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Are “Unknown Error” Messages Really Better Than a Stack Trace?

I was reading Madhur’s blog post on how to enable stack trace displays and now I’m wondering: why don’t we always show a stack trace?

Who came up with that rule and why do we follow it?

End users will know something is wrong in either case.  At least with a stack trace, they can press control-printscreen, copy/paste into an email and send it to IT.  That would clearly reduce the time and effort required to solve the issue.


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3 responses to “Are “Unknown Error” Messages Really Better Than a Stack Trace?

  1. Unknown February 11, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    In a similar vein, I\’ve been frustrated with the dreaded Sharepoint "File not found" error – only slightly less awful than an "Unknown error".  (At least you know it\’s looking for a file…)
    Now I learned way back in HIGH SCHOOL programming classes to never output errors like "File not found" without telling exactly what file could not be found!  Obviously the software knows what file it is looking for – otherwise how could it know that it couldn\’t find it!!!  Why keep it a secret????
    I\’m paying for ENTERPRISE level software and I don\’t want HIGH SCHOOL level error messages.

  2. Jason Coltrin February 13, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    I agree. I guess it\’s to keep the end user complacent and make them think the developers know what their doing. Or it\’s to keep someone from reverse engineering the code and make exploits. The one that gets me is when I build a webpart and drop it into a zone, and nothing is displayed at all.

  3. Alex February 14, 2008 at 9:19 am

    For applications I write that won\’t ever get into consumers\’ hands, I almost always ignore try/catch blocks altogether. When something goes wrong, we get a nice exception message with all the information we need to figure out what\’s going on.

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