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December 01, 2010

"Find It, Fix It, Move On With Your Life"

The simple mantra behind troubleshooting and bugfixing.

One of the hardest things about solving a problem is keeping your eye on the problem while a cacophony of distraction whirls around you. People want to tell everybody it isn't their fault. You want to tell everybody that it isn't your fault. Random people will want to find out whose fault it was so that they can be seen to have blamed somebody, as if that constituted a sensible contribution to the issue. These things are luxuries few can afford while the problem remains unsolved.

To complicate matters, your fix has probably broken something else that relies on the broken behaviour you just fixed. There is probably a bug below your bug, and you will probably have to fix that bug too. Again, the cacophony of distraction continues its whirl. People will ask why you have not fixed the problem yet. People will ask rhetorical questions about why the bug was there in the first place. This cacophony remains a luxury, an unwelcome distraction that prolongs the pain.

The only sane approach is to find the bug, fix the bug, and move on with your life.

The reward for fixing the last bug is to see the system sing, to watch the engine purr, precisely as designed. The reward is to hear the cacophony cease as the attention of the peanut gallery gets shifted elsewhere, with blissful silence to follow. The reward is the look on the end user's face, when they find the problem that put a dent into their day is now gone.