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Re: Bug tracking (was: new *Help* argument highlighting)

From: Karl Fogel
Subject: Re: Bug tracking (was: new *Help* argument highlighting)
Date: 12 Jun 2004 13:26:25 -0500
User-agent: Gnus/5.09 (Gnus v5.9.0) Emacs/21.3.50

Juanma Barranquero <address@hidden> writes:
> I said a while back that IMHO we should be a more structured project, in
> the sense of having a plan for releases, with tentative dates, perhaps
> even a release manager, etc.  Someone (Eli, I think, but I'm speaking
> from memory) opposed on the grounds that it costs human resources that
> we don't have.  But the Emacs project has 87 registered developers;
> that's 33% more than Subversion, for example, and they seem to be doing
> well on that regard (though, to be fair, they have four or five people
> paid to work almost full-time on Subversion).

A data point:

The Subversion issue tracker database is almost entirely maintained by
unpaid volunteers now.  The salaried developers use it too, of course,
but not in any fundamentally different way than the unpaid developers,
and not proportionally more often.  (There are actually two or three
paid developers, by the way, not four or five).

It's very common for experienced volunteers to help new reporters file
bugs.  For example, a longtime volunteer will often

   1. See a newbie's post on the mailing list,
   2. Solicit more details,
   3. Instruct the newbie in how to file a useful bug report,
   4. Watch to confirm that the newbie did so,
   5. Add some developer-directed comments to the issue if appropriate,
   6. Possibly fix it, if they are a developer themselves.

This process is self-perpetuating.  January's newbie becomes June's
experienced volunteer.

This thread (about whether to have a bug tracker for Emacs) is quite
long, and I can't participate in detail due to time constraints,
unfortunately.  So I'll just say I'm very much in favor of having such
a system -- and yes, to track individual bugs, not just large-scale
future plans.  In the long run, it would save humans much headache,
even though there would be an initial cost to setting it up.

RMS wrote:
> I won't assume it is really good for other projects.
> I don't know whether they have thought about it carefully.
> Techies are often attracted to using the highest tech available
> whether it is better or not.
> It is clear that using a special "issue tracker" would be extra work
> for many people, and it would be hard for me to use.

I understand your skepticism, and in fact harbored similar
reservations when we started Subversion.

However, we did think about it and discuss it quite carefully, both
then and now.  We have no doubt now that it's actually helping us.  It
serves a real need; otherwise we would have dispensed with it long
ago.  Regarding your comment that using an issue tracker would be hard
for you: note that it is not necessary that every developer use the
bug tracker, or use it in the same way, for it to be useful to the
project as a whole.  (I think over time you would find yourself using
it too, though, as using it is often more efficient than avoiding it.)

There is no particular need for this thread to come to a definite
conclusion.  If someone sets up a good tracker and starts using it,
others will follow.  However, it would be nice if the tracker were at
Savannah and advertised from the project pages in some obvious way;
and especially nice if 'M-x report-emacs-bug' and other "official"
sources named it as the canonical database for Emacs bugs.

I wish I had time to set such a thing up, but don't right now.  I hope
someone else does.  FWIW, the Subversion bug tracker is a
[non-portably customized] version of IssueZilla.  It's entirely
web-based.  Lack of a good email interface is one of its serious
flaws, though it hasn't been a fatal flaw for us.

I have no strong opinion about which bug tracker Emacs should use
(except that it be Free of course).  Just the subset of features
common to all bug trackers would already be useful for Emacs...


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