9/11/15

Haiku: A template for error messages

I see quite a few tongue in cheek references to Haiku versions of error messages. For example:
Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Many people know that Haiku require a certain meter for the phrases: 5 / 7 / 5. In English the meter is equated with syllables, but in Japanese it's called "on" which is more the beat of the languange. In English, Haiku also have other requirements: the use of a word that lets you know the season (kigo), a cutting word that divides the poem (kireji), and often specific references to nature.

I ask people to think like a reporter when writing a software change request or a bug report. A newspaper reporter needs to cover the 5 W's: who, what, why, where, when and how. If you're writing a bug report, then act like a reporter:
  • Who got the bug?
  • What was the problem?
  • Where in the program did they get the problem?
  • When did it occur? Is it time dependent?
  • Why were they doing this and why is it a problem?
  • How can they recreate it and how did they work around it?

Another basic template is the user story in agile development: As a (who?) I want to (what?) so that I can (why?). The (why?) is usually associated with a value statement.

So, why am I writing all this? I had an idea that we need a template for error messages. With all the interest in Haiku, it would seem that software developers might catch a clue in writing better error messages. Just

What's wrong
Why it's wrong
what to do about it