Agile Testing

by Stan Taylor

Documenting code changes with defect reports

by Stan on 2010/01/20, no comments

Today, Rafe Colburn listed four reasons to file the bugs found in code reviews. A commenter points out that defect reports aren’t the only way of communicating about changes to the code:

I guess it depends on the local culture, but in my experience, developers only look at a bug report if it’s assigned to them. The revision control system is a better way to see what’s happened recently.

In my ideal system, I would take things a little further: every commit must have one or more work items (requirements, defect reports) associated with it and an indication of whether each is in progress or completed. The argument for this is pretty simple: if you’re not implementing a requirement or fixing a bug, then why the heck are you changing code?
Additionally, the build system should display the commits in the build, the work items associated with each commit as well as a list of the changed files and an easy way to view file diffs for changes in each commit.
As a QA engineer, my need to see completed work items is obvious. However, the list of changed files and diffs provide a different type of equally useful data. This information provides me an easy way to familiarize myself with the code, input in deciding how to test the change, and opportunities for starting discussions with the programmers about their code.
When I describe this system to programmers, their first thought is often that it requires a lot of red tape/documentation. I have only worked with a system like this once in my career, and in that situation, the programmers did not find it onerous. It’s true that the programmers had to file defect reports for bugs that they fixed and found, but we relaxed our defect report standards in such cases; they didn’t have to fill out severity, steps to reproduce, etc., which allowed the developers to spend a very short amount of time filing the reports. We decided that having a minimal ‘placeholder’ defect report was good enough in many such cases if it allowed buy-in from the developers. Besides, as mentioned above, the reporting in the build system was a backup source of information about code changes.