30 April 2010

ScreenCasts For Bug Fixes

The Problem

I shouldn't be such a curmudgeonly troll when it comes to software tools that are supposed to make things easier for me. But I am.
  • The Agile Tracking software I have used does not make things easier.
  • The Bug Tracking software I have used does not make things easier.
Why? Stuff gets missed. Stuff gets lost. People can't consistently write clearly. People can't consistently find things. And, I'm kinda dense.

Red Thread of Failure?

The red thread of failure, and the root of my dissatisfaction is communication, or lack thereof. Communication is munged, obscured and buried in software tracking tools.

We falsely assume because something is written down, that it is also clearly communicated. Not so.

A client said to our software team a few projects ago,
I'll summarize our discussion & queue it up in Brand X.  (Brand X is tracking software) 
I replied,
That's fine, as long as we recognize that Brand X is where critical information goes to die.
If I possessed extraordinary senses (visualize the pinball wizard from the tune by The Who), then perhaps a few cryptic lines buried in an email, or saved in a software tracking tool, would suffice.

But, This Is Easier

The forward-thinking folks at Affinety Solutions found a way to make my programming easier. Affinety founder Steve Holewa contracted me a few years ago to update parts of their software. During a flurry of recent updates, Sys-Ops expert Holly initiated sending links of short videos she had recorded using ScreenCast.com.

Holly's screencasts include narrated screen illustrations of the bugs I have caused and the nice-to-haves she has found in code I have staged for her in QA.

Two of the subtleties I like about Holly's screencasts that simply would not translate from words buried in a software tool:
  • See - I can see the sequential steps she took, and the data entry she made, to re-create the bug.
  • Hear - I can hear the tone in her voice as she describes an issue to judge emotional cues like urgency or frustration.
Plus, I can replay the clip until I understand the problem.

Sliced Bread

This might not be the Stradivarius of shortening the bug fix cycle, but it might be the sliced bread of subtle cues in communication that enable efficient off-site feedback cycles.

Thanks Holly.