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Test-Driven Bug Fixes

Bug fixes need tests too. The existence of a bug often shows where prior test efforts have failed. If we can write a unit test to reveal the bug, do so. If investigation is needed to track down the bug, do the investigation and capture some of your knowledge in the tests as you go. Once the bug has been located, write a unit test that reveals the bug. Resist the temptation to immediately fix the bug.

You want to make sure you don’t give life to new bugs when you kill the bug you were hunting. Also, bugs have been known to nest together. Both of these realities mean you should also write tests to lock in the desired behavior before fixing a bug.

As you noticed in crash to pass, the first test in a new area usually has high startup costs. Subsequent tests usually can be written pretty quickly. This will be true when you start adding tests during the bug hunt. Think of the cost of adding a test for the bug as the cost of doing business—as the price to pay down the technical debt. Defects are costly. Fix them right; it’s only a fractional cost.