Mike Clark is looking at automatic first-line support by building some auto-support functionality straight into the program. It is an article worth reading.
One thing that the article does mention – in a somewhat negative way – is the ‘secret’ checklist the developer would go through to troubleshoot the application. He suggests that the ‘secret’ checklist can be automated by the tests. In my own experience (with BEA weblogic support), the checklist is usually more like a branching tree of decisions that would be fairly hard to encode as any simple set of JUnit tasks.
I wonder how real Mike’s examples were and what percentage of the checklist he managed to automate?
To be perfectly clear, I do not think his article is wrong. Far from it, I think it is great direction to explore in further details. I just don’t want people to accept the support checklists as ‘secret’ in general. I think the support techniques should be paid attention to and built into the great knowledge web that anybody can learn from without having to rely on an expensive specialist at the other end of the line.
I know that there is a lot of FAQ style websites dealing with the specific problems and they are good. But we also need some meta level discussions on the open forums as well.
Perhaps a support-wiki or Wikiversity course would be the way?
BlogicBlogger Over and Out