On Bugzilla and spreading FOSS, was: Where Fedora Went Wrong...

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On Wed, May 16,  R. Sundaram ([email protected]) wrote:

> You can choose to not contribute anything back and only expect to
> get everything for free but if everybody chooses to be selfish you
> wouldn't get what you are getting. This is a ecosystem that relies
> folks investing resources like their own time or money. If you have
> the time to complain you have time to contribute.

I have already explained (1) why I believe the "This is a COMMUNITY,
so you must contribute to it in some way" slogan, even when expressed
politely and in full good faith as Rahul just did, is... let's say
counterproductive, these days, so I won't repeat it here.

I just wanted to point out one specific issue with another statement,
also because I don't think the solution can be implemented by single
users or developers. Rahul also wrote:

> Bugzilla reports are very *useful* form of complaints (which are
> more of constructive feedback to the right people) but that doesn't
> even have a representation in threads like these usually. My problem
> is not even that people are complaining. It is that people are
> complaining in places where nobody who can fix the issues are
> involved.

Complex, rigid, very formal bug tracking systems are indeed very
useful to keep under control, with the smallest possible effort,
development and maintenance of every complex project, not just
software. I use such systems in my daily job and can confirm that OK,
using them isn't the most pleasant activity in the world, but without
them it could be much worst. In this sense, I agree 100% with Rahul's

The only problem is that expecting that software *newbies* will ever
understand by themselves how to correctly use anything like bugzilla
is just foolish. This has nothing to do with FOSS or Fedora, it's just
human nature. This chicken and egg problem happens all the time on the
lists of OpenOffice, Mozilla, Fedora, OpenSuse...:

      Q: "I am unable to do X with this software"

      A: "OK, then just learn to use this other software, whose
      interface is even less usable of the other one, to select which
      of these words and sentences you had never heard before best
      describes your problem"...

This is not an attack to Rahul. Probably no single developer or other
kind of FOSS volunteer has the time, the need, the desire or, usually,
the skills, to replace bugzilla and friends with something really
usable by non programmers. Or the time to read all the generic
complaints, gather all the information missing from them and type
everything again in bugzilla.

So, if FOSS must stop being a niche on the desktop, if all the
excellent people who have a lot of skills but not the one of thinking
like a software engineer (~95% of humankind?) must contribute to
software debugging, maybe the only way to make this happen is that all
the big companies which want to make money on FOSS services (from IBM
to Sun, Red Hat, Novell... ) fund *one* big serious usability study,
with *lots* of tests on real people, and pay one team of full time
developers to replace the current crop of FOSS bug tracking systems
according to the results of that study.

I say "one study and one new system" because this is one case where
choice is NOT good. If you put a *decent* bugzilla substitute on
openoffice.org, a newbie who learns how to use it there will be much
more likely to report a Fedora, Ubuntu or Suse installation problem
(="to be involved, that is to become and *remain* one more happy FOSS
user") if he or she finds the very same interface on those other


(1) it is the seventh of the "Things we're tired of hearing from
    software hackers", http://digifreedom.net/node/56

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