Want to stop productive bug reporting in its tracks? Want to get the trolling rolling? Toss a flaming “Works for me!” into the mix and stand back.
I’ve often described the title of this piece as the most devastating insult one techie can inflict on another. It’s surely one of the more popular. And while in many (maybe most) cases it’s dropped in perfect innocence, this little innocuous phrase tends to land with the force of a nuclear bomb.
Bug triage is a progressive process. After the initial report, others join in to share their experience and a living, breathing, sometimes-viral organism develops. Those afflicted with the bug take co-ownership of the report, as do those working to resolve it. They may see anyone poking in to coo a cavalier “works for me!” as an affront. A theft of discourse and productivity. And a blatant example of trolling.
It’s especially an issue in open source communities, where much if not all of the work involved is strictly volunteer. Pointless infringements on precious time are not taken lightly. And unless the poster is a sociopath, they surely don’t want to develop a troll’s reputation.
But what if the alleged agent provocateur really is innocent? There’s actually value in the remark if it’s sincere. A valid “works for me” becomes a control, an example of an environment or set of conditions where the bug has failed to manifest. A bug-free control can aid in troubleshooting by enabling investigators to better identify critical environmental differences. In fact the more “works for me” contributions there are, the quicker the culprit can be identified. It lurks in the unique shadows of the bug originator’s domain… and can often be something really simple.
Obviously bug triage depends on collaboration and, to some extent, healthy competition. But successful bug resolution is best accomplished by avoiding ego-driven contributions on either side. That means no taunting, and no rash assumptions. Consider your words carefully. If you have no stake in the bug, just observe from the sidelines if at all. And if personality conflicts emerge, they’re best taken out of the bug stream and handled between the adversaries.
Keep on (de)bugging!