[Numpy-discussion] Issue Tracking

Charles R Harris charlesr.harris at gmail.com
Tue May 1 16:17:11 EDT 2012

On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 1:34 PM, Ralf Gommers <ralf.gommers at googlemail.com>wrote:

> On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 9:12 AM, Charles R Harris <
> charlesr.harris at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 12:52 AM, Travis Oliphant <travis at continuum.io>wrote:
>>> On Apr 30, 2012, at 10:14 PM, Jason Grout wrote:
>>> On 4/30/12 6:31 PM, Travis Oliphant wrote:
>>> Hey all,
>>> We have been doing some investigation of various approaches to issue
>>> tracking.      The last time the conversation left this list was with
>>> Ralf's current list of preferences as:
>>> 1) Redmine
>>> 2) Trac
>>> 3) Github
>>> Since that time, Maggie who has been doing a lot of work settting up
>>> various issue tracking tools over the past couple of months, has set up a
>>> redmine instance and played with it.   This is a possibility as a future
>>> issue tracker.
>>> However, today I took a hard look at what the IPython folks are doing
>>> with their issue tracker and was very impressed by the level of community
>>> integration that having issues tracked by Github provides.    Right now, we
>>> have a major community problem in that there are 3 conversations taking
>>> place (well at least 2 1/2).   One on Github, one on this list, and one on
>>> the Trac and it's accompanying wiki.
>>> I would like to propose just using Github's issue tracker.    This just
>>> seems like the best move overall for us at this point.    I like how the
>>> Pull Request mechanism integrates with the issue tracking.    We could
>>> setup a Redmine instance but this would just re-create the same separation
>>> of communities that currently exists with the pull-requests, the mailing
>>> list, and the Trac pages.   Redmine is nicer than Trac, but it's still a
>>> separate space.   We need to make Github the NumPy developer hub and not
>>> have it spread throughout several sites.
>>> The same is true of SciPy.    I think if SciPy also migrates to use
>>> Github issues, then together with IPython we can really be a voice that
>>> helps Github.   I will propose to NumFOCUS that the Foundation sponsor
>>> migration of the Trac to Github for NumPy and SciPy.    If anyone would
>>> like to be involved in this migration project, please let me know.
>>> Comments, concerns?
>>> I've been pretty impressed with the lemonade that the IPython folks have
>>> made out of what I see as pretty limiting shortcomings of the github
>>> issue tracker.  I've been trying to use it for a much smaller project
>>> (https://github.com/sagemath/sagecell/), and it is a lot harder, in my
>>> (somewhat limited) experience, than using trac or the google issue
>>> tracker.  None of these issues seems like it would be too hard to solve,
>>> but since we don't even have the source to the tracker, we're somewhat
>>> at github's mercy for any improvements.  Github does have a very nice
>>> API for interacting with the data, which somewhat makes up for some of
>>> the severe shortcomings of the web interface.
>>> In no particular order, here are a few that come to mind immediately:
>>> 1. No key:value pairs for labels (Fernando brought this up a long time
>>> ago, I think).  This is brilliant in Google code's tracker, and allows
>>> for custom fields that help in tracking workflow (like status, priority,
>>> etc.).  Sure, you can do what the IPython folks are doing and just
>>> create labels for every possible status, but that's unwieldy and takes a
>>> lot of discipline to maintain.  Which means it takes a lot of developer
>>> time or it becomes inconsistent and not very useful.
>>> I'm not sure how much of an issue this is.  A lot of tools use single
>>> tags for categorization and it works pretty well.  A simple "key:value"
>>> label communicates about the same information together with good query
>>> tools.
>>> 2. The disjointed relationship between pull requests and issues.  They
>>> share numberings, for example, and both support discussions, etc.  If
>>> you use the API, you can submit code to an issue, but then the issue
>>> becomes a pull request, which means that all labels on the issue
>>> disappear from the web interface (but you can still manage to set labels
>>> using the list view of the issue tracker, if I recall correctly).  If
>>> you don't attach code to issues, it means that every issue is duplicated
>>> in a pull request, which splits the conversation up between an issue
>>> ticket and a pull request ticket.
>>> Hmm..  So pull requests *are* issues.    This sounds like it might
>>> actually be a feature and also means that we *are* using the Github issue
>>> tracker (just only those issues that have a pull-request attached).
>>> Losing labels seems like a real problem (are they really lost or do they
>>> just not appear in the pull-request view?)
>>> 3. No attachments for issues (screenshots, supporting documents, etc.).
>>>  Having API access to data won't help you here.
>>> Using gists and references to gists can overcome this.   Also using an
