Martin Michlmayr
Martin Michlmayr

I'm a member of Debian and serve on the boards of Software Freedom Conservancy and Software in the Public Interest.

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Models and tools for FOSS quality

There has been interest in quality models for FOSS for a long time. There are various concerns about FOSS and the quality thereof. Given that a lot of FOSS is produced by volunteers, how can we rely on the software? Is software developed in the public more secure, or can people use the source code to find exploits? It's important to have an objective assessment of the quality of a piece of software to address such questions. Furthermore, having good metrics allows users to choose between different software that offers comparable functionality. Given the large number of FOSS projects, this problem is of growing concern.

Software quality is a tough nut to crack. When you see and use a product, you will usually form a judgement as to its quality pretty quickly. However, if you try to develop rules for assessing the quality of a product you'll find that it's really hard. This is partly because there are so many different components that make up quality, and that different people put different emphasis on these components or see them in a different way. While quality has a subjective component, there are several objective components that can be measured.

There are number of researchers who are interested in developing tools and models that can be used for empirical studies of quality in FOSS. The EU has recognized the need for such models and tools and is funding not only one but several projects that study quality in FOSS:

These projects are very ambitious but they certainly have the potential to make a great contribution. There is also quite a bit of overlap between these projects, which is why some of them have united and formed the Flossquality initiative (FLOSS stands for "free, libre and open source software"). These projects are relatively young, but I look forward to their results.

(Originally published on FOSSBazaar)

2008-01-31 03:47:00 +0100 — fossbazaarpermanent link