Schedule and Events

March 26-29, 2012, Software Test Professionals Conference, New Orleans
July, 14-15, 2012 - Test Coach Camp, San Jose, California
July, 16-18, 2012 - Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2012), San Jose, California
August 2012+ - At Liberty; available. Contact me by email:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Technical Debt: Refired

Phil Kirkham has the cover story of T.E.S.T. magazine this month, talking about technical debt. It's a good article and I recommend it. One thing I like about it is that Phil tries hard to provide a framework for thinking about tech debt, that he borrows from Martin Fowler.

All of it reminds me of the technical debt workshop we ran at Calvin College in 2008. Not a whole lot poured out of that workshop -- it was only two days long, and we spent most of the time trying to come to get to the 'gelled' state so we could make progress. Ron and Chet weren't keen on the term, Chris McMahon came out against analogy shortly thereafter. There wasn't a lot published afterward; I saw a few proposals go to magazine editors but they weren't wild about the formats we proposed. There were a few good presentations we recorded, but I'm afraid there's lots of editing required, and the videos from the event remain locked on a hard drive on my desk.

It wasn't until a week after the conference, on the e-mail discussion list, that we started to see some of the collaborative, building comments I had hope to have during the conference.

Perhaps, if it had been three days, we'd have gotten there. Perhaps, if it had been three days, I'd be saying "if it had only been four days." I don't know.

Using metaphors to describe our work does have certain risks, but I still think that in many cases the tech debt metaphor can have more value than the risk it creates.

It may be time for me to start writing about this again -- or considering a 2011 or 2012 workshop. I'm not sure.

In the mean time, I've got three other new projects. First, a series of interviews with testers called "Testers at work", currently on the back-burner. Second, a book project on changing the cost/value ration of software testing, that i've announced here, and third, a (near) weekly series of podcast interviews with testers I'm nick-naming "This Week in Software Testing", or TWiST, the first of which is up here.

In other news, you can now catch my blogs in two places -- both here and at The majority of my blogging will likely be at STP, but if the topic is the kind of thing that needs a disclaimer, you'll likely find it here.

More to come.

"Welcome all my friends to the show that never ends; I'm so glad you can attend. Come inside, come inside ..."


James Marcus Bach said...

I'm also troubled by the technical debt concept, unless you combine it with technical bankruptcy-- which is very EASY to declare and may be declared as often as you like with no penalty.

But if bankruptcy is that easy, there really isn't much to the concept of debt.

Anything you want to call technical debt I can just say "Well, what if I never pay that debt? So what?" Real debt is a contract between people. Not technical debt.

Unknown said...

Technical bankruptcy could mean that you can't make forward progress, or even keep up with demand for maintenance, because you're stuck dealing with the things that put you in debt. You're not able to provide any new value to your customer.

In some cases, I could see standards and best practices as the contract. Those who oversee production systems can demand that they're followed and ask us to pay the debts.