You will encounter a bug in some softare some day in the future. You might ignore. You might fix it yourself. You might report it to the developers of the software.

There's several reasons for reporting bugs.

  • Other people might fix them.
  • Someone might know of a workaround.
  • You might learn why the problem you found isn't an actual bug.

Glory and fame and fortune are not reasons for reporting bugs, merely beneficial side-effects.

Many large projects have a page for how to report problems in a way that is best for that project. Some examples:

There are also some generic guides:

A quick summary, based on the author's experiences:

  • Check that no-one else has reported the problem already.
  • Explain what you did, what you expected to happen, and what really happened.
  • Do not rephrase: use copy-paste, screenshots, and file attachments to provide the actual output or files that happened.
  • If at all possible, describe a way to reproduce the problem. If you can get it reproduced with a shell script, even better.
  • Be patient. Many large projects receive lots of bug reports, on the order of tens of thousands per year. It may take a long time for them to react, and they may not be able to give all their attention to just your problem.

Reporting bugs can be a delightful experience. A reponsive development team appreciates your report, and fixes the problem immediately, and thanks you in their release notes. This can be a good route to start contributing to the project in general.

Reporting bugs can also be a frustrating, de-motivational experience. Your bug may be ignored, or closed without explanation, or you'll be told you did something wrong. Just interacting with the project's bug tracking system can ruin your day. If you interact with enough projects, you'll encounter these things. If you can, shrug it off and move on to another project.