Friday, August 30, 2013

NASA's first-ever Software Engineering Handbook (SWEHB) released to the public

After years in the making, NASA has now released to the public their first-ever Software Engineering Handbook (SWEHB); NASA-HDBK-2203 (2013-02-28).

YouTube video showing how a person can navigate through the NASA Software Engineering Handbook to find software engineering related information. This video is about ten minutes long and can be used as a good training or awareness tool.

Each section of the SWEHB provides six areas of information per entry: the requirement, its rationale, guidance for implementation, notes for small projects, associated resources, and related lessons learned.

The 135 software engineering requirements for NASA projects are listed in a small, blue booklet, seventy pages long, called NASA Procedural Requirement (NPR) 7150.2 AKA NASA Software Engineering Requirements; View all pages in PDF. The new handbook is "A sort of hitchhiker's guide to the NPR". The handbook does not impose additional requirements; it is meant to be an assist.

Haley Stephenson explains how the SWEHB was developed as a collaborative Wiki in The Hitchhiker's Guide to Software Engineering at NASA. Many mangers do not seem to appreciate the value of using something like Dokuwiki to collaborate and document the development of a project. Without such documentation, years later, we are left to wonder "why did we use the red widget, rather than the better blue widget?". Perhaps they are afraid of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 26; Duty to Disclose; General Provisions Governing Discovery? See also Michael Barr's Dead Code, the Law, and Unintended Consequences.

Always keep in mind that Software never works in isolation. Safe Software is useless if the system as a whole is not safe. To that end make sure that NASA Systems Engineering Handbook (in PDF here) has a place on your desk or bookcase.

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