It seems like the Norwegian Power company Hafslund is sailing the rough seas this week. All due to one customer disclosing that the company’s phone app for meter reading copied all of his SMS and put them onto local/external storage in plain text. It appears that Hafslund ordered this app to be made from a company named Shortcut. Shortcut, the app makers, stated that they copied the SMS grabbing code part from another product. A classic tale about re-using code complete with side effects. You can read all about it here (Google Translate). Now – the media speculates in who’s to blame (Google Translate) – as always. The discussion goes from blaming Hafslund to blaming the app makers. I think the discussion is all wrong – it isn’t an individual problem where we can blame party A or B – it’s an industry problem.
I am not into blaming Hafslund. I don’t blame Shortcut. I think all problems bubbles upwards. From the industry at the bottom encapsulating the developers on to the customer and finally bursting in the hands of the customer. Thus I blame the industry because it is a encapsulating sphere with its own eco-system unable to mix in influences from other disciplines.
But let’s go back to talking about apps. From looking at Android based apps and dissecting them, I know it is common to re-use code. In my post named “LOOKING INTO ANDROID APK” I mentioned that the second app I dissected contained some re-used parts. Okay – the re-used parts was related to a game. It was totally unrelated to the app itself – at least the theme of it. As far as I recall Shortcut wasn’t involved in this one. So – yes, I assume it is pretty common to re-use code. But still it isn’t enough to out the app makers since it seems that so many are doing it. In my mind it points to an industry problem – maybe the industry is so encapsulating that it hurts? Paired with a “time to market” focus it is a disaster waiting to happen.
It is quite obvious that I’m skeptic towards apps. I wrote a piece on it some years ago where I lifted my worries. My view hasn’t changed much. Maybe except I think the time has come to pay closer attention to sane Quality Assurance routines. Yes – what if we focused more on the craft and not on showing our coolness and how hip our product portfolio is, then maybe we could steer away from these mistakes? Let’s break the encapsulation and let the sun in!