By Michael Schwern (‎Schwern‎) from
Date: Monday, 21 June 2010 10:00
Duration: 40 minutes
Target audience: Any
Language: English
Tags: bugs social

How To Report A Bug

Bug reports drive Open Source, but too often its a hostile experience. As a user, how do you report a bug without being treated like you're dumping a sack of crap on the developer's doorstep? As a developer, how do you encourage users to report bugs?

The process of reporting a bug starts off with two strikes against it. The user is angry, they’re taking time away from doing their work to report a bug. The developers are annoyed, some freeloader is telling them they made a mistake and they have to take time to fix it. Accusations fly. Tempers get heated. Nobody is happy. Nobody wants to help anyone.

Developers often treat bug reports like the user dumped a bag of crap on their doorstep, rang the bell and told them to clean it up. That’s not what they are. A bug report is a user walking up to your door, stepping in crap, pointing out maybe it should be cleaned up.

Nobody lies stepping in crap. And nobody likes cleaning it up. So the whole interaction starts off on the wrong foot, perhaps the one covered in crap. Your job, as developer or as reporter, is to deliberately steer it back to being positive one where the developer wants to fix your bug and the reporter wants to continue to report bugs.

As a user, and as a developer, some simple social hacks will turn bug reporting from a hateful shoutfest into a pleasant collaboration. We’ll look at some do’s and don’ts when reporting and receiving a bug, how to provide enough information, avoid a hostile tone, make it easy to report and track bugs, and how to keep your head when all you really want to do is bash someone’s in.

As a developer, you’ll encourage more and better quality feedback from your users and even pick up new developers in the process. As a user, developers will find your reports so delightful they’ll enjoy patching it. And you’ll both improve the software you use and love.

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