[sf-perl] Getting Help (was Re: Debugging a CGI script - how)

Jared Rhine jared at wordzoo.com
Sat Mar 8 12:37:10 PST 2008

> Does anybody have a reference on how to write a good bug report/shout
> out for help?

I've no bug-reporting guides that aren't application-specific.  It  
seems that the crankiness experienced on this list and others boils  
down to these two rules:

1. Cut-and-paste the actual error message, not your summary of the  
error message
2. Include actual code

Time and time again, inquires which include at least one of these  
pieces of information get an answer.  Inquiries which skip both are  
barely worth responding to, except to repeat the above two rules.

For Perl-list questions, Raymond's document should be shortened  
dramatically by basing around these two.  (He was trying to construct  
a general method of question-asking, which is inherently harder than  
any procedure for a specific context, like an app or Perl coding.)

("generic-type error" is the funniest problem report I've seen in a  
while, FWIW.  Probably what's going on here is the original poster is  
seeing a 500 error in Apache, which is indeed a generic-type error  
with no script-relevant info.  They haven't learned yet to look in the  
error logs.)

For what it's worth, I can see how beginners are so unstructured in  
their thinking as to attribute a sort of magical ability to more  
experienced people, to the point where their mental model is that  
senior developers know what the problem is from just a hand-wavey  
description of the problem.  It's half that people don't know how to  
Ask Good Questions, but also that they don't understand the process  
experienced people use to solve problems.  They can't distinguish  
between problems which have one or two possible answers and problems  
which have 1000 possible answers.

When I train junior staff, it's amazing how the most effective lesson  
I can teach is generally "read the actual error message".  "No, read  
it".  "Repeat each word to me".  "It's telling you the exact  
problem".  "Rephrase the error message to me".  Of course, experienced  
people know error messages often lie or are useless, but errors  
received by junior staff usually aren't obscure but very plain.

-- Jared

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