Should you close old bugs?

Do you actively close bugs because they reach a certain age?

One of the (many) things I love about Automattic is the attention that is given to bug triage. Bug triage is the habit of continually grooming our bug lists to ensure they are constantly relevant, updated and reflective of the current state of our products. A benefit of this is that an up-to-date and prioritized bug list translates directly into a backlog of maintenance work items for a product development team.

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Should you raise bugs you don’t know how to reproduce?

At Automattic we’re always dogfooding; we’re always testing as we develop and therefore we’re always finding bugs.

When I come across one of these bugs I try to capture as much as I can about what I was doing at the time when it happened, and also capture some evidence (a screenshot, visual recording, error messages, browser console) of it happening. But even then on occasion I can’t work out how to reproduce a bug. 

This doesn’t mean the bug isn’t reproducible; it’s just that because there’s so many factors in the highly-distributed, multi-level systems that we develop and test, this means I don’t know how to reproduce these exact circumstances, therefore I don’t know how to reproduce this bug.

The exact set of circumstances that may cause a bug are never entirely reproducible; just like you can never live the exact same moment of your life ever again.

So, when this bug occurred, perhaps the server was under a particular level of load at that exact moment in time. Or one of the load-balancers was restarting, or maybe even my home broadband speed was affected by my children streaming The Octonauts in the next room.

So it can seem almost like a miracle when you do know how to reproduce a bug.

But what do you do with all of those bugs that you haven’t been able to reproduce?

Continue reading “Should you raise bugs you don’t know how to reproduce?”