[Inform] Bug Report Etiquette

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gbos...@shol.com

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May 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/18/96
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I remember reading something on this newsgroup concerning the proper
etiquette for reporting bugs in games--email to the author of the game
(rather than posting to the newsgroup) as a matter of politeness.

Is the same true for bugs found in Inform 6? That is, should I avoid
posting bug reports, and just email Graham Nelson? This is a question
after the fact; I've already posted one such message, but I want to be
sure of proper proocedure before making another (possible) mistake.

Gerald Bostock


Gareth Rees

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May 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/20/96
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gbos...@shol.com wrote:
> I remember reading something on this newsgroup concerning the proper
> etiquette for reporting bugs in games--email to the author of the game
> (rather than posting to the newsgroup) as a matter of politeness.
>
> Is the same true for bugs found in Inform 6? That is, should I avoid
> posting bug reports, and just email Graham Nelson?

You should always e-mail bug reports to the author of the program.
Otherwise, they may not see the bug report.

Whether you also post the bug report to a newsgroup is up to you. It
probably isn't worth doing unless you think it would be of interest to
other people. There *are* reasons why a bug may be of general interest:
it may have serious consequences (the security bugs in the Java virtual
machine and the Netscape implementation of it) or it may be amusing
(perhaps it allows an alternative solution to a puzzle, or results in
bizarre output), or it may be of historical interest (the bugs in
Infocom games).

Some programmers think that it is rude to post bug reports to a public
forum; they seem to think that a bug report amounts to a criticism of
their programming abilities. I think they're wrong. All software has
bugs in it, and it is *extremely* difficult, expensive and
time-consuming to implement an engineering process that reliably keeps
bugs to a minimum. (And adventure games are exactly the kind of program
which is most difficult to test in any systematic way.) For something
as trivial as a freeware adventure game it simply isn't worth spending
that much effort and no-one should think any less of an adventure game
writer just because there are bugs in his or her code.

--
Gareth Rees

Neil K. Guy

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May 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/21/96
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Gareth Rees (gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk) wrote:

: Some programmers think that it is rude to post bug reports to a public


: forum; they seem to think that a bug report amounts to a criticism of

: their programming abilities. I think they're wrong. [...]

Mmmm... well I don't know. I can see this point, frankly. I mean, if you
expend vast amounts of personal energy in writing a program and then some
snot posts a message to a public forum saying - "ha ha - author X sure is
an idiot! Look - I can put the spam kee inside the Rod of Irony!" -
well, I think I'd be a bit irritated. Even if it's made in a less
insulting tone it could be an embarrassing slip that nobody would notice
anyway, and I might be happier as an author to fix it quietly. We aren't
talking mission critical software here, anyway. These are just games.

My view on this is that bug reports for programs in current circulation
for which the authors are available (eg: most of the Inform games, for
example) should be mailed to the author as a courtesy. If it's an ancient
game that won't be updated, such as the Infocom products, then I don't see a
problem posting it. Or if the results are catastrophic and all users
should be warned immediately - SuperWriteDrawDeluxe Pro II erases all
your files if you triple-click the marquee icon, for instance.

- Neil K. Guy

--
Neil K. Guy * n...@vcn.bc.ca * n...@tela.bc.ca
49N 16' 123W 7' * Vancouver, BC, Canada

Gareth Rees

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May 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/22/96
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Neil K. Guy <n...@vcn.bc.ca> wrote:
> Even if [a bug report is] made in a less insulting tone it could be an

> embarrassing slip that nobody would notice anyway, and I might be
> happier as an author to fix it quietly.

There's a serious point here, which is that the (widespread) attitude
you express above is extremely damaging to the computer software
industry.

Here's what can go wrong: many users without technical experience
believe that it is possible to produce software at a reasonable price
that is free of bugs. So if company A has "bug fix" releases, that is
tantamount to admitting that their software has bugs! So it would be
much better to buy software from company M, which never releases bug
fixes at all.

