Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bugs and Defects, What Issues Really Mean

In episode 3 season 1 of Mr Robot http://m.imdb.com/title/tt4730002/ there's a highly used metaphor about bugs. The lead character's (an elite hacker) narration says that most people think finding a bug is about fixing the bug. Basically goes on to say that it's really about finding the flaw in thinking. Sounds a little like root cause analysis.

The first bug ever was called a bug because it was literally caused by a bug in a relay. Certainly not working as designed. Read more about that at http://www.computerhistory.org/tdih/September/9/

Jimmy Bogard provided a clear interpretation of what a bug is (and isn't) and how to deal with it. He and his affiliates break it down to Bugs, Defects and Stories. They "stop the line" to fix Bugs. Bugs are showstoppers, while user feedback are classified as issues. They don't believe in Bug tracking in their shop.

Think of it this way-if the first Bug ever were not removed immediately, how would that system be expected to work?

Seems to me that Bugs are mostly caused by a change in the environment which was not accounted for in the design (or a complete failure to verify implementation against acceptance criteria). Defects, on the other hand, come down to a breakdown in understanding - a Defect is when the software meets the acceptance criteria, but doesn't do what it needs to do.

There's a saying attributed to Jeffrey Palermo - "a process that produced defects is itself defective."

When Defects and Bugs creep into a system, sure we can just go ahead and fix em, move on and push on. But sometimes, and especially if this happens a lot, it's time to fix the underlying defects that are causing the Issues (Defects and Bugs). Process re-engineering, training, the environment (are we on a stable platform?), deeper analysis, etc.

That first bug ever? Perhaps that lead to a cleaner environment when running programs. Maybe it lead to innovations in storage mechanisms. Maybe it lead to nothing. Certainly, if it was a recurring problem, something would've been done.

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