May 14, 2009

Crowdsourcer's Crowdsourcing Leaves a Crowd of Bugs

According to their website, uTest is "the world's largest marketplace for software testing services."

uTest operates on what they used to call a Pay-Per-Bug model, but now call Pay-For-Performance.  Perhaps that's just a nicer marketing phrase, or perhaps it's because many of their recent projects have been of the "fill out this survey and we'll give you a few bucks" type?  Either way, the point is to reduce the cost of testing to as close to $0 as possible.  And in exchange, the testers are faceless, unknown, unfiltered.  They are part of the "crowd", and the testing has been "crowdsourced".

I've kept an eye on them since they hit the news, and I just don't see where I'd use them for testing any of my company's products, but others are far more enamored.

James Whittaker says that crowdsourcing is the next logical step after outsourcing:
The next logical step in the evolution of testing is for vendors to provide testers and this is exactly the era we’ve entered with crowdsourcing. Yesterday’s announcement by Utest marks the beginning of this era and it is going to be very interesting to see it unfold. Will crowdsourcers outperform outsourcers and win this market for the future? Clearly market economics and the crowds’ ability to execute will determine that but my personal view is that the odds are stacked in favor of the crowd. This is not really an either-or situation but the evolution of the field. The older model will, over time, make way for the newer model. This will be a case Darwinian natural selection played out in the matter of only a few short years. The fittest will survive with the timeframe determined by economics and quality of execution. Crowdsourcing has much going for it including the sheer number of tests and test environments that can be brought to bear by the size and expertise of the crowd. 
(James Whittaker - August 20, 2008
(Shrug)  I don't know.  I'm really trying to keep an open mind.  Maybe they'll be huge.  Maybe I'll eventually find a need for their services.  Maybe they'll drive the cost of testing way down.  Maybe they'll replace the need for professional testing.  Maybe not.

Recently the premier crowdsourcer that James hails decided to turn the crowd loose on the redesign of their own website.
Of course, we utilized our QA community to test the new site, blog and forums, as well as to conduct usability testing.  This provided us a with great deal of valuable testing before we flipped the switch on this new version. 
(Matt Johnston - May 12, 2009
Now, my friend Jim Hazen (a fellow software test professional) and I read uTest's redesign announcement and checked out their site.  Jim noticed a broken link on one of their new pages that starts off "Why pay an outsourcing firm for QA services you don't need? " and told me about it.  It seemed rather ironic.

So of course I ran a link check scan of their site using Xenu Link Sleuth (because that's what testers do).  This took about 45 seconds.  I found 14 broken links, involving some very prominent pages.  Go figure.
  • Maybe the crowd provided a great deal of valuable (and inexpensive) testing.
  • Maybe the crowd found these bugs, but they weren't fixed.
  • Maybe the crowd's size and expertise was brought to bear on this site, and it's much better than it would have been otherwise (I shudder to think).
Or maybe the next logical step should have been professional (yet rather smaller than a crowd) testing.