Debugging Hacks: What They Never Taught You About Solving Hard Bugs

Location: Marina Ballroom D Level: Intermediate

If you’re working on anything at all interesting, sooner or later you’ll hit a bug that will drive you mad trying to fix it. Most developers are given little or no training in how to systematically fix problems in their code, and as a result, they waste a lot of time and frustration chasing bugs around their code.

A lot of bugs can be solved in a few minutes, but in every project, you’ll find bugs that seem like they might survive a direct nuclear attack. Fortunately nearly every bug will fall with a few good approaches.

Marc Hedlund has managed engineers for 12 years, and has developed this tutorial after many years of helping developers find their way through bug fixing turmoil. You’ll leave with:

  1. a good set of ideas about preparing for bugs, and setting yourself up for easy debugging
  2. a worksheet for tackling a hard bug when you need to get it fixed right away
  3. a group of techniques and tricks that tease bugs out and make it easier to make sure they’re really fixed; and
  4. examples of several hard bugs and how they were found and resolved.

With this set of tools and practices for finding, reproducing, fixing, and not regressing bugs that “println” won’t pinpoint, you’ll be a better developer and will waste far less time when the inevitable tough problems show up.

Photo of Marc Hedlund

Marc Hedlund


Marc Hedlund is co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Wesabe, a personal finance community helping consumers manage and get the most from their money. Before starting Wesabe, Marc was an entrepreneur-in-residence at O’Reilly Media. Prior to that, he was VP of Engineering at Sana Security, co-founder and CEO of Popular Power, a distributed computing startup, and founder and general manager of Lucas Online, the internet subsidiary of Lucasfilm, Ltd. During his early career, Marc was Director of Engineering at Organic Online, and was CTO at Webstorm, where he wrote one of the Internet’s first shopping cart applications in 1994. He is a graduate of Reed College.


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