Why I still report bugs

July 28, 2015

I've written plenty of entries here over the years about why people don't report bugs (myself included). Yet I still report bugs against some projects.

The quiet reality of bug reports that I haven't mentioned so far is that when one of my bug report goes well, it's an amazingly good feeling. When I find a bug, isolate it, maybe peer into the code to identify the cause, file a report, and have the project authors say 'that's a nice find and a good analysis', that's a real rush. It's not even so much that I may get a fix for my issue; it's very much also that I have reached into the depths of a mystery and come out with the right answer. It's even better when it helps other people (both in the future and sometimes right away). This is bug reports as the culmination of debugging, and successful debugging itself is a rush of puzzle solving and a victory over a hard problem.

(It's equally a good feeling, although a somewhat different one, when I file a carefully reasoned bug report in favour of something that the software doesn't currently do and I wind up bringing the project people around to my views.)

More than anything else, this is the feeling that keeps me filing bug reports with hospitable projects. It is the feeling that makes bug reports into something other than grinding work and that makes me proud to have written a good report.

I'm often down on bug reporting because I don't have this experience with bug reporting very often. But neither I nor anyone else should forget that bug reporting can feel good too. It's probably not a small part of why we're all willing to keep making those reports, and I don't want to lose sight of it.

(It's easier to remember the negative bug reporting experiences than the powerfully positive ones, partly because humans have very good memories for the negative.)

(As you might guess, this entry was sparked by the experience of recently filing a couple of good bug reports.)

Written on 28 July 2015.
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Last modified: Tue Jul 28 00:18:36 2015
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