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Pick up the trash

Posted by Padraig on Feb 09, 2015

9to5Mac reported today that the next version of iOS is going to focus on stability and optimization. If this is true, and it certainly seems possible, now is an especially good time for developers to submit bug reports to Apple.

For the first few years that I worked on the iOS platform, I believed that many other developers had surely stumbled across and documented any bugs that I had experienced. I never took the time to file them myself. When iOS 7 came out, Oisin and I were in the middle of developing Castro 1.0. We were using new networking APIs and were occasionally discovering bugs. This was when I started filing Radars (Apple bug reports). They were very rarely marked as duplicates and all of them were fixed within a few months. I have continued to file bug reports even on older APIs and I am regularly surprised when I learn that they are not already known bugs.

Radar is frustrating for developers. The website is antiquated, there is rarely any feedback from Apple, and there’s no facility to investigate whether your bug report has already been filed by someone else. When bugs are fixed, you won’t get a public acknowledgement of the effort you put in to help and no one will thank you. In causing the bug to be fixed, you are possibly assisting your competitors as much as yourself. I believe, however, that deliberately not reporting bugs as a means of gaining an advantage over competing developers is short-sighted.

I spend a few hours each month creating sample projects to reliably demonstrate bugs. I think about the time spent like this: It’s like picking up a piece of trash in a public park. Maybe you’re already paying taxes for someone else to clean up, but who cares: it’s one piece of trash. You enjoy this park every day. Your entire livelihood is based on this park remaining a popular place to visit. Pick up the trash.

How do I Radar?

  1. Get a Radar account. If you don’t have one yet, just take the first step now and sign up at http://bugreport.apple.com/
  2. Create An Example Project. I’ve had good results from the bug reports that I’ve filed. I believe that this is because I have narrowed in on the issue and developed a simple test project that reliably reproduces the bug. I can do this about 70% of the time. This tweet validates this approach. Sometimes, the nature of the bug makes it impossible, so I’ll usually file a bug report with as much information as I can, and hope that there’ll be enough of a clue for someone on the other side to figure it out.
  3. Get QuickRadar. Amy Worrall built this handy Mac app to let you file Radars easily — it’ll save you all the hassle of dealing with the real Radar website.
  4. Post it to Open Radar — QuickRadar makes this really easy, and it really helps other developers to quickly identify and duplicate reports.
  5. It’s a community thing; don’t do it for praise, be glad that you’re the reason that a bug that affects 500 million users got fixed.

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