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A bug by any other name...

Johanna Rothman usually gets things right (I've posted earlier about her excellent series on "schedule games"), but her recent post about not calling bugs bugs points out an unfortunate tendency in Management Consultants. She suggests to her client that he should "change his naming of "bug" to "defect."' on the premise that bugs are defects and that people do not take responsibility for bugs. She seems to be making the point that people would actually confuse them with real bugs which we all know are incredibly difficult to train and even the best of them refuse to clean up after themselves. And that once we are confused about them we start thinking that they came in through the windows. (OK, so yeah, windows does have bugs).

So how is this unfortunate? Well, most developers know what a bug is. Most testers know what a bug is. I've never seen anyone confuse a "bug" with a cockroach much less an african millipede. Now, in my mind a defect is something which is more ambiguous than a bug is. What is the root cause of the defect? How do you fix it? Did a person cause it or is it something that happened in transit? Sometimes defective things are actually broken by the user. It is foolish to throw away a perfectly usable and well understood term like bug and use an ambiguous term like defect in its place. It is unfortunate because consultants try to clear the air but instead end up with a swarming mass of words which annoy the people who are just trying to get their work done.

Spraying the air with buzzwords does very little to clear the air of bugs.

A hint to Johanna: Bug - 3 letters 1 syllable, Defect - 6 letters 2 syllables. Imagine the saving of powerpoint space alone!

PS: For those who are unclear of the difference between bugs and bugs here is a quick primer on the African Millipede courtesy of the San Francisco Zoo:

The giant African millipedes can grow to be 12 inches long. For every body segment, the millipede has two pairs of legs, so they give the appearance of having hundreds of legs. When born, they only have three pairs of legs, and as they grow, they increase in size and add segments with each molt. In order to grow, they must go through a series of molts which can be dangerous. Before going into molt, the millipede must find a safe place to hide, because during this time, they are vulnerable to attack. All together, millipedes spent about 10% of their lives in molts. Some millipedes do not have eyes, but all have antennae and jaws to chew on plants. When threatened, they can excrete a foul-tasting and smelling fluid from specialized stink glands. Their main line of defense is to coil into a tight ball.

The giant African millipede can live up to seven years.

Hmmm... so maybe they aren't so different afterall.



Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A bug by any other name...:

» Bug bad, bug good, bug Bug from cazh1.com
Rothman suggests we use the term Defect, not Bug - as if Defect is a more honest / real word, and Bug is somehow more evasive, non-descript. Au contraire - my guess is ... [Read More]


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