BotT: Linus' bug, youtube no workee!

Hi everybody!

The last BotT (Bug of this time) was long ago, when we talked about testing and the Excel bug.
So now we’ve got a cool one, on which the most notable point is not the bug, is the submitter :).

Bug 439858 on Fedora (a Linux distribution) was (supposedly) submitted by Linus Torvalds himself. He started the Linux wave on August 91, and is still posting bugs on March 08 – you gotta admire him.
I am aware that the submitter signing “Linus Torvalds” may not be Linus. It actually doesn’t matter, let’s just pretend it is for sensationalism’s sake (regarding the admiration, you still gotta admire him even if the bug’s not his 😉).

Let’s try to analyze the bug report, and the bug itself, to see what we can learn:

Linus uses a lot of witty comments. The bug starts as “youtube no workee“, which is a nice way of writing things in a forum or a youtube post, but we should not use such mocking language in our bugs – jokes or irony in bug descriptions can offend developers, who already have a hard timing accepting their code has got errors. Cem Kaner alerts: “it is easy to read a joke or a remark as a flame”.
You should not do this especially if you are a leader, influent people or the inventor of the OS — you are an example, why foment bad practices?

Then there is “fedora 9 not usable for wife“. That’s actually a good point. It is easy for programmers to remember that the average user is not tech-savvy and won’t tolerate complex workarounds. If this is true for common commercial (and Windows) application (where the programmer is interested in the sales to a large audience that expects intuitive software), this can be even more true in the Linux community (where they’ve got an incredible good will and skills, but sometimes prefer to add features over simplicity).
So explaining the Customer Impact in clear language at the beginning of your bug is a very good idea.
Moreover, I don’t think anyone would want to frustrate Mrs. Linus Torvalds. First because she doesn’t deserve it, being a nice person with a child-care background, and second because she’s a black-belt Karate champion :).

Steps to Reproduce:
1. Install current Fedora 9
2. Rick-roll!
3. No profit!

Now, these steps to reproduce aren’t very useful. Even the title of the bug is more descriptive: “swf mozilla plugin – no youtube“. Everyone laughed at the mention of rick-rolling, but it only added confusion: is this bug related only to the Rick-Roll video? Any other video?
Linus added specific info to clarify: “I didn’t try a lot of videos, but I couldn’t find a single one that actually worked“. This point is actually a very good one, which teaches an important principle on bug reporting: There are points that are “conditions” to the bug (the bug only reproduces with the conditions fulfilled), and there are points that are “incidental” to the bug (a setup or configuration that was true at the time of the bug but we cannot be sure it is part of a condition). It is very important to note the distinction between these when submitting a bug. And, of course, any setting which is neither incidental nor conditional should in most cases be omitted.

Some videos just show a light gray background, some give the play buttons etc,
but in the latter case show only a black screen even when the red ball at the
bottom seems to moves along..
“. Good! Information that is really related to the bug! Adding the link of videos that show the gray background and videos that show the buttons would be of help here. You (the tester) already visited all of them, why should the programmer search for specific reproductions again?

There’s some more information in there. The information is a sum of statements that help debugging (youtube videos are supposed to work with swfdec“, “the adobe player won’t install on current rawhide), statements that define the impact (wife will kill me if she doesn’t have her videos) and humorous comments. When you report your next bug, remember to separate these into clear sections: a section to discuss the user impact, and a section for additional debugging info that can be helpful. The humorous section you can leave out :).

Le Grande Finale:
“Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope”“. He actually finalized with a Star Wars quote. Which is very cool if you’re the founder of an open source OS.
They should print this bug as a book. It mixes hackers, nerds, memes, Star Wars and jokes – receipt for a best seller! :)


Before you post hate comments on how I dare to criticize Linus: I don’t. He’s a hero of mine and accomplished incredible things. I just used his bug for didactic purposes.

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