Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Email Is Not a Record

Every day at work, we do something called triage. Basically, we go through the automated test run from the previous night and look at what failed and why. The output of this is a set of bugs (or comments on existing bugs) and a report. The report is an HTML page that we email out to a group of people and that get archives into a specific shared folder. All this is well and good.

Someone asked me today whether a certain type of test had been failing in a certain way. And I went immediately to my email to look at the past several triage reports. In retrospect, that might have been the least efficient place to look! I should have looked at the defect tracking system, but I didn't.

Email as research tool:
  • Pros: Pretty good search (at least in Mail, which is my preferred email program); shows test suite status in addition to individual test errors.
  • Cons: Really really easy to delete or lose stuff; only look at one day at a time
Archived HTML as research tool:
  • Pros: Simple to grep; shows test suite status in addition to individual test errors
  • Cons: Shows one day at a time
Defect Tracking System:
  • Pros: Shows multiple days of failures in each ticket
  • Cons: doesn't show test suite failures, only individual test failures

None of these is perfect, but using email as an archive is probably the worst of it. Reaching for my email as information repository is one bad habit I'm looking to break!

* Yes, I know that triage usually means deciding which bugs are important enough to fix in a given thing (release, iteration, time frame). It seemed easier to change my expectations than to try to rename something so entrenched in the culture, particularly since the name is not a big deal.

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