How to overcome the challenges of reproducing non-reproducible defects

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Defects are tricky, and attempting to navigate through these bugs can produce a slew of additional problems while sometimes resulting in issues that simply aren't solvable – or so they seem. With some incidents, the complications are readily apparent and can easily be repeated for testing. However, other situations won't have such straightforward answers, and can often end with a defect being flagged as “non-reproducible.” There are a number of challenges associated with reproducing non-reproducible defects, but they each have a variety of solutions to improve defect management.

The process of fixing

Individuals can work on a problem, but how do they know that what they fix is actually what caused the issue in the first place? Industry expert Mehdi Khalili noted that teams often address the wrong thing or simply don't know how to reproduce it, so they close the ticket believing that the bug has been resolved. However, as many testers know, these situations often leave defects in the code and can even potentially create more issues down the road. Just because someone cannot reproduce the error doesn't give the team authorization to close the ticket and consider it done.

To overcome this major challenge, quality assurance teams will need to go beyond the ticket and find the true source of the mistake. It will take a deep dive into the code and going through the reproduction process to see if the bug was actually repeatable or simply a fluke. Testers should also be prepared to evaluate "fixed" tickets and verify that everything is functional and nothing else was broken in the process.

Time devoted to reproduction

Developers and testers have a lot on their plates, but that doesn't mean that they can cut corners when it comes to reproducing defects. Khalili noted that some teams call it quits after spending 30 minutes trying to reproduce the issue. However, many testers will still experience the bug during evaluation, creating a lengthy defect backlog cycle that could take weeks to resolve. This could be a significant hassle for teams, especially as release schedules become shorter and more pressure is placed on them to deliver up to expectations.

"This, apart from the wasted time, means that the bug gets to live in the system much longer than it should," Khalili wrote. "Also you will potentially hassle the user over and over and over again, and that could get very frustrating for everyone involved."

The best solution to this challenge will be to devote a professional or group of individuals to handling reproduction and monitoring defect trends. This could ensure that each issue is given its due diligence without adding on more responsibilities to busy testers and developers. If this cannot happen, it's important to provide your team with enough time to properly go through the steps of defect reproduction.

Poorly written documentation

With bug reproduction, it's important for teams to write down the steps they took to try to replicate the issue. Software Testing Help noted that a "steps to reproduce" document will be critical, but a poorly written report could waste time with needed clarifications and jeopardize the validity of the problem. Going through this part will also help you find the correct solution and mitigate similar defects in the future.

Luckily, overcoming this challenge is easy to accomplish. Individuals must be patient and precise when tracking their movements. The steps should be in order, using short, unambiguous sentences. Teams can use testing data and prerequisites to determine how the issue emerged. Once all of this has been completed, double check your work and run through the steps in practice to ensure that you've covered everything.

Laziness in reproduction setup

It's a simple fact that some teams don't put enough time or effort into their defect management practices. As we've noted earlier, some groups only devote half an hour to reproducing a bug, but there are many that abandon the ticket even if they haven't gone through the appropriate steps. Teams must cultivate an environment that overcomes laziness in the reproduction setup with adequate time and proper test management tools.  

Simple Programmer contributor John Sonmez noted that going beyond reproducing the defect could actually help solve the problem. Once the reproduction has been completed, break apart the problem to identify any symptoms that can be created in isolation. This type of segmentation can lead to creating a minimum set of criteria that creates the issue. From there, teams can hypothesize causes and begin to work out a solution.

Bugs are the bane of existence for developers and testers alike. When it comes to non-reproducible defects, there are a number of challenges that can emerge, and it will be important for teams to understand what these issues imply as well as how to overcome them. Reproducing the non-reproducible may not be easy, but it can be made possible with a little knowledge of these roadblocks and their solutions.

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