May 17, 2008

A Picture Is Not Worth A Thousand Words

Occasionally, I see a bug report with little more than a picture attached.

The bug reporter is basically saying "Here's a picture.  The bug is self-evident."  But for a good bug report, that is simply not good enough.

A picture doesn't explain how we got there
In all bug reports, I want to see a step-by-step procedure on how to reproduce the problem being reported.  I don't want the  persons doing the debugging to have to guess.  And I don't want them to turn the bug report around as Not Reproducible.  That would just waste everyone's time.
A picture doesn't explain what is right, and what is wrong
I'm sure the bug is totally obvious to the person who wrote the bug report.  But it may not be so obvious to me, it may not be obvious to the person attempting to debug the problem, and it may not be obvious at all to someone reviewing bug reports some time down the road.  State what actually happened.  Use words that the reader will understand.
A picture doesn't explain the expected result
A good bug report states what was expected to happen versus what actually happened.  Maybe your expectations were wrong? A picture can't explain that. copyrightjoestrazzere
A picture doesn't help when searching
One occasionally-overlooked aspect of a well-written bug report, is that it can be easily found by a search.  If someone else encounters the same (or a similar) bug, I want them to find this bug report.  If they have more symptoms, they could add them here.  If not, they can see the current state or resolution of the bug report.  I want to avoid duplicate bugs whenever possible.  Adding text here about the symptoms, error messages, log files, and such is far more useful in that regard than a picture might be.
Is a picture helpful?  Yes, it is.  Sometimes it is even critical to solving the problem at hand.

Does the picture replace 1000 words?  No.  Not when used in a well-written bug report.

You Might Be In Quabbity Assurance If...

One television program that both my wife and I really enjoy is The Office.  And of course, my favorite character is Creed Bratton - the Director of Quality Assurance.

In this season's final episode, a new HR Director joins the office.  When Creed greets her, she asks what he does.  Creed (who has a severe memory problem) doesn't answer her.  Instead he goes off by himself and struggles to come up with the answer.
What's with this woman?
She's asking things that are none of her business!
What do I do here?
I should have written it down!
Qua something, uh.
Qua, quar, quab...
Quabbity Assurance!
No, no... but I'm getting close...
You Might Be In Quabbity Assurance If...
  • If you like eating mung beans, even though they "smell like death", then you might be in Quabbity Assurance
  • If you have only 4 toes on one foot, then you might be in Quabbity Assurance
  • If you confess that you might have accidentally made love to a man in the 60's ("there'd be no way of knowing"), then you might be in Quabbity Assurance
  • If you faked your own death for tax reasons, then you might be in Quabbity Assurance
  • If you stole a laminating machine and used it to start a fake ID business, then you might be in Quabbity Assurance
  • If you get angry that a quality problem occurred during "the one year" you neglected to do your job, then you might be in Quabbity Assurance
  • If you have been a member of many religious cults, both as a leader and follower, then you might be in Quabbity Assurance
See also:

May 9, 2008

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Minnesota Dept. of Human Services

Five years, $8 million - and all I got was this lousy stethescope... and far too many bugs.

Minnesota State Human Services officials have abandoned their first attempt to develop an online health care signup system. 
  • A troubled project with shifting goals
  • The software was incomplete, error-prone and not always efficient to use
  • Officials decided to scrap software that had too many bugs
  • "We don't want to make the mistake of developing a system that won't work."
They plan to start over.  Perhaps (this time) they'll test more?

see also:

May 7, 2008

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Chrysler

Browsers crash, software crashes, and when the software is in an automatic transmission, sometimes cars crash too.

Chrysler has recalled over 24,400 Jeep Commanders to fix a software problem in the automatic transmission system which:
  • has endangered scores of Jeep owners
  • could cause a crash without warning
  • could have engines stalling at highway speeds
  • can cause a loss of electrical power and lighting

May 4, 2008

If Architects Had To Work Like Programmers

Here's the classic comparison of a Programmer's work to an Architect's work.

Please design and build me a house.  I am not sure of what I need, you
should use your discretion.  My house should have between two and forty-five
bedrooms.  Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily
added or deleted.  When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the
final decision of what I want.  Also bring me the cost breakdown for each
configuration so I can arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one
I am currently living in.  Make sure, however, that you correct all the
deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen
vibrates when I walk across it and the walls don't have nearly enough
insulation in them.)

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance cost
as low as possible.  This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost
features like aluminum, vinyl, or composite siding.  (If you chose not to
specify aluminum, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)

Please take care that the modern design practices and the latest materials
are used in the construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace
for the most up-to-date ideas and methods.  Be alerted however, that the
kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952
Gibson refrigerator.

To insure that you are building the correct house for my entire family, make
certain that you contact each of my children and also my in-laws.  My
mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be
designed, since she visits us at least once a year.  Make sure that you
weigh all these options carefully and come to the right decision.  I,
however, retain the right to overrule any choices you make.

Please don't bother me with small details right now.  Your job is to develop
the overall plans for the house, get the big picture.  At this time, for
example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the carpet.  Keep
in mind, however that my wife likes blue.

Also do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the
house itself.  Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and
specifications.  Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the
house to be under construction within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that
sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else.  It therefore should
appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers.  Please make sure before you
finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area
that they like the features this house has.

I can advise you to run up and look at my neighbor's house he constructed
last year.  We like it a great deal.  It has many of the features that we
would also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool.
With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new
house without impacting the final cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints.  It is not necessary at this
time to do the real design, since they will be used for construction bids.
Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of
construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as interesting a project as this!  To
be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such
freedom in your designs is something that can't happen very often.  Contact
me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

PS  My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the
instructions I've given you in this letter.  As architect, it is your
responsibility to resolve these differences.  I have tried in the past and
have been unable to accomplish this.  If you can't handle the
responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS  Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer.
Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.
I'm not sure of the origin, since it has been posted so many times without attribution.

The earliest reference I could find was from March 1997:

May 1, 2008

Spam Turns 30!

If there's one thing worse than Spam, it's old Spam.

May marks the 30th anniversary of the first unsolicited commercial e-mail.

The first Spam was sent from a Digital Equipment Corporation marketer named Gary Thuerk, over ARPANET (precursor to the Internet) to a grand total of 393 individuals.

Here are the contents of that first Spam (with the To addresses removed):
"Mail-from: DEC-MARLBORO rcvd at 3-May-78 0955-PDT
Date:  1 May 1978 1233-EDT


               TUESDAY, MAY 9, 1978 - 2 PM
                   HYATT HOUSE (NEAR THE L.A. AIRPORT)
                   LOS ANGELES, CA

               THURSDAY, MAY 11, 1978 - 2 PM
                   DUNFEY'S ROYAL COACH
                   SAN MATEO, CA
                   (4 MILES SOUTH OF S.F. AIRPORT AT BAYSHORE, RT 101 AND RT 92)

Although the term "Spam" wasn't used at the time, this was believed to have been the first.

Today, some estimate that over 150 billion spam messages are sent every day.

And the Vikings sing: Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam! Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam. Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Spam spam spam spam!