Crowdsourcing in the field of software testing has become quite popular in recent years. For those companies looking to choose this method of QA, there are many competing companies out there. For those unfamiliar with the concept of crowdsourcing; basically you find a company who has a large amount of testers, often thousands (these testers are not actual employees, just testers who have signed up with that company). You then pay that company either a fixed price for an amount of testers, or you pay them an amount per defect. You then upload your application and wait for the results!
While from a software development company’s perspective, this sounds such a simple and hassle-free method of ensuring the quality of a software product, there are a few factors to consider:
If used correctly there can be a cost saving when using crowdsourcing, as a fixed QA budget can be specified in advance. However, this must be carefully weighed-up against the defects and associated test coverage expected.
For small companies limited on budget, crowdsourcing can provide a relatively cheap way for a software product to be installed on a wide range of hardware/software configurations (i.e compatibility testing).
If clear instructions are provided up-front along with details of known issues, some specific end-user feedback can be gained via crowdsourcing, such as usability.
Typically, critical defects are not found straightway, but found after possibly many hours of testing. A crowdsourced tester will be paid let’s say $5 per defect. So, they will not risk spending several hours on finding one or two obscure defects hidden away in the software. They will literally be scanning the software as quickly as possible to generate as much money as they can.
It is impossible to tell how much of the software has been tested. By its nature, crowdsourcing is not ‘planned testing’, it is a crowd of people exploratory testing the software. This will undoubtedly leave severe ‘unknown’ gaps in test coverage which would get detected by a professional outsourced software testing company.
The majority of testers on a crowdsourcing company’s books will generally be of low quality. Anyone can sign-up to a crowdsourcing company, there is no interview or proof of knowledge, expertise etc. The crowdsourcing company just want numbers, so they can make more money.
Confidentiality is a key area of concern with crowdsourcing as you are essentially showing a pre-released product to thousands of strangers. Any company/product secrets can be exposed within seconds. Some crowdsourcing companies enforce NDA’s, but due to the open way crowdsourced testers are recruited, virtually anyone can sign-up and download your product under test, even company competitors.
Some companies use crowdsoucing in addition to their own testing. This can cause some issues within the QA team, as the testers who are employed to test the software can feel undervalued at seeing their own work potentially outsourced to unqualified testers. Verifying fixed defects that originated from a crowdsourced company may give the impression to the test team that they have missed defects during their own testing.