Software quality in the wider world

I was thinking last night about how the software industry compares to other industries. In construction there are government building inspectors and safety standards, and restaurants have health and safety standards and inspectors - what if there were software code inspectors? Random audits of our test suite and production code?

How would that change the way we write our code? Or estimate the time required? How we define what needs doing, when it’s done and how we charge for the work?

And then today I read this article on

“If I were in government right now, I would be leery of starting another big software project. I’d also know that big software projects are going to be necessary as our civilization gets more and more complex. So, if I were in government right now, I’d be thinking about laws to regulate the Software Industry.”

Years ago I wondered when and how software would start to be regulated (around the time that people started being prosecuted for accessing a computer system without permission), but then in a “follow the money” strain of thinking I thought perhaps it would be insurance premiums that finally enforced some level of quality in software systems. That doesn’t seem to have happened.

Making software is a fairly new thing historically, and it’s difficult, but surely at some point society will stop only complaining about poor quality software, and instead demand better quality? In any case, I’m aiming to make high quality software now, so that I’ll be comfortable when the inspections begin.

Update 15th November 2013: It does seem that somehow whenever software is in some way regulated or certified, that it actually has a negative impact on the quality. Perhaps it has to do with certification making the software less soft, and quality software needing to improve and adapt over time.