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Bug bounties

Kevin Rutherford's just made an interesting post about Bug Bounties, where he discusses how some big companies are now rewarding testers for finding serious bugs before release.

And he feels the idea is flawed in two key ways:

"First, it further promotes the traditional antagonism between developers and testers. There's now a clear reward for testers to find the developers' work wanting. How does that help to build trust or teamwork?"

Personally, I've always enjoyed the friendly rivalry I've had with testers and I've never found this to be a problem, because our goals are aligned. We're both trying to make the software as good as it can possibly be.

"And second, it rewards the testers for not helping the developers get it right sooner. Sure, the cash will be less than the cost of releasing with a serious defect, but it will also be less than the cost of rework due to finding the defect late in the value stream."

This I agree with, however, I'm not so sure about his proposed solution where he suggests that "Both developers and testers should be rewarded when the pre-release testing finds no defects.". Surely that's just a great dissincentive to your testers. Kevin footnotes this with a clause to state that there should be some kind of penalty if testing is skimped in anyway...

So, we would be rewarding developers and testers for not finding bugs before release, but penalising them if (when) bugs are revealed afterwards. What a scary culture that would be.

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Josh Post By Josh Twist
3:41 AM
19 May 2006

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Posted by Kevin Rutherford @ 19 May 2006 3:55 AM
Hmmm. Josh, you're right of course. I would love to find a way to reward both developers and testers when they collaborate early, so that defect insertion is prevented. Can you think of a way to do that?

Posted by Josh @ 19 May 2006 5:12 AM
Actually, I'd worry that the whole concept could be flawed and open to abuse. If we look at the simplest example where testers are rewarded for finding bugs - developers could plant bugs for testers and split the winnings.

I'd probably drop the whole idea. We don't pay developers commission on lines of code produced - and it would be a terrible idea! Nor should we pay testers commission on bugs found.

It's quality we're after and that's very hard to measure. Maybe a bonus for both teams six months after release based on the number of issues? But would this have a negative effect on the development process in other ways, such as embracing change?

Posted by Kevin Rutherford @ 19 May 2006 6:15 AM
Agreed. Perhaps the only sure way to get what I'm after is to focus on driving down cycle time (the time between a feature's request and it's release), and point out that support and rework both keep that metric high...

(Anyway, we're both agreed that cash for bugs is less than ideal!)

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