Friendly greetings! You’re reading the latest in a series of posts in which I’m covering issues of importance to our community. There are common themes connected in a variety of ways, and ultimately, this is a great opportunity to help indulge curiosities I’ve personally heard many times. So at least once a week, I’ll be sharing. 😀
Today, I’ve got some tips ‘n’ tricks on bug reporting — not an end-all, but hopefully enough stuff to boost your confidence using the Issue Tracker, especially if you’re non-technical and feel intimidated. Don’t worry. I understand.
^ That’s my avatar in a recent internal build of the WindLight viewer, snapshotted yesterday. What was I doing?
As calm as I may look in the middle of a large body of ripple water, I was prepping this post and making notes of bugs I’d observed to report later. (It’s post-processed a touch; you can see the original or make your own motivational poster.)
The first thing you should know, if you don’t already…
Where do I go to report a bug when I’m in Second Life?
Tools menu > Bug Reporting.
Please note we’re gradually moving more and more to the public Issue Tracker, so if having your bug open for discussion with visible progress is important to you, use Tools menu > Bug Reporting > Public Issue Tracker, not the ol’ “Report Bug”.
Check out the Quality Assurance Portal!
This is your one-stop shop to all sorts of bug-related info, including how we test Second Life to make it more reliable. That page has only been visited shy of 4,000 times, so I have a strong feeling we need to get the word out more… which is what I’m doing now.
There’s a lot to read and some exercises to try, so I encourage you to bookmark it for later.
Being a casual observer counts
Many of the bugs I’ve personally reported are ones I’ve noticed while the natural course of living my Second Life. It didn’t take any super-rigorous testing suites, altho we do those too. Just using Second Life as you normally do will tend to reveal problems we’ll want to fix.
I’m a frequent note-taker, and If I don’t have time to investigate a bug in greater detail yet, I’ll make a one-line reminder in Google Desktop to jog my memory later — any decent to-do program will work. The key here is writing down your observations and sharing them with your loved ones and friends in SL, to see if they’ve experienced the same bugs too. The Issue Tracker facilitates this.
After all, you feel a lot better when you’re not the only one.
Let’s talk about “repros”
If you’re new to bug reporting, you may’ve heard the term “repro”. What does it mean? In short, “reproduction”, a series of steps to make a bug happen again. And a “solid repro” is when you can reliably make the bug happen again and again. Our Developer & Quality Assurance Teams appreciate those, because like a good detective or doctor, it often gives clear clues into what’s causing a problem, and how to fix it. Which we all L-O-V-E.
My first bug report
Some of you are curious — so here it is. The very first time I ever filed a Second Life bug was on Sept. 30, 2004:
“Time Field” slow motion bug?
Friendly greetings! I’m not sure what to report this under. You have my coordinates and time, and I am VERY serious about this.
What happened was as soon as I entered Bonifacio, time suddenly slowed down (word wrap is working weird here too) and everything travelled VERY slowly, but very smoothly, like in The Matrix’s bullet time. It wasn’t lag. This also happened earlier today in the Welcome Area, and I don’t know what was going on.
I am standing next to [name excised], who I think is ghosted.
This was before I worked @ LL; while I did the best with what I knew at the time, I failed to recognize that what’s being described here is “time dilation”, and while it’s generally undesirable and is indeed a type of server-side “lag”, it’s not something that can easily be remedied. I later learned this from talking with others and doing my own research.
I highly recommend searching the Issue Tracker before reporting a bug, to see if it’s already a “known issue”. Being aware of your inworld surroundings and being able to explain unusual events increases your understanding and enjoyment of Second Life.
Nevertheless, I didn’t give up that day, and continued to get better at reporting bugs. Which leads me to…
Learn from the examples of others
A strength of the Issue Tracker is all the info is in the open, which is a lot better than the “black hole” older style of reporting a bug to our internal systems only. You can see how other people write bugs, too, so you have a clearer idea of “Am I doing it right?”
There are many personal styles, and my basic bug repro format is adopted from Brent Linden’s. It’s like this:
– Step 1
– Step 2
– Step 3, etc.
* Observed: (what happens incorrectly)
= Expected: (what should actually happen correctly)
Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.
Report bugs with friends
A good maxim might be: do what works for you, as long as a friend can understand it too. Bug reporting with friends is powerful, because it’s more fun than doing it alone, and they can suggest helpful hints. Especially when you care about the same issues, you can collaborate and make a better bug report than either of you could by yourself. Or if they’ve already filed an issue, leave a comment with additional knowledge.
I frequently ask fellow Lindens and Residents for bug-reporting tips so I keep improving. It’s like any worthwhile life skill in that the more you do it, the better you can get.
More important info we may need to solve problems…
On Issue Tracker comments or in support ticket replies, particularly if a repro is hard to come up with, we may ask you for such stuff as:
- Crash logs
- System config
- SecondLife.log file
- Fast Timers results (aka “colored bars”)
Confused what the heck those are!?
You’re in luck — I’ve made a fresh page for you, Debug Help! (Also linked from the QA Portal.) Feel free to link to it whenever someone asks one of those questions, saving time for all. Also feel free to edit the page and make it awesome.
What if English isn’t my first language and the Issue Tracker is too hard to understand?
Lovely question! Second Life is becoming increasingly international-friendly; you may know Residents like Alissa Sabre have been helping to improve the experience for non-English languages.
The Issue Tracker itself has an option to change its language. What you want to do is:
- Login to jira.secondlife.com
- Click “Profile” near the upper-right.
- Click “Edit Preferences” in the left sidebar.
- Change “Locale” from “English” to your preferred language.
What about reporting bugs in other languages?
This is still a very new thing, and while we have a growing number of Lindens who are polyglots, to have your issue understood broadly, I’d suggest in the present, at least having a friend help you with an English translation.
A few more thoughts + feelings…
When I’m reporting bugs, I often find it helps to describe it like a story which has an unhappy ending (observed results) which I want to change (expected results). Injecting a sense of narration can help make bugs more memorable, fun to report, and improve the quality of your written communication.
When words aren’t enough, e.g., a building bug that involves visuals, it’s also useful to attach screenshots to an issue. (That’s also addressed in Debug Help.)
On occasion, I’ve also made video bug reports (like the one in SVC-94 which original reporter Lex Neva then watched and commented insightfully on), and while I haven’t done a tutorial on those yet, if there’s enough demand, I’ll do one, because I love sharing.
And remember, rock the vote!
Vote for issues you care about. All it takes is a click per issue, and you can vote for as many issues as are important to you.
Not only does voting help show that you care, it also gives us a better idea of how many are affected by a bug, which guides us in setting priorities. Because there are many bugs, but many more Residents, and in so many ways, from content creation to feature development to bug reporting, Second Life is driven by our community.
Coming in the not-so-distant future, we’re also planning to expand the availability of our inworld Bug Triages so you can play a more active role in helping us identify what needs to be fixed, and learn from experienced Residents who’ve become experts at doing this. Watch this blog for forthcoming details.
So that’s a wrap for now, but I’ll be back next week with more practical advice to make your Second Life easier!
See you in Second Life,
Torley Linden, Product Manager & more