phpslacker

yet another g33k blog *sigh*

Stupid bug reports

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First post in a while since I defected to Tumblr. Of course, I’m back. Tumblr was just a fad (phpslacker.tumblr.com)

Stupid bug reports? They exist. See Scott McVicar’s blog post. He’s clearly had enough of truly idiotic “bug reports” and down-right silly feature requests for the PHP Project.

http://www.macvicar.net/blog/2009/02/stupid-bug-reports.html

Entertaining stuff. And this post wouldn’t be complete without my 2 cents…

In Scott’s post its clear he is dealing with a bunch of oddball users but as developers we often assume (without hesitation) that a bug report is superflous. Dumb users. Problem between keyboard and chair. I once had this attitude but sooned learned that if there really is a bug you’ll soon look like a sausage for not taking responsibilty for it. All software has bugs at some point in its lifetime. Can any developer honestly say that they’ve never released a bug-free program? Highly unlikely

So then, my personal approach (yes, personal) to a bug report that lands in my inbox: When you’re required to investigate a bug, do it with utmost sincerity. Give the user the benefit of the doubt. Go out of your way to prove they’re right. Brainstorm all possible causes for the buggy program output. You might learn something. Communicating via e-mail or bug-tracking tools is efficient but it lacks the personal touch. Don’t get me wrong you need these tools but if you’re able to call your user or meet with them that would be even better. This is the best approach to walk through the steps required to recreate the buggy event and/or program output. It saves a lot of to and fro.

It takes balls to tell the geeky developers of a certain software product “Erm, I think you guys made a mistake”. And equally so it takes great humility to accept responsibility for bugs. Programmers you are human. You make mistakes. Admit it sooner rather than later. Drop the ego. Investigate the bug with sincere determination. If its a bug… well fix it! Report back to the bug reporter (in full). Give them regular updates on progress. Be open and transparent.

Important: always give them praise for coming forward. They’ll love you for it. Whether it was a real bug or really a human mistake on their part. Either way, somebody is going to blush or feel a bit silly. Thats life.

Written by phpslacker

February 2, 2009 at 6:36 am

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