The U.S. Software Industry and Software Quality: Another Detroit in the Making?
First, buy ten copies of Mark Minasi's exceptionally fine book, The Software Conspiracy: Why Software Companies Put Out Faulty Products, How They Can Hurt You, and What You Can Do About It (McGraw-Hill, 2000) and give a copy to everyone you know who's in a position to influence software purchasing decisions. Mail them a copy of this article, too. My major criticism of Mark's book is that he doesn't weave open-source software in general, and Linux in particular, into the picture. I believe Linux is exposing the need and the thirst for high-quality software, and that the high quality of Linux and other open-source programs is in large measure responsible for its rapid growth and acceptance.
Second, get the word out about UCITA. Visit http://www.badsoftware.com and the Consumer Project on Technology home page (http://www.cptech.org). If you're in a U.S. state where UCITA next comes up for ratification, organize street protests, write letters to legislators, get the word out, and fight it! There's still time to defeat this monster, but we have got to get organized NOW!
Third, join the battle to promote software engineering, high-quality software, and responsible behavior by software vendors. Read Watts Humphrey's comments on software quality at http://www.2bguide.com/docs/whsq.html and then visit the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie-Mellon University, with which Humphreys is affiliated.
Fourth, convince any organization with which you are affiliated - your school, your company, the non-profit organizations where you volunteer - that purchasing commercial vendors' products is aiding and abetting a process that is exposing the public to unwarranted risk, generating legislation that is harmful to public welfare, and retarding the progress of technology. Show them Linux, help them install it, and invite them to consider what people are slowly but surely learning: you don't have to put up with shoddy software.
Bryan Pfaffenberger is a professor in the new Media Studies program at the University of Virginia, where he will teach two courses next fall (Media Studies 317: Intellectual Property and Digital Media, and Media Studies 110: Information Technology and Digital Media). He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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