Debugging Déjà Vu: A Story of Forgotten Fixesby@offcode
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Debugging Déjà Vu: A Story of Forgotten Fixes

by Adam SchmidegOctober 4th, 2023
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Marco's move to a vibrant tech company challenges his traditional coding habits. With determination and a touch of nostalgia, he and his colleague Tasha embark on a quest to solve a perplexing bug. Despite moments of frustration, their collaborative efforts eventually uncover the root cause. The story highlights the importance of adaptability and teamwork in the ever-evolving tech world.
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Marco stepped into the office, immediately feeling like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. The open-concept space was flooded with sunlight, ping pong tables, and young employees lounging on colorful beanbag chairs. Marco was used to the cold sterility of cubicles and stale office air. But this company prided itself on its “fun” and “collaborative” environment.

As Marco navigated the maze of cluttered desks and exposed brick walls, he felt the eyes of hoodie-clad programmers following him. They sized him up like an algorithm calculating complexity. Marco was the oldest one here, wearing pants and dress shoes instead of jeans and sneakers. He stuck out like a verbose error message in elegant code.

Finally, Marco arrived at his desk, a small oasis of order in the controlled chaos. His manager, Shirley, welcomed him with a warm smile. She handed Marco a sleek laptop and reassured him that he would pick up TypeScript in no time, even after years of using Java. Marco felt relieved by her confidence in him. Shirley gave him a simple bug to fix, saying it was a gentle ramp for his first day.

Eager to start, Marco stood up quickly, raising the laptop, but his shin slammed into the corner of a nearby coffee table. Marco lurched forward, fumbling to keep control of the computer.

As Marco regained his composure, he looked up and noticed a large ficus plant blocking half his view of the distracting open office layout. He felt a wave of relief knowing he had some privacy to focus on his work, separated from the energetic chaos around him.

Marco settled in at his new desk, hidden partially behind the large ficus plant. He opened up his editor and started reviewing the simple bug Shirley had assigned. Being new to TypeScript, Marco inspected each line carefully, trying to understand the logic and structure.

After about an hour of investigating, Marco thought he had found the source of the issue. A function was passing the wrong type of argument to another function, causing it to error out. He logged the offending lines and files. Eager to report his finding, Marco stood up triumphantly and navigated back through the maze of desks to find Shirley.

“I think I’ve solved it!” Marco exclaimed as he approached Shirley. He excitedly explained what he had discovered in the code. However, Shirley didn’t seem as thrilled.

“Let me take a look,” she said, gesturing for Marco’s laptop. She scrolled through the code Marco had flagged. “Hmm, it does look wrong structurally since TypeScript is expecting the arguments to match. But this code is quite legacy - it was written back when we were using plain JavaScript.”

Shirley navigated to the test files. “And yet, all the tests are still passing. So it must be working as intended somehow.” She turned back to Marco with an apologetic look. “The code is a bit messy since it predates our TypeScript conversion. But I guess types don’t always tell the full story.”

Marco deflated a little, embarrassed by his premature diagnosis. “I see, that makes sense. Coming from Java, I’m used to strict types being followed. But TypeScript has structural typing whereas Java uses nominal, right?”

Shirley nodded encouragingly. “Exactly. You’ll get the hang of it. Don’t feel bad - asking questions is how we all learn. Next bug might be more straightforward!”

The next morning, Marco entered the office wearing a casual button-down shirt and jeans. He felt he had found a better balance between his usual attire and that of his younger colleagues.

After getting settled at his desk, it was time for the daily standup meeting. The team gathered around a large screen displaying their kanban board. Marco saw that the bug was already assigned to him and situated in the “Investigate” column.

As the scrum master called on people one-by-one, Marco mentally prepared what he would report. When his turn came, he began, “For the bug I’m working on, yesterday I…”

But the scrum master gently interrupted, “Marco, there’s no need to over-explain. A simple status update is sufficient.”

Marco paused, feeling embarrassed. “You’re right, my apologies. For now, no update - I’m still investigating.”

