Error, Bug, Issue, Incident

Posted by Albert Gareev on Oct 05, 2008 | Categories: Notes

“We have a build error…”, “You need to investigate that incident…”, “Today I fixed two bugs…”, “We already saw this issue in the last release…”. Are you used to hearing that? Have you ever wondered why there are so many words used talking about software problems?

So did I. Looking back to my 15 years being in IT in programming and testing roles, I can recall many circumstances of problems called such or another way. I do not intend to set any “terminology standards” with my post. I’m about to share my experience with errors, bugs, issues, incidents.

By the way – feel free to contribute other problem names you are used to!


Error is something that prevented of getting code build created or promoted.

  • Often can be spotted and corrected on-the-fly, during the work being done
  • Often spotted by a person directly involved in the work being done
  • Can be corrected by a person directly involved in the work being done
  • Correction is simple
  • Correction is not costly



“An unwanted and unintended property of a program or piece of hardware, especially one that causes it to malfunction.”

  • Requires a proof and needs to be reproducible in order to start fixing process
  • In the most cases, found from an end-user site
  • In the most cases, found by a person who did not create the code containing the bug
  • In the most cases, can not be fixed by a person who found it
  • Often requires external (by testers) and internal (by programmers) investigation to be nailed down
  • Correction might be complex and might involve significant cost


In computing, the term issue is a unit of work to accomplish an improvement in a system. An issue could be a bug, a requested feature, task, missing documentation, and so forth. The word “issue” is popularly misused in lieu of “problem.” 


More often than other developers, about incidents hear product managers, customer support techs, and product support programmers – whenever an end-user experienced and reported a problem with the software product. However, incident is not necessary a bug.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work by Albert Gareev is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.