Developers are facing burnout after spending too long hunting bugs in code

A Rollbar survey highlights the soul-crushing realities of being a software developer.


Nearly a third of developers spend up to 10 hours a week fixing bugs instead of writing code.

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Developers would rather endure the most unpleasant and mundane minutiae of modern life than continue wasting hours of their time fixing broken code.

Software firm Rollbar surveyed 950

to discover the extent to which catching and fixing software bugs took time away from meaningful work.

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It found that just over a quarter (26%) said they would rather spend their time paying bills than fixing code, while over a fifth (21%) would rather endure a trip to the dentist.

The results demonstrate that developers are overwhelmingly fed up with having to work with error monitoring tools that don’t do what they’re supposed to, allowing errors to fall through the cracks that are then pointed out publicly by users.

Nearly nine in 10 (88%) developers surveyed said traditional error monitoring methods fell short, with 39% citing the need to manually investigate and respond to errors as the main issue. Developers also said they were not getting the information they needed to remediate issues, with 36% reporting that finding contextual information to fix errors took too long.

Meanwhile, 31% of respondents said traditional error monitoring tools were too focused on system stability, rather than code health.

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Another major bugbear surveyed was spending too much time on errors. A majority said that, instead of fixing bugs and errors, they could be building new features and functionality.

Forty-four percent of developers identified fixing bugs and errors as their biggest pain point. The majority of respondents (38%) claimed to spend up to 25% of their time fixing bugs, while 26% said they spent up to half of their time performing fixing. An unlucky 8% said they spent up to 75% of their time on fixing bug applications alone.

This stacks up to thousands of hours spent every week on fixing errors instead of performing their core role of actually creating code, the report found. Nearly a third (32%) spend up to 10 hours a week fixing bugs, while 16% spend up to 15 hours a week, and 6% dedicate up to 20 hours a week fixing bugs instead of writing code.

More than half (52%) said they would rather use this time to build new features and functionality, while 42% said freeing up this time would allow them to simply “do their job”.

More than a third of developers said if they didn’t have to spend so much time fixing code, they would spend more time with their family (37%), exercise more (33%), and get a full night’s sleep (31%).

Coder’s motivation is understandably being zapped by having to dedicate so much of their time and energy to tedious work.

Respondents said that having to spend so much time manually responding to errors hurt their job performance, morale and even their overall quality of life, with respondents reporting feelings of frustration, burnout, resentment and even wanting to quit their jobs.

Not helping matters is the fact that, despite all the time and pains developers take to fix code, errors and bugs still go undetected. These issues are often discovered by users before developers and their employers.

“Not only are the standard methods of finding bugs lacking, but most issues are still being reported by users,” said the report.

Nearly two-thirds of developers (62%) said they have found out about errors from users reporting through the app. Worse yet, software users may air their complaints in public forums. A quarter (25%) of developers said that they have heard about errors from users sharing these issues on social media.

“This creates real risks for businesses by leaving a broken experience for users to find. Respondents say that users are reporting bugs via social media, compounding the potential fallout by posting those problems in a public forum. Developers are struggling to quickly and easily find and fix issues, not only before they impact users, but even after the problem has been reported.”

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Other times, developers said, they learn about software bugs and errors from media reports or even straight from the top – via their company’s CEO. Seventeen percent of developers reported that media coverage clued them in about errors in their software. More than a fifth (21%) of the developers in the Rollbar survey said they had heard about errors from their CEO.

Nearly nine in 10 developers (89%) agreed that undetected errors can take a big toll on the business, with (26%) of developers reporting that their employers had lost “a significant number” of users due to errors in software.

The same proportion said software errors damaged their company’s reputation and its ability to attract investments, while 18% said that undetected software problems angered their company’s existing investors.

“Software is now at the heart of every business, so company leaders understand the value of providing great user experiences. But software is made of code, and code isn’t perfect. Bugs and errors are inevitable,” said Brian Rue, CEO and co-founder of Rollbar.

“This survey illustrates that developers still struggle to deal with errors. With continuous code improvement, developers responsible for mission-critical applications can identify bugs and their root causes in real time, and even automate the steps to resolve them.”

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