Facebook does bug reports right

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There are a lot of complaints you could make about Facebook, many of them legitimate, but the bug reporting process is one thing I think they really do well.

A while ago I had occasion to report a problem with the message inbox showing up as a blank page. As the first step in the process, Facebook presents you with a grouped list of categories corresponding to the different features of the site. Each one is tagged with the same icon used on other menus, so it’s easy to identify, and the images really help to visually distinguish the different categories. I much prefer that to the standard bug reporting interface, where all you get is a combo box with a long list of different products or categories (text-only of course), some of which you may not even be familiar with.

On Facebook, when you click the category that matches your bug, you get a list of the common reports that have already been filed under that category. But unlike a typical bug listing which uses the (often non-descriptive) bug report titles submitted by users, the titles are written by members of the Facebook team, and they’re all plain-English descriptions of the problem as seen from the user’s perspective, not technical descriptions of what’s happening behind the scenes. Each bug title is accompanied by a few sentences describing the bug in more detail and providing simple workarounds to try (if any), which filters out a lot of potential duplicate reports that have easy solutions. That saves both the user and the developers a fair amount of effort. And finally, when the workarounds don’t work, each description includes a link to submit a new report, with a unique ID for that bug description already included in the submission form. That means the vast majority of the bug reports Facebook receives are automatically grouped according to their visible symptoms, which makes it a lot easier to identify duplicates.

Of course, I’m well aware that the bug tracker for this site has basically none of the characteristics I’m praising Facebook for. So sue me. (Don’t sue me) I’ve really only been exposed to various versions of Bugzilla, so that’s what I based my tracker on, but it is still a work in progress. I’m thinking maybe as I keep adding to it, I may start emulating Facebook on this a bit.