Unexamined Assumption – Developers spend a lot of time fixing bugs.

I’ve been delivering talks at conferences & user groups for over 20 years. One question I ask at most of my talks for developers is “how many of you spend most of your time fixing bugs?” Throughout all of these years, I get about 9 out of 10 telling me they do. But they don’t.

I go through this conversation with them:

  • Consider a time you were notified of a bug.
  • remember the time you spent trying to reproduce it
  • and then figured out how to fix it and did that
  • And then undid it because it broke something else
  • And then found the real cause and fixed it
  • Now, how much time was actually spent fixing the bug?
  • I’d suggest that most of your time was spent finding the bug.

Now this is not just semantics. Consider from when you write a bug (and yes, do you write them even though you say “I found a bug” as if someone else wrote it 😊 ). And let’s say it was found right away (maybe you have automated testing). It likely wouldn’t take very long to fix, because it’d probably be due to the last thing you did. But if you discover it weeks later, even if nothing changed, it might take you hours or days to find and fix it. If things have changed, it’d take longer. And think of the wasted time you would have caused others.

The moral? Spend a little time so that you don’t have to look for bugs.

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