Understanding software at startups

When working with software startups, you will observe a few counter-intuitive things. Good developers can produce bad software. It is usually ok to put out immature software that is not yet ready. Buggy software can successfully dominate a market.

Many ‘good’ habits like adherence to process, discipline, good architecture and responsible communication don’t seem to correlate with success over the short term. All startups start as short-term experiments that will have a makeover once they achieve traction. Which means, startups do not always need to focus on developing good habits early in a product’s life. That makes our life as testers harder. But by trying to focus on ‘zero-defects’ we may actually be harming our client!

If you come from a big company, the trade-offs made when developing early stage software could seem weird to you. So I have compiled a list of articles that will help you understand early stage software better. Hopefully, you end up developing a feel for one of my pet theories about software – bugs are usually born outside of code.

Reading list

1. The challenge of “good enough” software by James Bach
2. The rise of “Worse is better”
3. Big ball of mud
4. Plan to throw one away
5. It works by Michael Bolton
6. Make the invisible more visible
7. My life as a code economist
8. Hitting the high notes by Joel Spolsky
9. I highly recommend this book: Weinberg’s “Perfect software and other illusions about testing

If you read through all the articles in this page, and you either end up feeling unsure about a few old habits and/or you end up appreciating your past testing decisions better, then, great! This page has served its purpose.


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