community, flock

Managing Bugs in Drupal

A week or two ago, I posted a request for Drupal/Bugzilla integration. Nobody took the bait for that one, and as I found myself continuing to do nasty things to mark forum posts as candidates for bug reports, I figured I had better roll my own. Here’s a brief summary of what I was doing, what the community can do now, and more or less what this means for bug management within our community.

So, what I was doing. As a quick hack, I found myself adding sort of a pseudo-tag “:bugreq” in comments I left on posts in the forums that I wanted to make sure we revisited to get bugs logged for. Often, I’d ask users to log bugs but left this bit of junk behind so that I could follow up appropriately later. What this meant for me was eventually writing a little report that would find posts whose comments had that string in them and then to go search for bugs, log bugs where necessary, and report back to the forums with a bug number to close the loop. This was nasty all around, and because it was so nasty, I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything besides leaving the fake tags on a few posts. Further, it wasn’t transparent to users and wasn’t something I could reasonably expect others in the community to get on board with.

Now on to what I’ve done to alleviate the problem somewhat. I don’t have a perfect fix just yet, but the process is much cleaner now. First, a brief digression on bug gathering. I had noticed in my wordpress control panel something about a bug hunt, but I hadn’t paid it much attention. Then just yesterday, Lloyd sent me a link about knowledge gardening which also mentioned the wordpress bug hunt. This stuff’s all about empowering a community’s members to get involved in the bug management process. As noted previously, we rate our community’s being involved in the bug management process very high. One of the problems with this in our community, however, is that we have bugzilla and the forums living apart from one another. And people frequently post bug reports in the forums. So bridging the two in a way that empowers the community to help with the bridging is key.

Which brings me back to what specifically we’ve done to help facilitate such bridging. Some forum members who have stood out to me as consistent helpers within the forums have been given additional privileges. First, let me qualify this promotion and stress that if you’re a forum member who didn’t get promoted, it doesn’t mean you’re not valuable. It means only that I haven’t picked up yet on your contribution or that you weren’t foremost in my mind when I handed out privileges. I may yet ask you for help, and I welcome you to demonstrate to me that I should consider promoting you in this capacity or some other. So, moving on, what’re the privileges? In short, these bug hunters, as I’ve chosen to call them, can easily mark a post to be reviewed as a possible bug. When they do so, it’s available at a publicly-accessible page and as a feed. Anybody’s welcome to search for and log non-duplicate bugs for the posts listed, and privileged users can easily remove forum posts from the list and add bug numbers to the posts to confirm that a bug has been logged for the issue in question.

The result is that casual support requests in the forum stand a much better chance of being turned into bug reports. We now have two-way communication between the forums and the bug list. Importantly, it’s not just me or some other Flock staff member empowered to find and log the reports but is the community. For now, it’s mainly select members of the community (though anybody’s welcome to check out the list and log bugs) that are helping with the hunting/gardening/pruning/whatever, though I imagine that’ll change over time to be governed by a more self-organizing principle. If you think you’d be a good bug hunter and would like to help mark things for consideration, email me at daryl at flock.com to let me know why, or better yet, make yourself stand out in the forums by responding to queries, pointing people to existing bugs when they report things, etc.

Finally, in the spirit of open source, I’m of course planning to contribute this module back to the drupal community if they’ll have it. Here’s hoping it helps out other projects besides Flock. Naturally, I hope to improve the module over time as well, so that it becomes a better and better tool.

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2 thoughts on “Managing Bugs in Drupal

  1. John says:

    Congrats on getting this module up and going. Sorry I failed to respond to your call to duty, but when you open this up (with git!?), count me in!

    One of my objectives for 2006 is to revise the way my product is supported; reducing costs and roadblocks, and to improve the collaboration between the five clients. I see the key to doing this is to turn our internal drupal site into a community website. I was planning on giving the clients Bugzilla, but your approach of loosely integrating the support forums with Bugzilla might allow for a softer introduction. I likey!

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