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Can I ask a user to provide Mandatory description of the error?

In my app when an unhandled error occurs a popup window opens. It has a field to add additional info but it's optional. This is completely anonymous.

Due to security issues I cannot use a stack-trace to identify the exact line or code which resulted in the error. So, there is not much use from the error reported.

None of the users provide me with additional info, so my question is can I make it mandatory for the user to describe the error in his own words. Also, I plan adding an email field as an optional field, so that the user can still do it anonymously if needed.

Where i get majority error reports is from free users(non paid)
netgear Send private email
Monday, December 30, 2013
 
 
Why not use a stack trace? Their purpose is for diagnosing errors in code, and I find them invaluable.

I'd say that any marginal risk of a competitor somehow getting some huge insight to your source code is vastly outweighed by the upside of a customer getting a fix for the problem they reported to you because you're able to zero right in on the trouble spot.
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Monday, December 30, 2013
 
 
My crash reports include a stack trace, but the code is obfuscated so they're meaningless until I decode them.

Making the description field mandatory won't work, IMHO.  People who wouldn't have filled it in before will either cancel the dialog or put some garbage in there, and be slightly more annoyed than they were before (and they will be annoyed, because your software just crashed).

I request the user's email address, and although most don't fill it in, many do.  It's very satisfying being able to email a specific customer to tell them directly that the crash they reported is now fixed.

I do get useful comments in my crash report Description field - I wonder whether you might need to change the wording on your dialog?  Or maybe it's because I'm selling to software developers that my customers are more willing to fill in that field.
Richie Hindle Send private email
Monday, December 30, 2013
 
 
netgear: "Can I ask a user to provide Mandatory description of the error?"

"ask" and "mandatory" have opposing meanings!

"Due to security issues I cannot use a stack-trace to identify the exact line or code which resulted in the error. So, there is not much use from the error reported."

What security issues?

"None of the users provide me with additional info, so my question is can I make it mandatory for the user to describe the error in his own words. Also, I plan adding an email field as an optional field, so that the user can still do it anonymously if needed."

You can not do this since the user can simply fill the field with nonsense.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Monday, December 30, 2013
 
 
Is your dialog box designed to encourage the entry of the error description?

If not, I'd consider adding a prominent line of text that says something like "Please describe what you were doing when this error occurred.  Errors that do not have descriptions usually cannot be fixed."

It's possible that some of the people who send the error report w/out the description are clueless that the description is crucial.

I do a lot training/support to people getting new computer systems and once they learn how to take a screen capture they love to just email a picture of some random error message with no subject, no description.  Or when they see me they'll announce "I got an error!" but they can't say what program they were even in. 

Once I explain that some random error screen shot means absolutely NOTHING to IT, many start providing the relevant information.

Another thought -- you could also provide a field for their email or phone number and say "May we contact you about this?"  Some people may really appreciate that and you might get the opportunity to troubleshoot on their system which could have idiosyncrasies you can't reproduce.
Emily Jones Send private email
Monday, December 30, 2013
 
 
Adding to Emily's post:

Making it easy to report problems really helps.  I support an in-house client billing app.  My boss is  trained to attach the error dump file when he reports a problem that throws a language run-time error.  The file contains data that helps me start on finding where the problem is.  Sometimes, it is not that useful, but other times, it saves quite a bit of time.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
 
 

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