2010/How To Report A Bug

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Bug reports drive Open Source, but too often it’s a hostile experience. As a user, how do you report a bug without being treated like you’re dumping a sack of crap on the developer’s doorstep? As a developer, how do you encourage users to report bugs? This is not a tutorial, but an examination of the social aspects of bug reporting.

Speaker: Michael Schwern

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Contributed notes

Bug reports are the life-blood of your project. Bug reports feed your project, both with ideas, and also eventually future developers.


  • how do I find out how to submit a bug (make it easy!)
  • prove you're a human: email address/login etc
  • doubt: is this a bug? is it a duplicate? Don't make users filter whether it's not a bug, they will do it poorly

Why are there walls?

  • spam
  • the bug tracker sucks

Bugs should be as easy as email

Get any kind of bug report, give them feedback, rinse and repeat. Build out your community via bug reports.

Bugs make you angry... <someone stole my booze!>

To get bugs fixed...

  • don't attack developers

"Thanks for sending a wordaround for this perl bug." - how not to start

Bad words to skip

  • obvious
  • just
  • simply
  • you/your
  • why
  • did you
  • profanity


  • Love your bug tracker (or pick a better one) (sd - distributed, sync-able tracker)
  • lower your walls
  • don't hate
  • don't be neutral
  • be thankful
  • be Jack Webb (be factful, be focused)
  • Inform devs about the problems

Amusing remarks

   "There are walls [picture of Wall family] and hate [picture of someone holding up a kitten]"

- Audience: "You've gone too far Schwern"


  • There's a trade-off between barriers (asking for email address) and being able to contact people.

Just don't require login/email/registration etc etc in order to submit a bug, although there's no harm in requiring email address.

  • Some projects use the bug tracker as a gate to filter out the morons

Yes, it's certainly part of that, even though I think that's more subconscious rather than intentional.

  • How do we handle triage?

I don't really cover that.

See Also

Andy Lester's rant about why you don't optimize your bug tracker for the developer