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Cloud Computing: Article

Could Crowdsourced Testing Be the Future? | @CloudExpo #Cloud

Can in-house testing be replaced with testing on the clouds?

This is how a typical software product lifecycle works: You gather requirements, build a prototype, detail out the architecture and design, develop the product, test it, deploy the product, handle migration and maintenance and ensure product support. This is a closed loop where the Product Support team gathers new requirements which are eventually deployed.

This clearly detailed lifecycle loop has been getting increasingly fuzzy in the recent past, at least for web product development. For one, requirement gathering and prototype building are often carried out in parallel. Pivoting is a concept where the features of a software product are constantly improved upon as new requirements come in. But it is in testing where there is a paradigm shift in the way things work. Unlike a typical PLM set-up where a dedicated team of testers dig out bugs and other malfunctions in a product that are fixed by the development team before deployment, crowdsourced testing often works over a live product.

Software product life cycle

Present day web products get deployed in 'beta' where the product or service is tested by real customers. In many cases in fact, there is not even a beta period and products are tested continually by real customers through the life of the product. A lot of web businesses already have a 'bug bounty programs' where testers are awarded cash rewards in exchange for notification of critical bugs and vulnerabilities. To be fair though, these are at the moment complementary to in-house product testing teams that work out bugs on the product before launch.

But could we be moving towards a scenario where more and more testing could be crowdsourced instead of being handled by in-house testing teams? This aspect is already prevalent many web-based industries. Online marketers for example, no longer spend resources on surveys and studies to identify the optimal parameters for their marketing campaigns. Instead, they use the resource from the crowd to test email subject lines, advertisements and other aspects of marketing.

While crowdsourced testing among marketers has been deemed a success, some experts believe that crowdsourced software testing could have its own set of challenges for typical software development. The most critical among them is security. Imagine a scenario where the beta version of a product carries serious security vulnerabilities. Hackers could exploit these vulnerabilities to steal valuable intellectual property before they are patched. It needs to be remembered that not all users in a crowd are well-meaning customers. By relying on crowdsourced testing for software products, businesses could put themselves at a lot of risk.

The future thus seems to point towards a scenario where in-house testers would continue to exist. However, their scope could be smaller yet more holistic than it is today. They could continue to work on testing product features and security vulnerabilities that need to be resolved before it could be taken out for crowd-testing. Essentially, this would mean playing the role of a facilitator that would ensure continual crowd testing and management of products and services. Now that is something that would ensure that the product not only stays robust, but also turns more nimble and agile in tune with the time. What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments below.

More Stories By Harry Trott

Harry Trott is an IT consultant from Perth, WA. He is currently working on a long term project in Bangalore, India. Harry has over 7 years of work experience on cloud and networking based projects. He is also working on a SaaS based startup which is currently in stealth mode.