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Re: Forwarding bugs upstream

On 01/11/2011 05:54 PM, brian m. carlson wrote:
I've noticed a trend lately that I am often asked to forward the bugs I
report to the Debian BTS upstream, either by the maintainers or
automatically by a bug script.  I believe, and I continue to believe,
that maintainers should forward bugs upstream instead of requiring (or
strongly encouraging) users to do so.

Hi Brian,

I'm going to have a slightly different viewpoint on this.

I think it is perfectly fine for a user to submit a bug report to the Debian BTS first. They may not always be equipped to know what is a Debian and what is an upstream bug. And I also think it ought to be perfectly valid for the Debian developer to close the bug saying it's an upstream issue, together with a pointer to the upstream BTS and promise to get involved should there be any question about the Debian packaging, environment, etc.

Now, here's how it proceeds if I have to forward a bug upstream for Bacula, which uses Mantis. Creating a Mantis account takes 30 seconds, but Mantis won't email reports to people without accounts, and the only way to add stuff to it is on the web.

So, here's how it goes:

1) User submits bug report to Debian.

2) I decide if it is clearly an upstream issue.

3) I go to Mantis and fill out the fields by copying data from the user's bug report.

4) I mark the bug forwarded and email the user that it's happened.

5) Upstream inevitably has questions or other things for user to try.

6) I forward that email to Debian BTS and user. Maybe I download an attachment from the Mantis report and attach it to the email.

7) User replies, possibly while I'm sleeping. I log in to Mantis and copy and paste the answer. I also save off attachments from the email and then go and attach them to the Mantis report.

8) This continues.

I'm adding zero value here. Zero. It is a huge and frustrating waste of my time. It is also frustrating for upstream, who would rather just talk with the user directly and involve me if they think there's a Debian-specific question. I don't understand why some users want it to go this way, but many clearly do despite the fact that they get worse service.

I'm going to be brutally honest and admit here that being a copy and paste monkey between emails and web forms is something I really dislike doing. It is something that makes Debian the opposite of enjoyable, and I think I let those tasks sit longer than I should, and work on things instead where I can actually contribute (such as fixing Debian bugs).

I have a sense that I'm not alone. I've noticed that there are certain major packages for which upstream bugs tend to get ignored for a year, then get a big sweep asking if they're still issues, then get ignored for a year again. I won't mention names here, but I don't think it's necessarily entirely blame to be laid at maintainers' feet. I just go and submit upstream bugs upstream on those and go on my merry way.

Maintainers in Debian do undertake certain responsibilities. But I think that being copy and paste monkeys shouldn't be one of them. If I were getting paid to work a helpdesk, sure. But really, I think it is nonsensical for an end user to expect me to do this because the user doesn't want to spend 30 seconds creating an account on an upstream BTS. That's not what Free Software is all about. And it has Debian maintainers wasting time.

I think that promising that Debian maintainers will always shepherd bugs upstream is promising something we don't actually deliver on very well, and probably never have. Perhaps we should stop promising it.

This is not to criticize Brian here; he has been perfectly courteous and up-front in his presentation.

-- John

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