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Re: Bug tracker choices for Emacs.

From: Karl Fogel
Subject: Re: Bug tracker choices for Emacs.
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 2009 01:36:22 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.1.50 (gnu/linux)

Stfan Monnier and Glenn Morris both asked questions, in separate mails;
I'll answer them together in this one mail.

Stefan Monnier <address@hidden> writes:
>> It can be completely operated by email:
>>   https://help.launchpad.net/Bugs/EmailInterface
> Can we make address@hidden redirect to it (i.e. accept email
> submissions from any random user without prior registration, which is
> *very* important).

Currently it requires a registered user.  I'm not sure that's a strong
policy; if we had other anti-spam measures (such as requiring a
particular string to be in each mail body), then maybe we could do away
with that.

> Can we install it in debbugs.gnu.org?

You could, but I meant hosting at Launchpad.net.  Running an instance of
Launchpad involves all sorts of production issues; Canonical is already
bearing that cost, and I certainly am not volunteering to duplicate the
cost anywhere else :-).

> Can it be operated from Rmail (i.e. MUAs without support for GPG signing)?

I think you can comment on bugs but not create them, via unsigned mail.

>>   - Not really operable via the web -- just read-only operations.
>>     This is huge.
> This is not huge for me, but it's clearly a shortcoming.

I should have said "huge for most users".

>>   - Does not do automatic duplicate-finding when a new bug is submitted.
>>     Launchpad bugs does, and it's a real gift.  (Actually, from reading
>>     the documentation, it's not clear to me how to handle duplicates in
>>     debbugs at all -- there doesn't seem to be a simple way to say
>>     "Close bug #Y because it's a duplicate of #X".  And the mere fact
>>     that one has to read the documentation is already a disadvantage.)
> It's called "merge".  It's worked OK for me.

Odd; I saw that page, but what I read there didn't seem to be about
duplicate bugs as I understand them.


  "Before bugs can be merged they must be in exactly the same state:
  either all open or all closed, with the same forwarded-to upstream
  author address or all not marked as forwarded, all assigned to the
  same package or package(s) (an exact string comparison is done on the
  package to which the bug is assigned), and all of the same severity.

>>   - Interface can be a bit unintuitive ("Toggle useless messages", for
>>     example; or consider the number of choices one must make before
>>     doing a simple search).
>>   - A bit Debian-centric.  See the long list of checkboxes for
>>     distributions in the search form on the front page, for example.
> You mean the Web interface?  Yes, the web interface is not great.

I meant the web interface.  It goes without saying that the email
interface is unintuitive, but that's okay, as the people who would use
that are looking for an interface aimed at experts, not newcomers.

Glenn Morris writes:
> Karl Fogel wrote:
> > So, are we happy with debbugs?
> I'm not. Some of my reasons are listed here:
> http://emacsbugs.donarmstrong.com/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?pkg=emacsbugs.donarmstrong.com
> The main problem is, it's effectively unmaintained, and the Emacs
> developers have no administrative access. A move to a gnu machine that
> would hopefully fix these issues has been waiting for the best part of
> a year.

Launchpad is certainly maintained, but it would still be on non-GNU
servers (unless GNU wanted to run an instance, which would be a huge
undertaking and is not what I was suggesting).

> >   - Does not do automatic duplicate-finding when a new bug is submitted.
> >     Launchpad bugs does, and it's a real gift.
> What does "automatic duplicate-finding" mean?

When you file a new bug, the system first searches for bugs that look
like it, to cut down on the number of duplicate filings (which otherwise
is usually large).

> > (Actually, from reading the documentation, it's not clear to me how
> > to handle duplicates in debbugs at all -- there doesn't seem to be a
> > simple way to say "Close bug #Y because it's a duplicate of #X".
> As pointed out, the merge/forcemerge commands do this.

Yup.  See my comments above, but obviously once one understands the
commands, this is what they do.

> Questions I would ask of a bug tracker:
> How well maintained is it? How many developers are there, and how
> responsive are they to feature and problem requests?

Hard to say how many developers there are, since Launchpad is free
software.  Estimate 3-5 right now, since there are some full-time people
on it.

> If we want to customize the way it behaves for Emacs, is there someone
> who can do this for us, or help us do it to our local copy if it's not
> a change appropriate for the tracker in general? Failing that, how
> easy is it for an outsider to modify the code?

It's a free software project.  For code to get deployed on
Launchpad.net, it obviously has to be absorbed into upstream and go
through the rollout process, so that means no quick-n-dirty tweaks.

> Can the Emacs developers get full administrative access?

As in root?  No.

> How does it handle spam? Unregistered users must be able to submit
> Emacs bug reports. Therefore there will be spam. Some kind of human
> moderation is required. Can this be integrated into the mail flow? The
> current emacsbugs method (closing spam bugs after the fact) is a waste
> of effort, and does not deal with spam added to existing bugs. The
> state of emacsbugs is shameful in this regard (again, see Bug#750 as
> an example).

I don't think it deals well with this (see above; it could be improved).
Right now its solution is pre-registered sender addresses and

> How does it handle the CC problem? Currently, when people report a new
> bug, they need to use X-Debbugs-CC rather than CC, lest each reply
> create a new bug. Often, they don't know they need to do this. Hence,
> bug 4065 and 4066, for example. Tracking of references/message-ids
> might fix this?

Gosh.  I've never noticed any CC problem, so I guess it handles this
okay, but I'm not 100% sure.

> If it sends out admin messages, can these be directed to a separate
> mail list from the normal bug list?

Not sure what the core question is here.

> Does it suppress duplicates? This may need message-id tracking.

Again, not sure what the question is.  Does it fold duplicate mails?  I
don't know.

> Can it automatically subscribe the bug reporter to all followup discussion?

I think it does.

> Does it obfuscate addresses in the web interface?

Right now it doesn't need to, because it uses usernames instead.  

> How good is the search function? The debbugs one is not great.

The search functionality is good, IMHO.  (I'd be more specific, but it
might be easier to just try it and see what you think.)

> Your best bet is probably to just set up a test-bed for people to play
> with, and see if they like it...

Based on the above, I'm not going to pursue it right now.  There are too
many changes that would be necessary, and other things (like the Bazaar
switchover) are more pressing to me.

This discussion is in the archives now.  If we ever want to revisit it,
I hope we'll remember to start here.


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