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How to Report Bugs to Wikia

DaNASCAT September 22, 2014 User blog:DaNASCAT Google

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Good day Wikia!

Every now and then, it’s important to remind our community about the important role you, our readers and editors, play in keeping our wikias free of pesky bugs. Helping squash bugs is the most intense but satisfying part of my job here at Wikia. We do the very best job we can to prevent bugs from appearing on your wikias but, considering how many features we are constantly tweaking, releasing, and testing, it's inevitable that some will always get past us.

What is a Bug?

Computer problems

XKCD's explanation of bugs with a little melodrama on top

It's important to establish first what constitutes a "bug." A bug, in the sense we are using it, is when our code causes something on your wikia to look broken or display incorrectly, or one of our features behaves in a way that does not seem as intended.

Let's look a real quick example. A few days ago, after a code release, anonymous users reported to Wikia that they could no longer see our Maps. They would go to a Map page and see white space instead of an interactive map. Logged-in users saw the maps fine. This was most definitely a bug because it was an unexpected and undesired result, and something that broke in our codebase.

However, it's also important to establish what is not a bug. Let's say you go to a character page on one of your favorite wikias and the infobox seems a bit off—the image seems WAY too big or there's a row with four columns stretching out the infobox when the rest of the rows just have two columns. Chances are the issue lies on the coding of the page or the infobox itself. Look over its recent history, see what revision things began to break on, and fix it if possible (and let an admin know if not possible).

Things to Ask Before Reporting A Bug

So, establishing whether a problem is due to Wikia's coding or your own community's code is an important first step. What other things are important to check before you let us know you see a bug?

  1. What browser are you using? Wikia has a list of supported browsers. Older browsers don't have the same coding standards modern browsers do. For instance, you may be using Internet Explorer (IE) 7 right now when IE11 is the current form of IE. A lot of times, simply upgrading your browser fixes the issue.
  2. What kind of network are you on? We know a lot of our users edit or browse Wikia while at school or at some other public location, like a coffee shop or library. Those kind of network computers may be behind stringent firewalls that block essential parts of our code from loading. This is especially true when JavaScript is needed to run something in our editors or for Chat to function. If you're getting blocked by a firewall, honestly there may not be much we can do until you use a different computer.
  3. What add-ons does your browser have? Half of our desktop users use Chrome and many more use Firefox. Both browsers are famous for having scores of cool gadgets and add-ons you can add to your browser. But sometimes those add-ons—especially ones that handle JavaScript loading—interfere with our site. Before writing in, we'd recommend you view a page with your add-ons paused or temporarily disabled just to make doubly sure the issue doesn't lie with your browser.
  4. Is this happening on all wikias or just your wikia? If you know of a similar tool or template being used on another community, check it out to see if it's broken elsewhere. If a popular feature is broken on just your community, chances are someone recently made a change to your CSS or JS pages and that's causing a breakdown.

Reporting a Bug

Okay, so you've run through that checklist and still don’t have a way to fix the issue you are seeing. Now is a great time to go ahead and fill out a quick and easy bug report.

It is important for you to tell us what bugs you are seeing on the site, even if you think other people have reported it already . You are truly the eyes and ears on the ground of Wikia, the ones who visit the hundreds of thousands of wikias, and the ones who use features in unexpected and unique ways. There’s a big misconception that staff "must" be aware of every discussion and bug that's going on the site. While being omnipathic would be pretty cool, that's simply impossible.

The primary way we receive bug reports is through Special:Contact. When a bug is reported, a Wikia staff member goes to the wikia the bug is reported on and tries to recreate the error. I personally have six different browsers and two different operating systems installed on my home machine for bug testing purposes. Sometimes identifying and recreating the issue requires some back and forth conversations between the staff member and the bug reporter, but we vigorously pursue the issue until we can get it resolved.

When reporting, the biggest way you can help us is by asking yourself a simple question: "If someone brand new to Wikia were to read this would they be able to understand exactly what the issue is?" If your bug report says simply "the Theme Designer is broken" or "the editor isn't working", we’re going to have to reply back asking for more explanation. So when reporting bugs please try to include the following:

Firebug-logo1

Firebug is an extension designed for a number of web browsers that lets tech-savvy users examine code. Any information from Firebug, Google Chrome's Inspect Element, or a similar extension is useful in a bug report.

  • Screenshot of the bug
  • Description of why it is a bug (What makes you think it is broken? What functionality is missing?)
  • Step-by-step explanation of how you found the bug and how we can reproduce it
  • URL links to where the issue is happening (and multiple URLs if its happening in more than one place)
  • Browser type and version

This will greatly help us in investigating, confirming and reporting the bug to our technical team.

We receive bug reports through many methods (Chat, Forums, Blog comments to just name a few) and we try very hard to follow up in all of these places, but this can be difficult. So, we request that you use Special:Contact as your one central location for submitting bug reports. Again, if you're worried it's already been reported to Wikia, don't let that stop you. We always prefer to have ten or twenty reports about an issue than zero. The number of reports is also a way to understand how many people are being affected by this so we can prioritize our engineering team's time in fixing the issue.

Seeing If a Bug is Fixed

If you are curious if your specific bug is still happening or has been fixed, every Tuesday we publish a technical update for the community, letting you all know what new features and changes are coming out in the weekly code release on Wednesday. You can read the blog at Blog:Wikia Technical Updates and can subscribe to that blog by clicking here.

Thanks again to the Wikia Community for being our biggest asset in fighting bugs!

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