Bug Tracking: Where is it now? What the future holds & best practices

To grasp the real value that bug tracking provides, it best to start with an understanding of what it is truly about. According to Techopedia ”Bug tracking is a process used by quality assurance personnel and programmers to keep track of software problems and resolutions.”

To keep track of all of the information that is put into and exchanged throughout this process, it is imperative to have a bug tracking tool or system in place. A bug tracking tool is used to store and relay bug tracking information: this type of system creates a clear and centralized overview of bugs that have been reported and makes communication between both the testers and developers very straightforward and organized. So, what are the current best practices and where is bug tracking today?

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Bug Tracking: Four Tips to do it Right

1. Release Fast and Often

I would bet any amount of money that at least one of your email accounts is stuffed full of unread emails wasting at least 1GB. If your list of open bugs looks like that, then you’re doing something wrong. There is a philosophy in software development, “Release fast, release often.” This focuses on early and frequent releases by creating a tight loop between developers and testers. This will help keep your bug tracking queue clean and tidy leading to a more efficient system to resolve those issues.

2. Keep it One-on-One

While bug tracking, there are two main roles that are connected by a bug. A specifier and a solver. The specifier being the one who finds and reports bugs. The main goal of this role is to insist that there is a bug there, and prove that it can be reproduced. On the other hand the developer’s role is to prove there isn’t a bug there or show that is has been resolved and that their solution is the right one.

The communication between these roles on bug tracking should be one-on-one. Why? It’s a lot more efficient. Bringing up a bug during a lengthy meeting with your entire team is not a productive use of everyone’s time. The only people that owe that topic the due diligence are the specifier and the solver. Does that mean there can’t be more than two people working on a bug together? Of course not! Reproducing and working on bugs together is highly appreciated.

3. Close tickets

One of the worst situations you can have when bug tracking is a discussion about whether a bug should be closed or not. On top of that, having a long-living ticket is a huge nightmare to management. When you sense a long discussion starting about a bug, end it ASAP. All a developer has to do is message the tester saying that they should close the ticket because the bug is fixed. If you find yourself caught in a long situation just clarify who is responsible for accepting the results and what are the criteria of acceptance. It is usually the tester’s job to close tickets. In some teams it is the developer’s job to close the tickets once they feel their solution is sufficient.

4. Don’t generalize

For you to effectively communicate you need to be as clear as possible. Don’t throw general comments into an open ticket just highlighting your opinions and not directly steering the conversation anywhere. Some comments are just unnecessary and fluffy. Saying something like “I encountered a similar bug before.” Does not bring the conversation anywhere and can just be annoying. Tickets are made to find solutions to problems, not to reminisce on past bugs.

Where is Bug Tracking Now?

There is not one answer to this question. It all depends on who you are working with. As technology is getting more interactive and visual, we are seeing more visual feedback systems be put into place. A great area to apply that type of visual feedback is bug tracking with a proper bug tracking tool. There are many great tools out there right now that do this but not many that do it as visually as they could.

A bug tracking tool that is a bit more integrative but not as directly visual as DebugMe would be Atlassian JIRA. JIRA has a very wide acceptance for plugins and API’s from all sorts of places. This allows it to be very flexible and used in many teams in various projects. JIRA uses a Kanban-like interface to add a level of visual feedback to its management. JIRA is widely used because it has the capabilities to coordinate with other applications, to an extent. The main problem found in all bug tracking software, right now, is a lack of compatibility. Every firm assumes that everyone uses the same platform when in reality everyone is using platforms incompatible with others. So even though there are platforms that track bugs, they have no way of sending over all of the correct information if they aren’t compatible with the platform on the other end. Currently, these are the most popular approaches to bug tracking and they definitely are a whole level higher than what came before, but they are still not where they could be. Before bug tracking tools were developed, bugs were kept on spreadsheets and managers would have to email everyone to inform them of bugs. This was obviously horrible because the spreadsheets were not connected to the system and could easily fall prone to human error and often retain outdated information. Some teams still use this approach today.

The bug tracking industry is more scattered than it should be to achieve the highest efficiency. There are many different bug tracking tools that are good at some things and not in others. Archicad and Revit are awesome at remodeling, Navisworth and Solibri are great at analysis, Bluebeam and Plangrid are good at markups, but none of those are good at issue tracking; leaving JIRA to coordinate to the best of its ability. Because of this there are no perfect bug tracking platforms to date. Now that the visual aspect is coming into play we are starting to see a change.

Where is Bug Tracking Heading?

Hopefully towards centralization. JIRA makes a valid attempt but it doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. The main thing holding back truly effective bug tracking is how decentralized firms and software companies are with each platform filling in different roles really well but not being able to synergize and combine their efforts into a bug tracking unicorn. The only other thing that would make bug tracking easier would be telepathy, but I don’t see that becoming a reality any time in the near future. More and more things are being run on the cloud including whole entire bug tracking environments. Another way we are starting to see in bug tracking is visual feedback. Instead of explaining what’s what in a few sentences, it is a whole lot easier to show someone a picture of the bug. Even just a snapshot allows the developer to know where exactly to look for the bug or issue. Lightweight tools like DebugMe are the cutting edge for debugging as it is so easily added to any online environment.

As applications are getting more and more complex with technology and ideas, people are realizing that interfaces are getting too cluttered and too many elements can confuse and steer away users. This is leading to a shift to simplify the GUI’s of applications with really comprehensive functionality. Hence, it is fair to say that we may see a lot of visually simplified but largely intuitive bug tracking tools in 2016.


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