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Thursday, May 08, 2008

I Report Bugs - Do You?

I received an email telling me that my blog was having problems (showing code all over the page). I quickly checked and didn't see a problem and sent an email back. The response I received was:
Your blog looks fine now. Sorry for wasting your time.
What a misconception. The person had taken the time to report a possible bug on my site. In my mind they are doing me a huge favor.

Most of the time I report bugs. And this extends beyond the online world. If I'm at a restaurant, I will try to tell the manager about an issue - most of the time not to fix it, just to make them aware. Of course, you always evaluate how easy it is to report the issue. If the manager is not around or there's no contact mechanism on the site, then I don't report it.

Generally, people are appreciative of the bug report. But it's sometimes surprising the response you get. It's almost that you are bothering them. They don't want to hear it. No wonder the person was so sensitive about "wasting my time."

So this made me wonder ... is this the norm? Do you report bugs? How do you decide if you spend the time? And, what's your feeling about how they are treated when you report them?


Anonymous said...

Reporting bugs is a tortuous route to disaster for the reporter. Although I report bugs most of the time, and although some people are appreciative, it seems that the larger the organisation, the more difficult it is to get some traction.

A real life example i can give was when i attempted to buy a laptop for my son from Hewlett Packard. I tried quite a number of times, and each time the transaction was bounced, but not before it hovered on the edge of my credit card statement.

you can imaging, as i saw the total get bigger, that I wondered if the large amount was going to be debited.

To their credit I have to say that none of the transactions materialised, although my son was disappointed that at least one of them didn't get through.

Being a good Dad, I did pursure it with Hewlett Packard, and in each case they could only say that it got as far as finance and was bounced.

Now Hewlett Packard didn't give any reason for bouncing the transaction and its employees kept on taking th repeat orders.

All of this was most frustrating, but does serve to suggest that pointing out a bug in the system can have absolutely no effect.

I'm pleased to see that you take bug reporting graciously, but large organisations do have a habit of having barriers in place which grind the bug reporter down!

Plautia said...

I do try and report bugs - if I have the time!

On a similar tack I recently had a coworker send me an apologetic email saying she found some typos and inaccuracies on our website (which I handle). She said she felt very bad, didn't want to be a nitpicker, but wanted the website to improve.

I sent her an email back and told her I wished everyone sent me such emails! Who wouldn't want our website to be as great as it could be? I quickly fixed the problems, and have one big project on my to-do list as a result.

Yes, it may be a pain to have to fix things (or is it a wounded pride that makes bugs/errors seem like such a big deal?), but bite the bit and get moving! The results will be worth it.

Anonymous said...

I alway try to report bugs for web sites or software vendors that are easily accessible. If Word or Excel crashes on me, I don't bother writing to Microsoft...because I doubt my message would see the light of day.

It's also important to provide as much context as possible when reporting bugs. I can tell you that this is appreciated from the programming and development side of the equation. Don't just say, "I got an error." Say, "I was trying to complete XYZ transaction, and I got an error on step 3 when I clicked the submit button. The error said..." A scenario like that is much easier to diagnose.

Now, Tony, to combine your two examples, if you see real bugs in a restaurant, run!! :)

Tony Karrer said...

That's a good point about size of the organization. And, I take that into account when I consider whether to report.

Hmmmm - good point about actual bugs in a restaurant. :)

Stephen Downes said...

Yes I report bugs. Quietly and unobtrusively.

Anonymous said...

I like Stephen's "quiet and inobtrusively." For instance, if I find a bad link in your blog entry (e.g., I can tell something got truncated), I'd prefer to let you know via email. It's hard sometimes to find email on a blog.

Maybe it's just me -- I'd prefer not to say "that's incorrect" (in the bug sense) as part of a comment, especially if the thing gets fixed.

Once in a blue moon I'll send screens shots (I have SnagIt, which makes that easy) -- especially true for web weirdness.

I don't try correcting other people's grammar or even clearly erroneous beliefs (like putting chocolate on perfectly innocent shortbread).

Tony Karrer said...

I don't think there's any issue with reporting bugs (links / spelling) in a comment. That happens fairly often on my blog. Is that a concern for others do you think?

Probably right that email is preferable.

Dave - I would encourage you to correct "clearly erroneous beliefs" - and I know you actually do it for things that matter.

john said...

Tony, I will focus on blogs here. I think it is considerate to report bugs on the blogs that one reads. Occasionally I observe that a blog may not appear well in a reader. Perhaps a blogger has switched from one platform to another and the comments engine may not work or links may be broken, etc.

Usually I get a positive response. If I have the time I quickly check it is not my browser or reader that is causing the problem before I send the email. I agree that email is the preferred method of communicating the bug,

Cheers, John.