Happy Are The Software Engineers.. (article)

My first ever published article is called "Happy Are The Software Engineers.." and it appeared in Better Software magazine in December 2006. The article describes briefly how complete concentration can create the feeling of happiness especially if the task at hand is meaningful. I wanted to highlight that working for software quality is meaningful and with Tick-the-Code you can achieve complete concentration.

Simply put, happiness is Tick-the-Code.

Tick-the-Code Inspection: Theory and Practice (paper)

My first ever scientific paper is called "Tick-the-Code Inspection: Theory and Practice" and it appeared in the peer-reviewed publication of ASQ (American Society for Quality) called Software Quality Professional.

As the name says, the paper reveals all details of Tick-the-Code up to the 24 coding rules. At the moment this paper is the most comprehensive written source for information about Tick-the-Code.

Tick-the-Code Inspection: Empirical Evidence (on Effectiveness) (paper)

My second paper is called Tick-the-Code Inspection: Empirical Evidence (on Effectiveness). It was prepared for, and first presented at, Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference 2007. The paper presents measurements taken in Tick-the-Code training courses so far (about 50 sessions with over 300 software professionals). The results are revealing. The main point of the paper is that software engineers could keep their software much simpler and avoid making many of the errors software projects are so notorious for.

In the Appendix of the paper, you'll find all the active rules of Tick-the-Code at the time of writing (summer 2007).

Tick-the-Code - traditionally novel technique in the fight against bugs (article)

Pirkanmaan Tietojenkäsittely-yhdistys (Pitky ry) published my article in their member magazine Pitkyn Piiri 1/2008. It is called "Tick-the-Code - uusvanha tekniikka taistelussa bugeja vastaan" and it is only available in Finnish.

An Example Rule Introduced

There are 24 active rules in Tick-the-Code. Each one of them helps to locate either omissions, redundancies, ambiguities, inconsistencies or assumptions in the source code. Individual rule violations might seem minor, but when you let them accumulate long enough, you'll be in trouble.

Marked rule violations are called ticks. Try the following rule on your production-level code and see how many ticks you can find. Then analyze each tick and see if you can't improve the maintainability of your code.

The rule sample changes weekly, so in a mere 24 weeks of diligent visits, you can have yourself the complete set of Tick-the-Code rules. However, there is an easier way and you'll be rewarded with laminated rule cards to top it all up. Get trained! Contact Qualiteers if you want to know more.

NEVERNULL

"Never access a NULL pointer or reference."

Code must not blindly trust pointers and references. Writing through a NULL pointer corrupts memory. Accessing NULL pointers and references can result in unspecified behaviour dependent on the system. In some systems you can possibly capture the NULL pointer exception or the NULL reference exception, but not in all.

The code must ensure (with the help of assert() or a plain if) that neither ptr nor ref can be NULL, before using forms like ptr->field or ref.method(). If the NULL check is missing, the rule is violated and the code isn't as defensive as it could be. Sometimes NULL accesses hide in less obvious forms, too. Be alert!

Future Work

Tick-the-Code Inspection: The Book (book, working title)

Since 2006, there's a book on Tick-the-Code on the works. Currently the book project is on ice, as I study and gather more material and field experiences to include in the book. The book will be the most comprehensive written source on Tick-the-Code.

Excerpt from the book

The excerpt changes weekly. Each excerpt is still a draft version and might change before ending in the book.

Missing enforcement

The world's most perfect coding standard turns into shelf-ware without proper and regular enforcement. It is not enough to create a coding standard, get commitment for it and then leave it at that. At first everybody in the team knows about coding standard and tries to follow it but memory is a fickle thing. The author won't always verify that he's following the standard, he has to concentrate on the functionality, sometimes he just runs out of time. Every now and then the author even makes mistakes in trying to follow the coding standard. All this amounts to code that contains violations of the accepted coding standard. If you just assume the code is, of course, compliant with the coding standard, you will, of course, err.

A code inspection enforces the coding standard. All participants are reminded of the standard and even asked to take a detailed look into it and check that the code is according to the guidelines. Even a perfect coding standard loses its luster over time without inspections. A coding standard not enforced regularly will diminish in value over time until it becomes just a worthless, forgotten memory in a binder.

One of the key reasons to perform inspections is to remind the developers of the coding standard. Assumptions are often dangerous and assuming that code follows a coding standard simply because one exists is fatal to quality.

Excerpt is part of Chapter 2. "Symptoms".

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