March 1, 2011
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Nobody Knows What They're Doing

When people report that something bad happened whilst they were using our software, I habitually ask, “What were you doing?” This is important information, crucial for diagnosing and fixing problems.

You’d be surprised how many people forget to mention this.

Even more surprisingly, some people do describe exactly what they were doing when something bad happened – and they’re often mistaken. As it happens, crash reports sometimes provide clear forensic evidence, and it's far from rare for that evidence to completely contradict the user’s report. “It crashed after I deleted a bunch of stuff,” writes the user, but the crash report describes a crash after pressing ⌘-Z to Undo something.

It’s very helpful to report problems with as much detail as you can recall, but developers need to keep in mind that the reported circumstances might not be complete or correct.