The scrum master smiled warmly. “No worries at all. Just keep us posted if you have any questions. Next up is Sam…”

Marco realized he didn’t need to justify or defend. This team valued brevity and progress over lengthy explanations. He was still adjusting to their collaborative workflow.

The following day, Marco arrived at the standup meeting feeling enthusiastic. When his turn came around, he confidently reported, “I have good news - the bug is fixed! All the tests are passing and I’m ready for my next task.”

The scrum master nodded approvingly. “Great work Marco. We’ll update the board after standup. Any other status updates?” She continued on to the next teammate.

After the meeting concluded, Marco returned eagerly to his desk. As he navigated through the desks and furniture, he instinctively gave the troublesome coffee table a wide berth. It seemed he was already getting accustomed to potential hazards in this unconventional workspace.

Two sprints zipped by like scenes in a fast-forwarded movie. Marco’s confidence grew with each ticket he nudged from ‘To do’ to ‘Done’. The sunlit office became familiar territory, and those ping pong matches? Let’s just say he wasn’t the rookie anymore.

The open-concept office wasn’t just tables and chairs. Here and there, patches of lush green grass dotted the walls, bringing a touch of nature indoors and making for a chic, sustainable design element. Tasha made her way to one of those patches, her strides purposeful, but her intentions unclear. As she got closer, she suddenly leaned in and lightly bumped her forehead against the soft grass. The grass flattened a bit, and she came away with some soil on her forehead. Wiping it off and smirking, she said to Marco, “Some days, you just need a wall.”

Marco raised an eyebrow, the trace of a smile on his lips. “Rough day?”

Tasha rolled her eyes, groaning. “You have no idea. I’ve been staring at this bug for hours. It’s a mismatch somewhere between the data type and the function, but I can’t pin it down.”

“Want to walk me through it?” Marco offered, motioning to the empty chair next to him.

Tasha hesitated for a moment, then nodded, pulling up a chair. “Alright, so here’s the deal. This function,” she pointed to a block of code, “expects a number, but for some bizarre reason, it’s receiving a string instead.”

Marco leaned in, scanning the code, “Did you check the API response?”

“Yes, and it’s sending the correct data type,” Tasha replied, exasperated.

“Hmm,” Marco murmured, tapping his fingers lightly on the desk. “Wait a minute. This looks… familiar.” He frowned, memories of his first day flickering in his mind.

“What do you mean?”

A flicker of recognition passed through Marco’s eyes. Without a word, he quickly navigated through some files. Tasha could feel a glimmer of hope; his determination was palpable. Maybe he had a clue to the solution.

After a few minutes, which felt longer to both of them, Marco pulled up the commit history. He scrolled to the day he first joined, looking for the bug he’d fixed. The file names, the diff, and the code changes all flashed before his eyes, but nothing seemed to stand out.

Tasha tried to offer a hint, “Maybe it’s in another repo? Or could it be a library issue?”

Marco’s brow furrowed. “No, it was right here. I remember fixing something so similar.” He hesitated, second-guessing himself.

After another prolonged moment, he sighed, admitting to himself that his memory was failing him. “We’ll have to find the root cause again,” he muttered, feeling a bit deflated but determined.

Diving back into the code, Marco and Tasha embarked on a debugging journey together. While the memories of Marco’s first day aided the process, making it smoother than his initial struggle, the challenge remained. They ran tests, checked the data flow, and scrutinized every line. With each failed attempt, the weight of frustration grew.

Hours felt like minutes, and as the sunlight started to wane, Marco’s eyes widened. “There it is!” He exclaimed, pointing to a deprecated method that was the root cause. Tasha leaned in, squinting at the code, her face lighting up with realization.

With the problem identified, Marco chuckled, “Is there a ‘wtf’ Slack-channel or something for these kinds of discoveries?”

Tasha shook her head, “No, but we should definitely have one.”

Not missing a beat, Marco created the channel, promptly typing up a succinct summary of their hard-won discovery. As he hit send, Tasha replied to the message with a smirk, “Guess everyone has their type of wall, huh?”

[The next part of the story is Code That Cleans Itself: A Journey into Automated Refactoring]