University of Limerick
2010_Sullivan, Daniel.pdf (1.67 MB)

Patching the gaps in the code race : an explication of defect resolution practices in software development

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posted on 2022-12-19, 09:50 authored by Daniel K. Sullivan
This thesis examines how software professionals, working on a real software product, are aided by their work practices, on a daily basis, in dealing with the practical and local consequences of global distribution. We present an examination of the phase in project orientated software development work when defects are uncovered, documented, investigated and resolved. This is a period of intense, stressful, even frenetic activity, with frequent interaction between the Test, Development and Management teams who form a temporary, but highly focused community of interest. Their Work Practices require the daily use of artefacts such as defect reports and software builds and are reflected, and even come to be embodied, in the artefacts; artefacts and work practice in turn shaping one another. This examination is done by means of a field study where a crucial part of the software work has been distributed. Through this study we find revealed to us the local nature of the work practices and their criticality to all those dealing with those blocking defects. Blocking defects are those defects in functionality that prevents the Testing team from examining areas of the software in particular features that have been implemented by the development team. Artefacts, such as defect tracking reports or packaged builds of the software, generated as a matter of routine, assist in maintaining the rhythm and visibility of work cycles, knitting together and underpinning the fluidity of work from day to day, to sustain the work practices over the many months of a commercial software project. These Artefacts which straddle the boundaries of the work worlds of the various professionals need to exhibit contrasting flexibility and relative stability; flexible enough to allow workarounds to present themselves when faced with blockages to the progress of work of members of the project group, yet stable enough that work performed on them successfully builds upon what has gone before. Resolving the blocking defects involves extending and augmenting technology based boundary objects such defect reports and software builds. This is done through the locally negotiated modification of the artefacts to create work-arounds to these blocking defects incorporating work practice and technological change. These locally devised practices, which involved Fitting, Augmenting, and Working Around software artefacts allows the work to shift between the need for stable or very slowly changing artefacts and the more elastic, rapidly evolving, contingent pressures placed on boundary objects. The ease or difficulty of making alterations or augmentations to artefacts straddling the boundaries of the Testing, development and management groups either allows or impedes the group members in working around blocking defects. Understanding these dynamics through the theoretical bases of boundary objects and work arounds allows us to better appreciate the role of software artefacts and work practice both routine and ad hoc.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Bannon, Liam J.





Department or School

  • Computer Science & Information Systems

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