Jani Hartikainen: Why is fixing bugs so slow? (and how to make it faster)

On his CodeUptopia blog Jani Hartikainen has posted a great article with some of his thoughts about why fixing bugs is so slow and includes a few suggestions on how to make it happen faster and streamline the process for the future.

Have you ever wondered why sometimes fixing bugs seems to take much longer than it should? When you finally find the problem, it turns out all you need is one small change. Yet, it took a lot of time to find what’s going on. This happens to me more often than I’d like.

[…] Why is it that sometimes fixing bugs takes a lot of work even when the problem is simple, and other times, it’s really quick to fix the problem – maybe even when it isn’t so trivial? Is there something we can learn from the bugs that are easy to fix, so that we could spend less time fixing bugs in general?

He starts off by describing a typical bug fixing process after the initial discovery and reporting of the issue down to the actual fix being deployed. He then breaks down each of these six steps and provides more context around them:

  • Understanding the problem
  • Reproducing the bug
  • Finding the problematic piece of code
  • Identifying the root cause
  • Fixing the bug
  • Ensuring the bug is fixed

He then goes back and talks about the pain points in this typical process citing things like a lack of good information around the bug and the time constraints that often come with the "time to fix" allowance. He makes some suggestions about how to gather better information around the issue before the fix begins and points to effective logging as one possible source. He also talks about how unit testing can help verify the bug is actually fixed and help to prevent and locate future issues.


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