BugTrackersAsSocialSoftware (ThoughtStorms)

Context : BugTrackers

An article which interviews JoelSpolsky here (temporarily) : http://www.softwareceo.com/

And discussion : http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=171947

Best bit of it is where he understands bug trackers as social software. (CategoryCopyrightRisk)

Contrarian insight #13: Forget about the customer always being right.

Here's a doozie: It's often best to ignore customer requests for enhancements. Especially if they contradict the design philosophy of your software.

"Someone is always asking us for a way to keep track of the number of bugs created by each programmer," says Spolsky. Sounds simple enough, right? Who wouldn't want that?

"Most software companies would just say, 'OK we have this request from a customer, so I'll take half an hour and code it up for them.' But I say no, I'm not going to do that."

Why not? Is he just being ornery, or a prima donna about his precious software design?

"The minute you start tracking people that way, every bug becomes an argument. As soon as you're measuring people by the alleged quality of their coding, the system will break down."

It's obvious, Spolsky says, and as fault-prone as a waiter giving kickbacks to the cook to fill their orders first. Humans are smart, says Spolsky, and within a day they'll figure out how to subvert any system that doesn't benefit them.

"So the developers will start saying to the testers, 'Hey, if you find something, come and tell me before you put it into the system. Maybe I'll be able to fix it on the spot so we can all save some time.' And then the testers won't want to get in trouble with the developers, so all of sudden you're not really tracking bugs any more."

That innocent suggestion from the field, if you don't consider it carefully, might just end up destroying the value of your product.

Contrarian insight #14: Study how your software is used in the real world.

Other vendors think about bug tracking as a database, says Spolsky. But software with any collaborative element won't likely work if it tries to get people to change their work habits. This explains why many bug-tracking systems are brought in by management but never quite "stick."

At Fog Creek, the thinking goes much deeper.

"People don't think enough about the anthropology of their tools," says Spolsky. "It takes an understanding of how people work together and the things people do with software. We try to encapsulate that understanding in our products, and I think that's the strongest reason that Fog Creek spreads.

"As soon as you've tried bug tracking, you start to feel like you can't work without it. Our software is designed to be a little viral—so that one person can start using it, and then it can spread to the entire team."

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