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Project Issue Tracker Guide


By the end of this, developers should be able to:

  • Ask for assistance using a project issue tracker.
  • Describe what the tracker should be used for.
  • Define what "good" questions are, and describe why asking better questions is important.

Lab: Discover What It Means to Ask a Good Question

A good question isn't a good question because of its content, but instead, how it is asked. A good question is the question most likely to get an answer.

Part of our goal for this program is to help you get better at asking questions so you can grow after starting your first job!

Take 5 or so minutes to read, and 5 minutes to discuss among your squad, "How to Ask Good Coding Questions That Get Great Answers" by Zell.

Instructions for Using the Project Issue Tracker

During project periods, you may find yourself stuck or needing help. Never fear! The consulting team will answer questions and help you fix bugs.

To manage requests for assistance, the team uses GitHub's 'Issues' feature - this allows us to address issues asynchronously in an intelligent way.

Use the issue tracker for the appropriate project (for example, game-project) to file your requests. Please note: the issue tracker isn't only for bugs. Use it for any and all requests you have during project work time.

If you require a 1on1 for personal reasons, please request that through an e-mail or Slack message to every member of instructional staff.

Don't forget to monitor your issues for our responses, and close them with notes when resolved.

Before You Create a New Issue (i.e. 'Due Diligence')

Before you add a new issue to the tracker, the team will expect you to go through the following checklist; this will help make the process more efficient by allowing the team to spend most of its time on hard issues, rather than easy ones.

  1. Check your linter.

    Look for linter errors in Atom! Pay particular attention to any that say something like "parsing error". These mean that you have a syntax error that's preventing your code from running at all. Try to find the source on your own briefly -- it's often a case of mismatched brackets/braces. If you can' resolve the linter errors, open an issue where you include the code that's causing the error, as well as the text of the linter error.

  2. If you have an error message, read the error!

    The Chrome Dev Tools console is often trying to help you by providing some error messages. Error messages are great, because they tell you what's going wrong. Take note of:

    1. what type of error you have,
    2. what file it occurred in, and
    3. the line and character numbers at which the error occurred.

    Reading an error carefully frequently gives you the information you need to correct it and move forward.

  3. Also, read the error!

    We know we just said this, but seriously. READ THE ERROR MESSAGE. READ IT OUT LOUD! Read it to a friend! Call yourself and leave it as a voicemail!

  4. At least once, try using your debugger to see when the error appears.

    Debugging tools exist for a reason: in JavaScript, set a breakpoint in the Chrome debugger (or drop a debugger in your code); in ruby, add a binding.pry to your code. Your code will stop executing at that point. See if you can figure out how far the program runs before it hits the error. This can also help you check the values of variables as you go.

  5. Read through the documentation.

    Every tool we use has some sort of documentation available. Many documentation sources even implements a search feature, so that you don't have to go digging. Read them carefully! The function signatures in particular are very useful since they explain what inputs a function is supposed to take; passing a function the wrong input value(s) is a very common error.

  6. Search Google and Stack Overflow for your issue.

    You're probably not the first person to ever encounter your issue. Try copying the content of your error message (in quotes) into a search bar; you might be surprised what turns up.

  7. Read/search closed issues.

    Similar to the previous one, but more specific to YOUR problem, you can actually sift through other issues and see if a solution exists by clicking on the tab marked Issues <open issue count> and then selecting ✓ <closed issue count> Closed at the top of the issues list.

NOTE: These things are options. They're aren't ALL required for ALL problems. However, you should've at least considered all of them and tried a few.

How to Use the Issue Tracker

Directions for each project can be found in a repository ending in -project for the first project it will be this one for example, and this is also where issues relating to that project will be handled. DO NOT OPEN THEM IN THIS REPO!

To create a new issue and request assistance,

  1. Go to the 'Issues' tab and click 'New Issue'.

  2. Create a title for your issue.

    Please try to use the following format:

    "[ language or framework you're using ] - [ short (< 80 chars) explanation of issue ]"

  3. Give a description of the issue you've got.

    The text box will come filled in with a template to help you provide as much information as possible about your issue. Please try to fill out each of the sections to the best of your ability.

DO NOT use screen shots

  • Never use screen shots to share code snippets, errors, files, etc.
  • Screen shots are only acceptable in an issue when showing a visual design problem.

DO NOT ask for a 1:1

  • Never request a 1:1, your issue should reflect the problem, not the type of support you want.
  • Instructors will escalate issues to a 1:1 as they see fit.
  1. Click 'Submit New Issue'.

"What should I do while I'm waiting for assistance?"

If possible, work on something else! If you've been using version control effectively you may have multiple different branches for working on different features. In that case, just switch to a different feature branch and keep working.

Ask a peer! See if any of the other developers have encountered a similar issue - you are often working on more-or-less the same thing, so someone else may already have the solution to your specific problem. Post the link to your issue in the forum channel and see if anyone has encountered something similar! On the other side, feel free to check open issues, you may be able to collaborate on a solution to a shared problem, or help someone else out.

Another possibility, if you want to keep working on the same feature, is to use git stash (to temporarily store uncommitted changes) and git checkout to go back in time to a previous commit -- specifically, the last time everything was working. Once there, you can create a new branch (or branches) off of that commit, so that you can experiment with other ways to solve the problem.

Whatever you do, don't sit around waiting. Project time is limited, so try to use it as effectively as possible.

"What should I do if I don't know what issue to open?"

If you're stuck on a SINGLE problem for 30 mins and you haven't opened an issue--you are required to! If you need help opening an issue OPEN AN ISSUE that says "having trouble writing my issue."

Many of you will have the urge to ask each other questions because you think it's easier, faster, whatever. If you do so, remember the following:

  • The help you're getting may not actually be correct
  • You may be disrupting someone else's workflow
  • The way you get help from them may not encourage and nourish your learning process
  • You cheating yourself of a chance to solve the problem on your own
  • You don't rubberduck
  • You aren't forced to think about the exact problem at hand
    • Don't shave the yak. Watch Hal shave the yak below:
    • Yak shaving explained

"What should I do if it's after 5pm or over the weekend?"

The SEI instructional team may not be reponsive on the issue queue after 5pm on weekdays or over the weekend. This does not mean you should not open issues. Open the issue immediately. It is better to get the issue out of your brain and into the queue so you do not forget it. Many of your fellow developers and SEI instructors do check the issue queue after 5pm and on weekends and will be able to help. Even if they do not, it is better to have a list to start the day with. Post a link to your issue into the Slack forum channel to further encourage others to contribute.

"What if I open too many issues!?"

Despite what you may think no one has ever "opened too many issues" or been discouraged from asking from help because they've "already taken up enough resources." Neither of those two things have ever happened since 2015 when we started doing this, so it won't be an issue (HAH! GET IT!? ISSUE!? I'll see myself out).

Please remember that we WANT to help, but we also want to teach you HOW to ask for help. We will often not be in the room during project worktime so WE can focus on prepping for the upcoming lessons. If you post issues and ask for help in the manner explained above, we will be more than happy to drop everything to come assist you!


If you follow these guidelines, you will find yourself crushing bugs like Homer:

Don't be scared of bugs. They're an opportinty to learn! Be like Homer. Not like this guy:

Additional Resources


  1. All content is licensed under a CC­BY­NC­SA 4.0 license.
  2. All software code is licensed under GNU GPLv3. For commercial use or alternative licensing, please contact