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Comment One of the first and last things I do every working day is to log on to Yahoo! Finance to check what is happening to the stock market. One of the features of the page is that it continuously shows the prices of the last ten stocks I have expressed an interest in. The only problem is that it doesn’t work.

There are two obvious problems with this portfolio capability in Yahoo! Finance. The first is that it does not appear to be able to display falls of more than 9.99 per cent. As soon as a share price falls by more than that much the minus sign disappears (I wish it would also disappear from the share price). Alright, I can live with that: it doesn’t happen too often (fortunately). But that’s not the only problem with the web site. Prices from time to time freeze at some apparently random point in time, either across the board or for an individual share. Clearly the code for the web site has its fair share of bugs.

I was reminded of all this when I was recently talking to Identify about its next release of the Windows version (there is also a J2EE version) of AppSight, which will be tightly integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 TeamSystem (Identify is part of the launch tour next month). However, the new features of this release (which are impressive) are not what I wanted to talk about.

When I last wrote here about AppSight I concentrated on the product’s ability to track (record and playback) and identify performance and bug-based problems in production environments. However, over the last twelve months or so the company has been expanding into testing and QA environments, where AppSight’s facilities can be used to identify bugs, document them automatically, and so on.

To discuss this new focus, Identify used a demonstration of a trading system - and this prompted me to think of Yahoo! Finance and how it could profitably make use of AppSight’s facilities to produce better quality code.

Identify reports a couple of interesting things from customer feedback based on using AppSight as a part of the QA process. The first is that users do not to include so much instrumentation in their code (which they estimate means a 10 per cent productivity improvement) and, secondly, the QA process itself is speeded up.

Identify asked its users in QA departments what they did with the time they saved, to which the response was that they were able to spend more time on QA and discover more bugs. This poses an interesting question about the role of QA: is it to thoroughly test the code or is it just something that you do for x hours and then stop? I know what I’d like to think the answer is but I suspect I’m wrong: certainly Yahoo! Finance seems to think so.

There are two final issues: first, why haven’t I tried another provider I guess I am too lazy; second, why haven’t you contacted Identify to see about improving your code quality? And don’t use my excuse.

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