Company M thus succeeds despite its software being *more* buggy than
that of company A, because users don't understand that bugs are
inevitable in anything complicated! Admitting that bugs exist is a
necessary first step in getting them fixed.

--
Gareth Rees

Christopher E. Forman

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May 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/22/96
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Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
: Some programmers think that it is rude to post bug reports to a public
: forum; they seem to think that a bug report amounts to a criticism of
: their programming abilities. I think they're wrong. All software has

: bugs in it, and it is *extremely* difficult, expensive and
: time-consuming to implement an engineering process that reliably keeps
: bugs to a minimum. (And adventure games are exactly the kind of program
: which is most difficult to test in any systematic way.) For something
: as trivial as a freeware adventure game it simply isn't worth spending
: that much effort and no-one should think any less of an adventure game
: writer just because there are bugs in his or her code.

Most posters don't intend to annoy authors by doing this. It's simply a
desire to "share" the bug with the world, or to confirm that it is in fact
a bug.

A couple of points that haven't yet been raised:

Even if, as you say, posting a bug does not make the author look bad, it
most certainly can reflect badly on the game's testers. I've seen a number
of posts along the lines of "Gee, this is a really obvious bug. The testers
must've been lazy to miss it."

While posting bugs for older games can be fun, I would strongly advise
against publicly announcing bugs in new releases. There is nothing more
aggravating than finally getting a game out the door, only to have its
remaining mistakes blabbed to the entire world. (I'm speaking from
experience here). A little consideration in the early stages, provided
the bugs are minor, is not much to ask.

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read the I-F e-zine XYZZYnews, at ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/xyzzynews,
or on the Web at http://www.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzynews.html
Vote I-F in 1996! Visit http://www.xs4all.nl/~jojo/pcgames.html for info!

Graham Nelson

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May 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/22/96
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In article <4ns4ii$9...@milo.vcn.bc.ca>, n...@vcn.bc.ca (Neil K. Guy) writes:

> Gareth Rees (gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk) wrote:
>
> : Some programmers think that it is rude to post bug reports to a public
> : forum; they seem to think that a bug report amounts to a criticism of
> : their programming abilities. I think they're wrong. [...]
>
> Mmmm... well I don't know. I can see this point, frankly. I mean, if you
> expend vast amounts of personal energy in writing a program and then some
> snot posts a message to a public forum saying - "ha ha - author X sure is
> an idiot! Look - I can put the spam kee inside the Rod of Irony!" -
> well, I think I'd be a bit irritated. Even if it's made in a less
> insulting tone it could be an embarrassing slip that nobody would notice
> anyway, and I might be happier as an author to fix it quietly. We aren't
> talking mission critical software here, anyway. These are just games.
>

I very much prefer people to email me with bug reports, since the newsgroups
are by no means a 100% accurate way to communicate with individuals.

Posting bug reports is sometimes helpful: I think that people who have posted
their experiences with porting Inform 6, for instance, have done us a service
by spreading their discoveries and thus minimising work.

But this is a special case, since Inform 6 is in a sense a program with many
authors (that is, with many porters working to get it right).

I agree with Gareth Rees that bug reports should not be considered as
criticisms. But on the other hand I remember the effect of the long
thread about "the Inform manuals are all rubbish": endless negative publicity,
really, for Inform. Newcomers to the newsgroup saw only the negative side.
Likewise, people do not post to say "Golly, this puzzle is implemented
correctly", or "this feature works as far as I can see", and so endless
bug reports can give the regrettable impression that a complex product is
highly unreliable.

Anyway, I've always thought it's a courtesy to tell the author about mistakes
in a game, especially if they're unfortunate (e.g. "you can jump straight to
the end game if you just...").

This is an equivocal answer, but let me unequivocally thank all those who
have sent me bug reports over the years. Your efforts have not been in
vain.

Graham Nelson

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