>>> attachment service like http://uploading.com/ or dropbox makes this
>>> problem less of an issue really.
>>> 4. No custom queries.  We love these in the Sage trac instance; since we
>>> have full access to the database, we can run any sort of query we want.
>>>  With API data access, you can build your own queries, so maybe this
>>> isn't insurmountable.
>>> yes, you can build your own queries.    This seems like an area where
>>> github can improve (and tools can be written which improve the experience).
>>> 5. Stylistically, the webpage is not very dense on information.  I get
>>> frustrated when trying to see the issues because they only come 25 at a
>>> time, and never grouped into any sort of groupings, and there are only 3
>>> options for sorting issues.  Compare the very nice, dense layout of
>>> Google Code issues or bitbucket.  Google Code issues also lets you
>>> cross-tabulate the issues so you can quickly triage them.  Compare also
>>> the pretty comprehensive options for sorting and grouping things in trac.
>>> Yes, it looks like you can group via labels, milestones, and "your"
>>> issues.   This is also something that can be over-come with tools that use
>>> the github API.
>>> It would be good to hear from users of the IPython github issue tracker
>>> to see how they like it "in the wild".   How problematic are these issues
>>> in practice.   Does it reduce or increase the participation in issue
>>> tracking both by users and by developers.
>>> Thanks,
>>> -Travis
>>> 6. Side-by-side diffs are nice to have, and I believe bitbucket and
>>> google code both have them.  Of course, this isn't a deal-breaker
>>> because you can always pull the branch down, but it would be nice to
>>> have, and there's not really a way we can put it into the github tracker
>>> ourselves.
>>> How does, for example, the JIRA github connector work?  Does it pull in
>>> code comments, etc.?
>>> Anyways, I'm not a regular contributor to numpy, but I have been trying
>>> to get used to the github tracker for about a year now, and I just keep
>>> getting more frustrated at it.  I suppose the biggest frustrating part
>>> about it is that it is closed source, so even if I did want to scratch
>>> an itch, I can't.
>>> That said, it is nice to have code and dev conversations happening in
>>> one place.  There are great things about github issues, of course.  But
>>> I'm not so sure, for me, that they outweigh some of the administrative
>>> issues listed above.
>> I'm thinking we could do worse than simply take Ralf's top pick. Github
>> definitely sounds a bit clunky for issue tracking, and while we could put
>> together workarounds, I think Jason's point about the overall frustration
>> is telling. And while we could, maybe, put together tools to work with it,
>> I think what we want is something that works out of the box. Implementing
>> workarounds for a frustrating system doesn't seem the best use of developer
>> time.
> Having looked at the IPython issues and Jason's example, it's still my
> impression that Github is inferior to Trac/Redmine as a bug tracker -- but
> not as much as I first thought. The IPython team has  managed to make it
> work quite well (assuming you can stand the multi-colored patchwork of
> labels...).
> At this point it's probably good to look again at the problems we want to
> solve:
> 1. responsive user interface (must absolutely have)
> 2. mass editing of tickets (good to have)
> 3. usable API (good to have)
> 4. various ideas/issues mentioned at
> http://projects.scipy.org/numpy/wiki/ImprovingIssueWorkflow
> Note that Github does solve 1, 2 and 3 (as does Redmine). It does come
> with some new problems that require workarounds, but we can probably live
> with them. I'm not convinced that being on Github will actually get more
> eyes on the tickets, but there certainly won't be less.
> The main problem with Github (besides the issues/PRs thing and no
> attachments, which I can live with) is that to make it work we'll have to
> religiously label everything. And because users aren't allowed to attach
> labels, it will require a larger time investment from maintainers. Are we
> okay with that? If everyone else is and we can distribute this task, it's
> fine with me.
> David has been investigating bug trackers long before me, and Pauli has
> done most of the work administering Trac as far as I know, so I'd like to
> at least hear their preferences too before we make a decision. Then I hope
> we can move this along quickly, because any choice will be a huge
> improvement over the current situation.
Redmine looks to offer a lot for project management, not just issue
tracking. We don't do much in the way of project management, but that may
well be a case of not having the tools, opportunity, and training. Once
those tools are available we might find a use for them. I think Redmine
offers more open ended opportunity for improvements for the project as a
whole than github, which seems something of a dead end in that regard. The
fact that Redmine also supports multiple projects might make it a better
fit with the goals of NumFocus over the long run.

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