New Book: A Sea Change In Software Engineering?

Associate Dean Calls for new, Collaborative Infrastructure

September 4, 2007

By Russ Hudson

A new way of developing software is laid out in a book that will hit the shelves in this month co-authored by Dorota Huizinga, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The book, “Automated Defect Prevention: Best Practices in Software Management” provides an argument and method for introducing collaboration in software development by multiple individuals, a process Huizinga says is not being done now.

The lead developer does all of the coding until it is finished, then hands it over to be checked and tested, making him “king of the project,” Huizinga said.

“Software is something you can’t see,” she explained. “Software developers will say, ‘I’ll be done next week,’ but you can’t see anything. Then the next week, they might say, ‘I need two more weeks,’ but you still can’t see anything — can’t track it, can’t help with it. And checking and testing can’t be started until the lead developer turns it over. It’s been like this for decades.

“But, with this new way, it makes what they’re doing visible,” the professor of computer science said. “As they enter the coding, it can show up on multiple [computer] screens. That means it can be checked for bugs as it is being done and, if the developer encounters a problem, he or she can ask others to check it and offer suggestions.

The new method is “so much more productive. We’re calling the combination of software, technology and people that would enable this, the infrastructure.”

Because software is becoming much more complex and multi-tiered, and there is so much integration of legacy with new technology, collaboration and team work is more and more necessary, said Huizinga, who co-authored the book with Adam Kolawa, co-founder and chief operating officer of Monrovia-based Parasoft Corporation, which helped finance the research and writing of the book.

“We need to have a software production line,” Huizinga said, comparing it to automobile production. “It’s never been thought of like that before, or, if so, it certainly didn’t become widely known. In fact, the concept today is widely dismissed.”

Practicing what they preach, the book was written using an open source system. Huizinga had assistants and other writers working with her, each with a segment to do, plus multiple persons to review the work as it progressed.

 “If, for example, several developers are making the same mistake, instead of going through lines and lines of code on each of their projects, a single tool can be devised to go in and fix all of them at once,” said Huizinga, citing an time-saving example from the book.

“It’s sort of like one of the things I do here in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. I supervise several graduate students at the same time. They are supposed to bring their work to me periodically, but some of them don’t. They bring it when it’s all done. Then, if I find a flaw in it, I have to tell them, ‘You just wasted six months. You have to go and do it over.’

“It could have been prevented if their work had been checked as they went.”

“Automated Defect Prevention: Best Practices in Software Management” is being published by John Wiley & Sons.


Dorota Huizinga
Dorota Huizinga
Back to Top