Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Qantas joke applied to bug reports

Far too often, I see bug reports or issues opened without enough information to solve the problem. It always reminds me of this old Qantas joke about pilot and engineer exchanges around problems with air craft. It always pays to think about bug reports from the reader as well as the author's point of view. When you are filling out the report, the bug seems as plain as day. You can see it right there in front of you and apart from pointing, you probably don't see the value in writing anything. However, the problem with this, is that the engineer is not sitting there with you and so will only have what you write to reproduce the problem.
  • Pilots: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
    Engineers: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
  • Pilots: Something loose in cockpit.
    Engineers: Something tightened in cockpit.
  • Pilots: Dead bugs on windshield.
    Engineers: Live bugs on back-order.
  • Pilots: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
    Engineers: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
  • Pilots: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
    Engineers: Evidence removed.
  • Pilots: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
    Engineers: That's what they're for.
  • Pilots: Suspected crack in windshield.
    Engineers: Suspect you're right.
In these exchanges, you can see how both the pilot and engineers are 100% correct but are clearly missing each other.
When you write a bug report, please take the time to see if you can give clear steps to reproduce the problem. If you can back out of the screen or page you are on, and see if you can follow the steps to see the problem (screenshots can really help here also), this is even better.
If an engineer has taken the time to write software, they want people to use it and hate if it has bugs. I really like users that want to complain - they are the best type of users because they care and want the software to work.
If you take this extra time to explain and show the steps to reproduce the problem, it really helps the engineer who gets assigned the problem. Also, if the bug cannot be reproduced, there is no way an engineer can fix the problem. At best, you will get a polite response that will sound a lot like one of these Qantas jokes.

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