Quality: An Introduction [Quality – What is it?]

[continued from Quality: An Introduction]

Quality – What is it?

Of course, the answer to this question is obvious. Everybody knows what quality is, certainly. But if this is the case, why is there so much software that lacks quality? More generally, why is there so much about the world around us that seemingly lacks quality? Surely, the issue must be one of definitions, then.

My desk dictionary gives the following concise and relevant definition for quality: “the degree of excellence which a thing possesses.” This entry seems to cover the whole issue very nicely, primarily by replacing our need to define “quality” with a need to define “excellence”. In this context, these words are largely interchangeable.

From another context, these infamous words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart seem appropriate: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.

Justice Stewart continued on to say that the item in question from that case did not meet his criteria, and it is that clue which provides us with a better way of looking at quality and excellence. Though both are positive ideas, they are more adequately described by the lack of negative traits as seen through the eyes of the viewer.

Quality, therefore, is defined by the absence of issues that cause one to question the abilities or judgment of the creator or operator. This also suggests that the perception of quality is far easier to lose than to obtain, and practical experience shows this to be true.

[continued in Application to Shareware]

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