[Python-Dev] Those (punctuations and skul heads) bug tracking systems! :-)

François Pinard pinard@iro.umontreal.ca
01 Jun 2002 10:00:04 -0400

Hi, gang.  Anecdotical rants from a technical Luddite, yours truly! :-)

A few days ago, I wrote Fred about a tiny problem in Python documentation.
Fred replied (very nicely, don't doubt it) something like "Yes, this should
absolutely be corrected, but being busy now, I might forget about this --
so please submit a bug report using the SF tracker".

I learnt to shudder with horror when people tell me such things.  Email is
so simple, clean, expeditive and human!  Each time I have to use a BTS,
this is the same story, I spend a lot of hours studying around, then later
experimenting with the system.  And finally, I invariably fall in dead ends,
after having met a few blatant bugs in the BTS itself.  Don't tell me it's
my browser.  The browser is an integral part of the BTS.  Think "user" here!

So, trying once more to be a good citizen, I spent many hours yesterday at
sorting and reading the email I saved over time, about various comments or
references from Python developers about the BTS in use.  If I filed these,
this is foreseeing I could not escape the Python BTS forever, especially if
I want to involve myself a bit more.  Reading all this more attentively,
I noticed a flurry of alternate, confusing, and sometimes heavy notations
to access already submitted reports and documentation, changes in numbering
and methods over time that were did not always seem to be fully gracious,
I admired the relative nicety of the Python SF redirector, and its minor
short-comings.  Notable to me were many developer comments about reports
being mis-attributed, re-filed, unduly aging or nearly lost in practice.

This morning, I decided to do the great try, knowing that there is
a facility to prepare the message offline using a reasonable editor
(Netscape is very far from my concept of a usable editor) and submit it
afterwards.  I prepared the message yesterday, saved it into a `temp0'
file, and moved it over to the machine here, coming back from travel.
Netscape first refused to see that `temp0' file in its directory in
the file browsing window, it apparently only saw `*.html' files.  I was
surely not to turn my little communication into HTML first for Fred to
see, so I merely typed the file name in the upload box.  "Category",
"Group", "Summary", "Check to Upload and Attach File" all had a little
'?' besides them, from which I expected some documentation, but clicking
on them yielded "File loaded" in the bottom echo area, and _nothing_ more.
For "File Description" in particular, I would have needed more information,
but there was no `?' next to it, so I merely guessed it wanted a MIME type
and wrote "text/plain" within it.  Clicking "SUBMIT" gave something like
"ERROR Invalid file name", and no kind of feedback about the bug having
been submitted.  So I guessed the file needed an extension, and renamed
`temp0' into `temp0.txt', then modified the file name accordingly in
the upload box.  Re-attempting "SUBMIT" a second time yielded: "ERROR You
Attempted To Double-submit this item.  Please avoid double-clicking."

Sigh! The usual misery!

OK.  Instead of uploading a prepared file, I will now proceed to try cut
and pasting into Netscape from a real editor, hoping that the mangling will
be limited.  I do know I have more comments and nuances for Fred, I should
find the courage to share them: I fear one does not have much of a choice
for contributing.  Such rotten reporting systems are merely discouraging.
Hmph!  I'll continue trying to tame myself to these user interface failures.

Sometimes, I ponder that if all maintainers were using the same BTS,
the effort of learning to cope with _that one_ would probably have some
more worth.  I do imagine that a BTS could be useful.  There are many
BTS around, random projects using random BTS -- so the effort of fighting
with BTS often has to be restarted when you play in many fields.  Moreover,
the truth is, at least for Python, that using a BTS does not solve the main
problem, which is the insufficient number of contributors and developers.
Risk for risk, I still think I have a much better chance being listened
to and understood when I write to Fred directly!  With some luck, Fred is
an ordered and careful man who, just like me, is able to handle folders.

I read with pleasure all the thread saying that `roundup' has an email
interface, is actively being improved, and could replace the SF tracker.
Let us hope it will be more usable than its precessors!  You know, the
real goal of all this is allowing for simple and humble communication
between humans, about the knowledge of a problem.  I surely used to be
a very active reporter for all problems I saw everywhere, at the time
maintainers were still reachable.  When the effort gets too frustrating,
sadly, one might feel less inclined to offer contributions, and rather
choose to enjoy more of the sun, music, and life! :-)

It may look like a useless moan, but it might be worth saying after all.

François Pinard   http://www.iro.umontreal.ca/~pinard