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TROST: Open-System Trustworthiness

2005-05-07

 

NSS2: All Things to All People through Perfect Software

ACM News Service: Summit Calls for ‘National Software Strategy’.  The Second National Software Summit reported on the need for a national strategy that has something for everybody, so long as they’re on-shore:

  • Improved software trustworthiness
  • Empowered U.S. software workforce
  • Re-invigorated software R&D
  • Encouraged software-industry innovation

Naturally, we’ll support the critical infrastructure, build software using known best practices, routinely develop trustworthy software products, establish a competitive U.S. software industry, and put a chicken in every pot. 

To oversee this broad strategy (dare I say grand challenge), a similarly-representative group (of industry, government, and academic representatives, of course) is to be constituted as the National Software Strategy Steering Group and meet every three years.

But wait, save your matches, NSS2 sees light at the end of the tunnel.  There’s a vision:

  • Stop accepting poor software quality as a fact of life.
  • We already know how to build better quality software (a real fact)
  • We need to invest in better software engineering for the future (another real fact)

Oh, and a gap or two that need to be closed:

  • lack of adequate tools and technology for building error-free software (uh oh, is this a real fact too?)
  • failure to apply best practices in software development
  • the significant threat to the software workforce from overseas competition

It’s wonderful to have so much scope and mission creep without leaving the starting gate, isn’t it? 

Which is to say, here we go, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Except we now have to worry about the barbarian hoards doing it cheaper.

I don’t know why I’m so pissy about this except that it reads just like every high-minded-committee output that includes everyones agenda and everyones pet unsuccessful solution, with a road map that is no different than any road map we’ve ever seen before and that is blindly trusted to get to the destination that we’ve failed to reach time after time.

So, where did this inspiring account arise.  Oh, from Reston Virginia, on the 2005-05-05 PR Newswire, under the title «‘Software 2015’ Program Addresses ‘Unacceptable Risks and Consequences of Software Failure’».  The PR that this news blurb is about heralds the new report, “Software 2015: A National Software Strategy to Ensure U.S. Security and Competitiveness.”

The original press release is a bit more coherent, though it is not clear that it is any more promising.  The NSS2 meeting was apparently convened under the Center for National Software Studies (CNSS), a not-for-profit with the mission of elevating software to the national agenda.  I like it that their home-page logo and organization name has a noticeable blur to it.  The NSS2 Final report is available there as a compilation of several PDFs.  The list of issue presenters is impressive, too.  There are smart people in this act.  Could it be a matter of breathing the air too close to the belt-way?

I've taken a particular fancy to this bit from the press release:

The Software 2015 Report makes a compelling case for the urgent need to
address critical software issues and problems that pose serious risks to the
nation's security and economic well-being and calls on the nation's leaders in
all sectors, government, industry and academia, to commit to working together
to achieve these common goals.

I’m beginning to understand what people mean when they speak of my breathless prose.  

Look, I’m a believer in software engineering practice, raising the level of trustworthiness in software, all of those things.  I’m willing to devote my life to that. But hawking this fluff the same way we’ve been doing it for over 40 years, only louder (and more nonsensically) really frosts my cup cake, you hear? 

I’ve down-loaded all of the PDFs and trust my MSN Desktop Search to index them and let me know just what kind of goodies there are in the report.  Some really bright and seasoned people may have added to this important conversation.  I won’t take a chance on having neglected finding some new insight in this work.   

I can see it like it was happening today.  Just over 30 years ago, Jack Laschenski turns to me, and says “There is no software crisis.  If there were, we’d have to do something about it.”  We’re still not doing much about it.  Maybe it’s not real?  What would happen if we quit clamoring for more global, top-down intervention of national proportions and actually worked to deliver some trustworthy software.  We’d then have some handle on a measurable difference that could be made.  I am a little afraid of what the lesson might be, but we’ll never know until we do it, aye?

 
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$$Author: Orcmid $
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