It is hard to make good software. For a project to be successful, every team member must bring quality with the work they do. Quality is an elusive attribute, gotten through some combination of knowledge, discipline, tooling and planning.
It feels as though the ease of developing quality software has been going up. Powerful tools and methodologies like git, unit-testing, agile and others have significantly increased the productivity and quality of the work done by developers. By providing powerful revision control tied with short testing cycles, it is much easier to develop software which meets the requirements and is robust even with changing requirements.
There is an enourmous gap, however, in current software development practices, and that is an almost complete failure to adhere to and develop tools for actually following best practices – by which I mean the process of requirements gathering, developing detailed design specifications, risk analysis and test design.
I blame this, primarily, on the almost complete lack of tools for developers to use to meet these needs. Most developers depend on writing their thoughts down on a wiki, including them in code documentation or other such unreliable and untrackable means. Sure, there is some expensive proprietary software that might help, but non of it seems to be designed for those who hack at code in their day to day. In other words, none of it seems to be designed for the people who are actually developing software.
In the same way that writing tests can help you write better code, writing and tracking your requirements, specifications and test-designs can help you be a better software developer. But in order to become better at following best practicies, you need to apply them and see their value in every project you work on – from the smallest personal project to the largest project involving a team or community of people.
That is why I have decided to create rsk, an open source requirements tracking tool made for developers. The hope is that by creating a simple and highly scalable tool which uses commands and formats developers are already familiar with, developers will be able to easily follow design best-practices as often as they follow unit testing best-practices – and they will get at least as much value from doing so.
Although I am fairly new to software development and even newer to quality, it is my intent to create a wiki which both explains how to use this tool as well as educating the average software developer about the usefullness of requirements gathering and detailed design. My hope is that all projects (especially open source) can be well designed and that progress, new features and completeness can be easily tracked by anyone using a command line tool that is easy to become familiar with.
Note: rsk is still in pre-alpha, and is not considered usable. This blog post is about why I am writing rsk.