Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why users don't bother to file bug reports

This has to be the saddest bug I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I see this type of response all too often, where the user, despite having a perfectly readable stack trace, dump or error message, is expected to either a) prove to the developers that the problem still exists in the latest nightly build or b) provide a reproducible test case.

Running the latest nightly build may be trivial for client software, but for server software running on busy, production servers, this is impractical and difficult, if not impossible. Furthermore, in a production environment, reproducibility is not an easy feat, as conditions are never the same, and accurately reproducing the load of hundreds of users is far from scientific.

Need more examples of saddness? Here's another one. It's a MySQL bug about corruption on a storage engine. This one is particularly bad, as the developers keep insisting on trying to reproduce the problem with various versions, despite several users (myself included) confirming the problem across many versions.

Of course, Eclipse servers are affected by both of those bugs -- Apache won't gracefully restart because of the PHP bug under certain conditions and Bugzilla searches fail because of a storage engine issues.

But wait - it gets even sadder. Here is how the above PHP bug is closed (comment by the reporter) :
Whatever. If you do not want bug reports, I will not post any. I thought
you welcome help and want to improve the product but it seems you care
only about having less work. Forget it. Let this bug be.

IMHO, that a fair statement.

The MySQL bug is closed with this automated message:
No feedback was provided for this bug for over a month, so it is
being suspended automatically. If you are able to provide the
information that was originally requested, please do so and change
the status of the bug back to "Open".

I understand that the developers' time is precious and that good bug reports are required, but users are not intimate with the source code, and often cannot easily provide more than a crash dump or an error message. That doesn't mean there is not a problem with the code, so relying on the user to do all the heavy lifting seems quite unfair, and a great way to convince your users to not report bugs.

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