Software Quality Professional From the Editor - December 2000 - ASQ

Software Quality Professional From the Editor - December 2000


You have probably heard some of those apocryphal stories that have been called “urban legends.” I guess that name is an updating of what used to be called “old wives’ tales.” These include accounts of alligators in city sewers, hijacked human kidneys, and $250 cookie recipes.

Now our electronically interconnected society can spread such tales with speed and multiplication that would shame the old physical chain letter. In fact, one of the recent legends has involved an amazing variety of appeals to help a supposedly dying child set the world record for receiving the most get-well messages. In this case, it is disk space and not filing cabinets that are getting stuffed with misdirected messages.

Some of the newer legends have our technology as their subject matter. There are warnings that the Federal Communications Commission is considering imposing a “modem tax” or that the U. S. Postal Service wants to collect a fee for each e-mail that is sent. A mildly plausible legend claims Bill Gates or Walt Disney Jr. or someone else will reward you if you test some software by forwarding a message to a number of your friends. Of course, the plausibility evaporates as soon as one calculates the amount of reward money or Disney World trips that would have to be awarded.

“Don’t believe everything you see in print” has certainly given way to “Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.” It is far too easy for seemingly authentic information to appear to be coming from apparently reliable sources. Some of the misinformation might be regarded as joking pranks or gullible retransmission. Some has far more sinister motives.

Stock-manipulation hoaxes, for instance, are simply Internet-facilitated fraud. False information about data networking equipment maker Emulex was recently provided by a news-service employee who took advantage of the firm’s plunging stock price to net a tidy profit before he was caught. As one report stated, “The con-job once again raises the question of trust and how to quickly authenticate the origin of an official statement and verify news in an age where seconds mean millions.”

A damaging type of legend that affects computer users directly is the computer virus false alarm. Being sensitized to legitimate threats from malicious e-mail attachments or other destructive mechanisms, it would seem prudent to raise defenses in response to all warnings. Yet much of the time such responses are wasted effort that could have been avoided if one had access to a trusted reference. Security alert services are now adding public-key authentication to their warning messages.

Please do your part to help others separate fact from fancy, especially in computer and software quality matters. It might be advisable to consider any posting “guilty until proven innocent” by authoritative substantiation.

Enlightening information can be found at sites such as and Full-time virus myth busting is practiced at The U. S. Department of Energy reports “possible hoaxes, new chain letters, and viruses” at its Computer Incident Advisory Capability (, and the Software Engineering Institute’s CERT Coordination Center ( provides technical details of incidents real or imagined.

As we begin the third year of publishing this journal, there are some changes in the makeup of our editorial board. It is particularly noteworthy to announce the departure of two English colleagues who have been with us since before the launch of SQP: Elliott Manley, himself experienced in both print and online publishing, and Gordon Irvine, a strong supporter through the corporate membership forum he headed. Best wishes to both as they strike out in new directions professionally.

Two additions to the editorial board have had active roles in the Software Group of the European Organization for Quality, a counterpart to the ASQ Software Division.

Patricia Rodriguez-Dapena has been a software engineer with the European Space Agency since 1992. Her main interest is software engineering and verification and validation of software in safety critical systems; she is also interested in software engineering standardization and in software process modeling, implementation, and software process assessment models. She has been employed in the software industry since 1987 and has worked as a programmer, analyst, and researcher. Rodriguez-Dapena received a master’s degree in computer science from the Politechnical University of Madrid in 1987, and she is currently preparing her doctorate thesis as a joint research between Technical University of Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and the Politechnical University of Madrid (Spain).

Tom Flynn is managing director of Software Information Designs Limited in Ireland and has been involved in the software industry since 1978. His main interest is with software project management, software engineering, and verification and validation, in particular for small to medium-sized enterprises. He was the president for the 5th European Software Conference and has worked for a number of large multinationals as well as small to medium-sized enterprises. Flynn has functioned in both a software engineering and a project leader capacity, in addition to senior management positions including customer support manager, operations manager, and quality manager. He is also the managing director of Kaleidoscope Consultants Limited based in Dublin and works under contract for the European Commission.

Welcome to our third year, all. We are working to keep the journal as attractive and helpful as you say it has proven to be in our first two years. Of course we value your feedback, so please respond through the online survey form for this and every issue. Or you might just want to start an “urban legend” about SQP! taz_sig.gif




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