Mister 9% — Why I like keeping bugs open.

Last week, Kevin noted that Gentoo’s Bugzilla – recently redesigned, thanks to all the people involved! – has thousands of open bugs; in particular as of today, we have over 17000 non-resolved bugs. Of those, 1500 have been reported by me, which is about 9% of the total.

For those wondering why there is this disparity, the main reason is that I still report manually (and that means that I use my account) the bugs found by my tinderbox and thus they add up. Together with that, you have to count the fact that I’m one of those people who like to keep the bugs open until they are fixed; this is why I keep insisting that if you add a workaround to a package, you should be keeping a bug open so that we know that the problem is not fixed yet, which happens unfortunately quite often for what concerns parallel build failures.

So how do you shorten the list of open bugs without losing data?

It is obviously natural for people joining a team to maintain all the general packages, or those picking up a new package to go through the bugs open for the package and try to solve/close those. And I think that is the one process that we should go through right now; the problem is that you cannot simply solve the issues with “WONTFIX” as some people proposed: the bug need to be fixed. You can close the bug with NEEDINFO if the user didn’t provide enough information (it happens with my bugs as well when I forget to attach a build log), or with TEST-REQUEST if the bug is no longer reproducible on latest version — if you do know that the bug is solved, FIXED is a good idea as well.

A number of trivial bugs are also open for areas of Gentoo that aren’t much followed at all nowadays: this includes for instance most of the mail-related packages, some easier to solve than others. Most of the time they simply require a new, dedicated maintainer that uses the software: you cannot really maintain a package you stopped using, and I speak by experience.

Most of the bugs opened at least by the tinderbox also fall into the 5 minutes fix category that I so much loathe: they look so trivial that people are prone to simply ignore need for action on them, but when you do look into them you end up with a very messed up ebuild, which makes you spend hours to get it right — when they don’t uncover that the upstream code or build system is totally messed up to the point that it would have to be rewritten to work properly.

Unfortunately, simply ignoring the “nitpicks” QA bugs is not a good idea either: more often than not, presence of these bugs show that the package is stale, and the fact that they are relatively easy to solve only goes to show that the package hasn’t been cared for too long. Closing them out of lacking interests is also not going to solve anything at all; it’ll just mean that they’ll be hidden, and re-opened next time the tinderbox or an user merged them.

So rather than closing the bugs that look abandoned, waiting for other people to report them again, the solution should be to fix them. Closing them will just ensure that they’ll be reported once again, increasing the size of the Bugzilla database, which is a more serious problem than just inflating a counter.

So if the bugs look too many… proxy-maintain new packages!