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Re: More user-friendly error messages would be nice

From: Karl Fogel <kfogel_at_red-bean.com>
Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 16:44:24 -0400

Markus Kuhn <Markus.Kuhn_at_cl.cam.ac.uk> writes:
> Feature suggestion: more user-friendly error messages

Oh, we are definitely on board with that already...


...which, as you can see from its last comment, split into individual
issues for specific error messages. Not that we need an issue for every
message; we just clean them up when we can.

Your suggested solution for this particular error would take some work
(since the client currently doesn't know the "other" user who committed
in the meantime). Nonetheless, the error could still be greatly
improved. Only time constraints prevent this, nothing more. If you
have time to submit a patch, it would be most welcome (note that the
regression test suite may need updating too). Otherwise, somebody will
get to this when they can.

(Experience suggests that no matter what text we throw in front of the
user for an out-of-date error, many users will not read it and will not
understand what happened. Making the text more verbose just frightens
them more. I'm not saying the error can't be improved, merely pointing
out that it will make no difference for many people. We do not have a
unified audience, that's part of the problem.)


> Having introduced Subversion 1.4 as the means to edit departmental web
> pages, I find that even quite computer-literate users (professors of
> computer science, etc.) regularly stumble over Subversion's sometimes
> rather inpenetrable style of reporting error conditions.
> Example of a less than ideally presented one:
> Sending index-b.html
> Transmitting file data .svn: Commit failed (details follow):
> svn: Out of date: '/trunk/html/teaching/projects/index.html' in
> transaction '1241-1'
> svn: Your commit message was left in a temporary file:
> svn: '/homes/someuser/projects-pages/svn-commit.3.tmp'
> Problems:
> - no explanation of what "out of date" means; a full sentence would be since
> - no guidance towards how to resolve the situation ("svn update")
> - less important technical details (e.g. "transaction '1241-1'",
> the full path of the commit message) are displayed equally
> prominent as the actual problem
> - confusing punctuation ("file data .svn: Commit")
> - use of absolute rather than relative pathnames
> - (speculation:) the structure of the error message seems to be motivated
> by convenience for the developer rather than the user's convenience
> A nicer way of presenting the same message might be:
> Your attempt to commit your changes in the file 'index-b.html' back to
> the repository has failed. (Transaction 1241-1)
> Reason: You modified an out-of-date version of the file, obtained with
> an update at 2008-09-03 12:05, but since then user mgk25 has also
> committed changes (at 2008-09-03 16:06).
> How to resolve: Before you can commit your changes, first update
> your working copy by merging in those other changes with "svn update".
> (Your commit message was left in a temporary file: 'svn-commit.3.tmp'.)
> Concurrent editing and resolving edit conflicts can be complicated stuff
> for occasional users of Subversion. Error messages that clearly explain
> in plain English what went wrong and what will fix it might help to
> make Subversion accessible to a much wider user base than just
> experienced programmers.
> Markus

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Received on 2008-09-08 22:44:41 CEST

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