The root cause of a bug is not alcohol

the root cause of a bug is not alcohol

I’m writing this article, just after reading this terrible news, because, even though —as usual in The Guardian— the article is undoubtedly well-written and there is no trace of that sensationalism unfortunately so common in other newspapers, when it comes to the conclusion, the author fails in identifying the root cause for what happened.

“Alcohol is behind most of the problems” is in fact the sentence —reported as another journalist’s opinion— which seems to point out alcohol abuse as the main reason, not only for this murder but also for other sources of concerns for Greenland.

As much in life as in software, finding and fixing the root cause for a problem is crucial, especially when dealing with a cluster of bugs.

Too often, the apparently easiest solution is applied: a lot of (at first sight) different bugs are fixed, one by one, without taking into consideration their usually common root cause.

What happens in this case is that, for every single bug, an immediate cause is found and fixed, but not the root one: in other words, what is fixed for each issue is just a consequence of the main problem.

On the other hand, it should be also taken into account that the time your SW team thought they will save, when they abstained from investigating the root cause for a cluster of bugs, it’s usually multiplied by a huge factor when translated into the time needed to solve all these bugs separately.

Beforehand in the same article, we can read “Greenland […] is beset by social problems and there are hopes that the tragic case of Birna might prompt Greenlanders to step up efforts to reduce violent crime, especially against women. […] According to a report in Denmark in 2015, based on academic research, the per capita level of rape in remote Greenlandic towns is by far the highest in the world. […] Greenland […] has extremely high rates of violent crime, sexual abuse and suicide […].”

So, what looks clear to me is that alcohol abuse is not the root cause of this worrisome scenario: it’s just one of the consequences of a bigger problem, which in turns triggers other tragedies.

As an experienced SW tester (by day) and an occasionally wine taster (by night) —who, by the way, has never got drunk—, I don’t see any problem in alcohol itself: in my humble opinion, it’s just a matter of what amount, of which type, in which way and with which purpose you drink.

I can actually ensure that, as long as you have been properly trained to analyse and taste alcohol —and you are wise enough not to drive right after a tasting activity—, you can safely enjoy drinking without damaging anybody.

For this reason, Greenlanders should not delude themselves into thinking that a legal ban on alcohol could solve all their problems. They need to find and fix the root cause instead. Once this is done, alcohol abuse is very likely to disappear by itself.

So, speaking again about software, are there hopes that your cluster of bugs might prompt your team to step up efforts to investigate their common root cause and so to reduce the time spent fixing them? I really hope so!