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Examining User Involvement in Continuous Software Development

Ms. Perez was giving a PowerPoint presentation to her potential clients in the hope of landing a big contract. She was presenting a new advertising campaign for a mutual fund company and had spent three months with her team on perfecting the proposal. Everything seemed to be going well when suddenly a small window screen popped up informing her that an error had occurred and asked if she would wish to send an error report. She clicked the send button and the application on her laptop shut down, disrupting the flow of her presentation and making her look unprofessional.

This story entails an example of a user's experience and response to a new method for collecting information on software application errors. To maintain a certain level of quality and ensure customer satisfaction, software firms spend approximately 50% to 75% of the total software development cost on debugging, testing, and verification activities. Despite such efforts, it is not uncommon for a software application to contain errors after the final version is released. To better manage the software development process in the long run firms are involving the users in software improvement initiatives by soliciting error information, while they are using the software application. The information collected through an error reporting system (ERS) plays an important role in uncovering bugs and prioritizing future development work. Considering that about 20% of bugs cause 80% of the errors, gathering information on application errors can substantially improve software firms' productivity and improve the quality of their products. High quality software applications can benefit the software users individually and also help improve the image of the software community as a whole. Thus, understanding the emerging error reporting systems (ERS) and why users adopt them are important issues that require examination. Such an analysis can help the software companies in learning how to design better ERS and educate the users about ERS and its utilities.

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