That Time When Bugs Invaded Our Office
….and we don’t mean the six-legged kind! Four teams of five had a full 48 hours to find and fix as many bugs in our product as they could.
“Are you saying I’ve spent hours working on fixing something that’s already been fixed?!” Sathish, the leader of Team Zuck, asked.
When Jaga, the referee replied in the affirmative, Sathish stood up. The rest of the team looked up from their screens for the first time.
“I’m going to the cafeteria for a bit, let’s keep working,” he said, before walking off.
Welcome to Unmetric’s first #Bugathon.
Let’s back up a bit. We work extremely hard to build out the best features of the Unmetric platform. Downloadable reports? Check. Paid Post detection? Finishing touches as you read this. Most days it’s like training for the Olympics — we work impossibly hard, we are singularly focused on our goals and most of the time, churn out best results.
I say ‘most of the time’ because even the greats face challenges. For Michael Phelps, it was his ADHD. For Ryan Lochte, it was his need to punctuate every win (no, every sentence) with the word ‘Jeah!’ For the Unmetric platform, we worried about bugs.
Some of the bugs are small and just irritating things that need to change (Jeah!). Some are imposing enough to channel our efforts to conquer them and succeed. We get a lot of great feedback from users and the account management team about what works on the platform and what doesn’t.
But there’s a bit of a juggling act — we have bugs to fix and awesome features to build and those could create more bugs to fix but we also have even more awesome features to build. You get the drift. What works in our favor is that we have a flexible and agile approach towards development — Innovate, hustle, debate, test, research, implement, rinse and repeat. Here’s the catch. Gaining ultimate awesome-ness comes with trial…and error.
Why Let The Bugs Out?
This month, we shipped a whole new world of features (Read about them here), and with cool new features, you guessed it, there’re new bugs. Muni, our Engineering Jedi, said February’s features included creating at least 10,000 lines of code. After that big push, we decided to go on a mission, a bug bashing mission aka #Bugathon.
“I’d been thinking about it for a couple of months now. We figured a #Bugathon was the best way to get rid of the bugs and make the platform more efficient in the least amount of time,” said Muni.
Joe, our technology Yoda and co-founder, who oversaw the event, added that when we’re constantly developing new features, bugs don’t get priority. “The #Bugathon was a great way just to focus on that,” he said.
Behind The Scenes
The office was divided into four teams with five people, three from the engineering team, one from the data analytics team, and one from the account management or product team. We had Team Jobs, Team Zuck, Team Gates and Team Mayer. Jaga was our referee aka young padawan — he would give points and taketh them away depending on team performance.
“I’ve been with Unmetric since the beginning, and Muni figured being on a team would give them an unfair advantage,” he said with a grin.
A team got three points for raising a bug, four points for fixing a bug and three more points for a complete fix — i.e., when Jaga assured that the bug is well and destroyed. The teams had 48 hours to find and fix as many bugs as they could.
What kind of bugs were they expected to find? The #Bugathon solely dealt with the functional bugs. Functional bugs include broken links, buttons not working and incorrect assessments — anything that hampers the functionality or working on the platform.
So how does one exactly find a bug? “We find bugs like our users find bugs, by trawling extensively through the Unmetric platform,” explained Muni.
Jaga added that apart from eliminating bugs, the process helped people from all teams figure out the platform.
“I’m not going to name names, but one person came up to me and asked about a bug that turned out to be a feature of the platform! When you work in the engineering team, you’re so focused on your task and are so good at coding that one process that you have no idea about the rest. It was a learning experience for everyone,” he said.
Once a bug is found, it’s registered on good ol’ Jira (a software that lets you make a ticket that specifies the nature of the bug and tracks your progress till it is fixed). The fixing can take some time (Jaga told me the simplest bug can take at least half an hour to fix).
“One feature can have quite a few lines of code behind it, so you need to figure out what’s causing the error and re-write the code to set things right,” said Jaga.
After the bug is fixed the QA team member tests it, then it’s finally handed over to Jaga, who ‘builds’ the fix on Jenkins — testing it on a server to see if it works.
Prashanth, a member of our engineering team programmed Jenkins to load a picture of a smiling celebrity when the bug was fixed and a weeping one when the bug wasn’t.
“That’s his favorite actor. I guess it’s pretty funny,” said Muni with a shrug.
The Hunger Games
As in any competition, things got intense. Two teams would report the same bugs resulting in duplicate Jira reports. Many a fight was picked with Jaga over this, who Jedi-mind tricked them to calm down. Some engineers also fixed bugs that were already fixed by another team — like Sathish, who eventually returned from the cafeteria to lead his team to victory.
“Despite fighting with Jaga quite a bit, I think our team rallied together. We stuck together and never gave up and that helped us — Team Zuck — win,” said a visibly happy Sathish. The Zuckerberg champions were Sathish, Vaisakh, Ramya, Raghu, Shamili, Senthil, and Saimah. “Honestly though, I didn’t think we’d win because Team Jobs found more bugs than us. But Sathish’s strategy of using Day 2 to only fix bugs earned us more points,” explained Raghu.
Some of the bugs were pretty interesting — for example, Ramya found a bug that showed Panama as part of South America instead of North America.
“It could get frustrating staring at a screen for 8 hours, but by the end, it was less of a competition and more of a learning experience,” said Shamili.
Everyone walked away a winner at the end of the #Bugathon (no really, every team got a gift card). Vaisakh knows what he’s going to spend it on.
“I’m going to buy a watch….or a laptop stand…or,” he pondered.
“Socks?” suggested Saimah.
“I need to think this through,” he replied.
Numerous cups of coffee were chugged, many games of ping-pong occurred in between destroying loads of bugs. And while that was the goal, Joe added that the #Bugathon was ultimately created to be a great bonding experience.
“People from across different teams working together towards a common goal, that’s interesting, challenging and ultimately good fun,” he said.
Thanks for reading. Watch this space for my sequel on the #Bugathon — “How I found two whole bugs…sorta”.