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Bug tracking at Microsoft

Can any of you (former?) insiders enlighten the rest of us on the bug tracking policies at Microsoft?

What criteria must be met before an issue makes it to the public knowledge base?

Is there a policy restricting people form talking about known bugs until they are in the knowledge base?

I spent a lot of time dealing some issues with Reporting Services (see my last post).  The issues are not in the knowledge base, but after lots of searching on the newsgroups and web forums, I am convinced Microsoft insiders must know about them.  What I don't understand is why these poeple don't answer my questions on the newsgroups, or even when I email them directly. 

It would have saved me (and all those poeple I emailed, and all the other people posting the same questions in the forums) a LOT of time if they had these issues posted in the knowledge base.

Scott Stonehouse
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Because they have 50B and you don't

na na na na na
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Send your question to Chris Sells; you can find his email address at www.sellsbrothers.com.  He's an MS insider in the MSDN group and he's usually responsive.

Ewan's Dad
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"What criteria must be met before an issue makes it to the public knowledge base?"

Totally subjective. As far as I can tell, bugs must be either really severe, or else not too embarrassing to Microsoft. And they must have a workaround, or at least seriously intend to fix it.

Known bugs that make you shake your head but that don't infuriate any of their major clients simply remain known bugs -- and undocumented.

Grab an archive of WDJ (Windows Developer Journal) back when whats-his-name was editor. They had a regular column on bugs in the Visual C++ compiler.

More often than not, when they asked MS about a reproducible bug they would either get no reply at all, or the reply would be "yeah, we know about that one" -- with no KB entry and no intention to fix it.

Chris Nahr
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"More often than not, when they asked MS about a reproducible bug they would either get no reply at all, or the reply would be "yeah, we know about that one" -- with no KB entry and no intention to fix it. "

That's exactly my experience.

I've really enjoyed watching interesting new tools come from Microsoft since the "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers!" speech.  Development tools seem to be important again.  MSDN webcasts, blogs from the development teams, community sites.  It seems to me like things are improving.

But damned if they will help you when you've found a bug.  Especially if it's one they already know about. 

If they haven't seen it before, you might lure them into a conversation, because they think they can help you.  But then the conversation ends with "it might be a bug, I submitted it to so-and-so in such-and-such a dept."  If you get to that point, nobody will ever contact you again.

I can only conclude that they have a policy that says, "don't talk about bugs".

I even found a workaround for one of them, but I'm sure they aren't interested.

Scott Stonehouse
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I once tried to report a bug to Microsoft. I went around an endless loop for an hour and a quarter and gave up.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

There's definitely no policy here at MS about hiding or not admitting bugs.  There's a big support service that tries to identify the most important bugs (measured in severity x number of customers who will experience it) and document, or find workarounds to, these problems.  And we're all supposed to try to answer questions on newsgroups about the features or products we've worked on and therefore should know about.  I guess there should be more..

Of course, any product will ship with many, many known bugs.  To eliminate them all would mean never shipping.  But all of the known bugs that ship in a product were considered not to be over the bar to fix, in terms of effort to fix vs customer pain.  Bugs found in shipped and released products are much more expensive to fix.

That's probably why, when you reach somebody at MS about a bug you're experiencing, and you get a reply like "yeah, that's a known bug", is because it's just that - it's something they know about, and decided not to fix.  Maybe it'll be fixed in another realease, but probably not before. 

It can be infuriating to be up against a bug that's killing your particular scenario, but isn't common or severe enough to cost MS money if it's not fixed. 

But it's definitely not policy to ignore or suppress bugs.  Policy is the opposite.  Reality is somewhere in between.

andrewm
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

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