Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Open Source Quality

In an interesting entry over at PC world, they mention a study that shows an overall decrease in defective open source software. Over the past three years, defects in open source software are down. This is great news, even if not entirely accurate, because I doubt the study is so flawed that there are more defects in open source software today. Every day, new open source projects poof into existence. How can all the complexities of the open source ecosystem be reliably measured? The truth is that they cannot. But some larger open source projects are much more popular than others and have been deployed in production environments. These are the interesting projects to monitor for defects because chances are, when a defect is fixed in one large project, that same defect will be fixed in countless others due to the dependency.

What I find interesting is the willingness to study and publish the results of code quality. To most users, even some developers, the code quality isn't that high on the requirement list for using the software. They don't see the code. Even most developers only see the API, and, arguably, that is all they should have to see. The code quality does effect more than just maintainability.

This brings up another question. Does the improved code quality improve the perceived used experience? Not likely, in most cases. But in some, yes. Even if it isn't obvious to the developers who fix a bug that wouldn't have any apparent effect on usability. Looking at these subtle usability enhancements in the aggregate might be interesting.