This is the list of questions that every programmer keeps in their head and applies whenever they have an unexpected problem, a bug.

Each page has a number and a short title.

If you find someone struggling with a problem, simply share the page that you believe is the most relevant. I’m sure they’ll thank you for being a proactive rubber duck.


In 30 years at IBM I never found a published version of the list of questions to ask when something has gone wrong. So just before I retired in October 2009 I tried to write it. See the original list.

In November 2013 I updated the list to give it more structure. It includes a set of roles, a general process of involving them, and a number of generic questions.

Top 10 questions to ask when something doesn’t work – Nov 2013

In July 2014, I converted the list into a poem, which I then gave as a lightning talk at WordCamp Bournemouth, with the following introduction.

Given that the WordPress motto is “Code is poetry” and people say “Fight fire with fire”, clearly this talk is the obvious approach to problem solving.

Herb Miller, July 2014

I (re)published the poem on herbmiller.me

Subsequently, I wrote a number of posts on herbmiller.me referring to individual problems by their Step number.

Now I’m consolidating all of this into an easy to use site. And, when it’s all done each of the original posts should point here.

About herb

Herb Miller, the owner of Bobbing Wide, develops WordPress websites, plugins and themes. He is the creator of oik-plugins, WP-a2z and Seriously Bonkers.