With time drawing short before a major deployment at work, we ran into a problem. Some people testing our application reported it timing-out on an important function. It quickly became a high priority that I was assigned to solve.
Since most of the people on our team work remotely, a group chat became the primary channel for the problem. There were operations people pointing out potentially significant log entries, QA and other interested people reporting every instance of the problem happening — or that they could not reproduce the problem all. There were ideas and theories about what could be going wrong, and my boss asking what kind of help I needed.
From this, and other similar experiences, I’ve learned a couple of things to do in situations like this:
1. Get a bug report
In times of panic, it can seem like a bureaucratic waste of time to file a bug report. But it is counter-productive to go chasing after a problem without getting the best understanding available of what the problem actually is. This is especially true in cases like this one where some people were seeing the problem frequently and others not at all.
2. Go dark
Of course you can’t just drop out of sight when people are counting on you to solve something quickly, but let them know that you just need some time to think, and barring any breakthrough discoveries, that you don’t want to be interrupted for a bit.
With all of the chat messages coming through, I spent five hours chasing after this and that without making much progress. Finally I came to my senses and just ignored everything and took time to think. After some time deeply analyzing one instance of the problem, it occurred to me that I had written a program a couple of years ago to test this exact scenario. Once I dusted that off and ran it a couple of times, the problem became painfully obvious.
Honestly, I felt kind of dumb that it took me so long to figure it out, but it reinforces how debilitating distraction can be.