Bug Tracking for [Software] Health and [User] Happiness

Timothy Western’s article “Clean Up Your Bug Tracker and Keep Numbers Manageable” is a straightforward, honest reminder of the importance of staying on top of reported software bugs. A backlog of reported bugs can be demoralizing and demotivating for everyone involved:

While the best teams will collaborate and try to fix bugs as soon as they are discovered, even their best efforts may not always keep up with the growing defect count. Features get notice; bugs that were deferred last week are likely to get deferred again. When push comes to shove and the team has to decide on deferring new bugs, what’s ten more added to a pile of ten thousand, anyway? When the technical staff realizes that product management cares about features only, consistently asking if the bug is deferrable, they lose pride in work, wondering, “Why bother to build something good when shoddy makes people happier?”

Western suggests some ways to combat that kind of bug pileup:

  • Use code reviews and paired programming to improve quality from the start
  • Test early and often (while the features and issues are fresh in everyone’s minds)
  • Find bugs that are quick to fix or high priority and put those in front of the team
  • Focus on improving the user experience rather than collecting as many bug reports as possible

I like Western’s advice because it focuses on finding approaches that make the most sense for everyone involved. If developers and testers aren’t collaborating and communicating throughout the process, it’s ultimately the users who suffer.