Thursday, December 20, 2007

See Around the Problem

I was talking to a developer today about how I approach a system.

Don't just see the problem. See around the problem.

When I see a problem I have to reproduce it. But often what makes a problem happen isn't what you see as the problem. It's what happened to get you to the problem. For example, a user can't log in. The problem may actually be all the way back at user creation, and the exception that was thrown then.

So it's important to see the context of the problem. Find what else was occurring in the system. I look for different things:
  • Was there an exception earlier that didn't seem to have an effect?
  • What else is the system doing?
  • Is there another system involved?
  • What other processes are running?
  • What was I doing right before this happened? Even if it was in another area of the system?
I don't know how to teach this yet. Any ideas?

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