Wandering Thoughts archives


A thought about social obligations to report bugs

One of the things that people sometimes say is that you have a social obligation to report bugs when you find them. This seems most common in the case of open source software, although I've read about it for eg developers on closed source platforms. Let's set aside all of the possible objections with this for the moment, because I want to point out an important issue here that I feel doesn't get half as much attention as it should.

If users have a social obligation to report bugs, projects have a mirror social obligation to make reporting bugs a pleasant or at least not unpleasant experience.

Put flatly, this is only fair. If you are going to say that people need to go out of their way to do something for you (in the abstract and general sense), I very strongly reject the idea that you get to require them to go through unpleasant things or get abused in the process. If you try to require that, you are drastically enlarging the scope of the social obligation you are trying to drop on people, and this is inequitable. You're burdening people all out of proportion for what they are doing.

As a corollary to this, if you want to maintain that users of any particular project (especially your project) have a social obligation to report bugs to 'pay for' the software, you have the obligation of 'paying for' their bug reports by making that project's bug reporting a pleasant process. If you create or tolerate an unpleasant bug reporting process or environment while putting pressure on people to report bugs, you are what I can only describe as an asshole.

(You're also engaged in something that is both ineffective and alienating, but I'm not talking about practicalities here, I'm talking about what's just. If we're all in this together, being just is for everyone to try to make everyone else's life better. Projects make the life of users better by developing software, users make projects better by doing good bug reports, and projects make the life of users better by making bug reports as pleasant as possible.)

(This is probably one of the cases where either I've convinced you by the end of the thesis or you're never going to be convinced, but sometimes I write words anyways.)

tech/BugReportExperienceObligation written at 01:58:20; Add Comment

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