The Problem with Bug Reports

Ivan on writing bug reports:

Mostly, you get no feedback. Sometimes people log bugs, but not very often. With open source software, or web sites providing some service, if it doesn’t work straight away (and very simply), mostly people will ignore it and try the next thing that looks like it might do what they want.

On the whole, bug reporting in open source projects is borken. Why?

  • You often need to sign up for an account in order to log a bug. They should have used Captcha instead if worried about spam.
  • For larger projects, people are discouraged to post if a bug is already there. Or if they’re not discouraged, there are loads of duplicates which no-one can deal with. Totally understandable, but it means a lot of people won’t bother at all. The solution is some kind of AI style pattern recognition, as in “Is your bug one of these?”. Which would be great if systems like that actually worked; most of the time they’re just frustrating impedances.
  • Bug reporting isn’t encouraged by the software. At the least, any error dialog should be linked to a troubleshooting and feedback portal. Better would be to link to a commentable page about that specific error type. “Error code 48278” is so ’70s. Get with the ’90s guys and make it “/errors/48278”.
  • It takes too long to explain how to replicate. Part of the reason is that URLs aren’t used where they could be. I’ll explain more about desktop URLs later.

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