For Want Of A Conditional

This is the sort of defect I really hate.  Not that it’s broken, not that it’s a simple fix, but this is the sort of defect that you spend more time arguing about than it would take fixing.

The application is a little flow charting piece called RF Flow.  I recommend it for building handy flowcharts to graphically illustrate the processes that everyone in your organization ignores.  However, right after you first install or reinstall version 5 (four years old now), the recent file list includes empty numbers since you haven’t actually opened 9 files yet:

Someday, this problem will solve itself
Click for full size

It would be simple enough to not populate the menu with recent filenames where the recent filename==null.


In a real development environment, the sequence of this would be:

  1. QA logs the defect.
  2. Project manager, who’s been happy path testing and whatnot, reviews defect and says he cannot recreate it.
  3. QA explains that it only happens when the recent file list is empty.
  4. Developer says it won’t be a problem once user has opened 9 files, so  it’s not worth fixing since there’s a workaround.
  5. QA says, come on, it’s a single conditional.  We could fix it ourselves but we don’t fix problems.
  6. Developer comes back from lunch at the Thai place and says, but how many people will see this problem?
  7. QA responds, “How many customers will we have?”
  8. Developer recommends that on first launch, application should open 9 sample files maybe.  He’ll wait for someone in the Training/Documentation department to create them.  As soon as the company creates a Training/Documentation department.
  9. Quibbling continues until launch date approaches.  As this small thing is not a critical defect, it does not stop the launch.
  10. Developer attends launch party; QA waits in its lair, plotting against or hexing the developer who spent several hours over several weeks dodging a far smaller amount of work.

From this crucible, Known Issues Lists emerge.

And hey, RF Flow is an easy tool for flowcharting and cheaper than Microsoft Vizio.

No Responses to “For Want Of A Conditional”

  1. faught Says:

    If the tester had done a good job writing up the bug report, it should be clear that the problem only happens when the recent file list isn’t full. Of course, developers don’t always read the bug report carefully.

    Other things a bug advocate would do (maybe you already did) – find the worst thing that can happen because of the bogus menu items, e.g., do you get an error when you click one? What if you happen to have a file with that name already saved in a different app? Also, can you clear the list of recent files, making the problem occur not just when the app is first installed?

    And one more thing – once I’ve made my case as effectively as I can, I don’t sweat it any more. Deferring or ignoring bugs is a business decision, and the tester rarely has access to all of the necessary inputs for making that decision (the importance of hitting a market window, etc.).

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