Entries Tagged ‘Software’

What is your favorite debugging anecdote?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 by Robert Cravotta

We all know stories about how something went wrong during a project and how we or someone else was able to make a leap of logic that enabled them to solve the problem. However, I think the stories that stick with us through the years are the ones that imparted a longer term insight that goes beyond the actual problem we were trying to solve at the time. For example, I have shared two such stories from my days as a junior member of the technical staff.

One story centers around solving an intermittent problem that ultimately would have been completely avoided if the development team had been using a more robust version control process. The other story involves uncovering an unexpected behavior in a vision sensor that was uncovered only because the two junior engineers that were working with the sensor were encouraged to think beyond the immediate task they were assigned to do.

More than twenty years later, these two stories still leave me with two key insights that I find valuable to pass on to other people. In the version control story, I learned that robustness is not just doing things correctly, but involves implementing processes and mechanisms to be able to automatically self-audit the system. Ronald Reagan’s saying “Trust but verify” is true on so many levels. In the valuing uncertainty story, I learned that providing an appropriate amount of wiggle room in work assignments is an essential ingredient to creating opportunities to grow your team member’s skills and experience while improving the performance of the team.

I suspect we all have analogous stories and that when we share them with each other, we scale the value of our lessons learned that much more quickly. Do you have a memorable debugging anecdote? What was the key insight(s) you got out of it? Is it a story that grows in value and is worth passing on to other members in the embedded community? I look forward to seeing your story.