, crowdsourcing, and microfinance are just a few projects that prove collaboration can be sustainable, mutually beneficial, and in some cases, more profitable.

Software Debugging Tools and Collaboration?

The question is, can software testing, and software debugging tools in particular, benefit from greater collaboration – without compromising the intellectual property that makes software development so profitable?

At Testuff, we believe the answer is yes.

This is not to say that we don’t face our own competition. There are a number of rival software application testing tools out there, and we’re not about to share trade secrets with them. But the universe of testers is vast, and there exist numerous opportunities to reach out beyond our respective IP silos.

This is not just altruistic or wishful thinking.

There are very tangible benefits to greater communication and collaboration. In a previous post, we explored the unbelievable damage that poor software debugging tools can have on the entire software development community (and the American economy).

It is estimated that programming defects cost users, vendors, and developers anywhere from $60 billion to $80 billion a year in the United States alone. With better software testing, and better testing tools, we could probably reduce that amount significantly.

Better software benefits everyone across the board. Users receive higher quality products. Developers generate stronger profits. And testers become even more important since defects in a world of higher quality software would really stand out.

So how do we get there?

Different Collaboration Models for Better Software Debugging Tools
Collaboration comes in many different forms. I’m not advocating that you adopt a Wikipedia approach to software testing (although this would be an interesting concept). But there still exist other ways to share and help grow the community without showing too many of your cards.

Below are just 3 different examples. They’re relatively easy to implement, and like I said before, everyone benefits as a result – including you the tester.

1. Articles, Forums, and Discussions
This article is simply one example of what I mean by better collaboration. I hope all of our users read it, but I also hope that rivals and their clients read this as well. The information is not proprietary – it is open and accessible to everyone. So are the comments.

Will reading our posts make our competitors stronger? Potentially. But if they do read this post and use some of the suggestions, it makes the software testing community stronger as well.

2. Soliciting User Feedback
A week ago, I highlighted how actively soliciting feedback from our clients was one of the primary drivers of our success. We realize that anticipating every user’s need is an impossible task, and thus, we ask our users directly what they need, what they like, and what they don’t like. I wish we could take all the credit, but our user community is the engine that fuels our innovation.

If more testers provided and solicited feedback, the benefits would have positive ripple effects throughout the software development world.

3. Continued Training
In another post, I encouraged all testers across the world to continuously train, learn new methodologies, and share their experiences. You might be working on a highly secretive project that you don’t want colleagues at rival companies to learn about. But there’s very little harm in sharing your own experiences with a new testing platform or a better way to run reports.

By keeping our own skills sharp and by helping others remain abreast of new ideas and technologies, the entire pie grows for everyone.

These are a just a few ways to collaborate and share. If you have others, I’d love to hear about them. We all would.