Bug reporting and tracking

13 June 2008

There's a new website in town, one that's a grand experiment in community involvement in bug reporting and tracking.

The site is being run by Long Zheng and is named Windows UX Taskforce. He (and many others for that matter) noticed that although Vista has an improved user experience (UX) than XP does, there are a whole lot of little niggles and inconsistencies within Vista that don't follow the UX standards. So he started documenting all these issues in the hope that Microsoft would fix them in time for Windows 7.

Before long, he came to the conclusion that he couldn't do it all himself, and decided to invite "the Vista community" to help him. That became too much too, and so he wrote a nice-looking application to track it all.

It's a very Digg-like application. Registered users not only use it to report user experience (UX) issues in Windows Vista, but they can also vote on them in a Digg-like manner by promoting or demoting each issue. You can comment on each issue too to argue for or against.

Zheng's hope is of course that it will take off enough that Microsoft will take heed of the reports and act on them in time for Windows 7's code freeze.

The reports database is very basic compared with full-fledged commercial bug tracking databases, but it doesn't matter since it tracks a description of the issues, a screenshot, a possible solution, a status, and flags for severity and impact, and a discussion message thread which is all you really need for this application. The RSS feed is similarly basic too: only new items are reported and not every change in the vote. But there's enough to be getting on with, and enough for the community to get their teeth into.

Of course, it's not all sunshine and roses. It's not connected to Microsoft's bug database in any shape or form, although an import wouldn't be hard to write. There's no guarantee that Microsoft will act on anything here, but it certainly would behoove them to do so. I'm also not sure how it's moderated: for new reports, for vote-spoofing, or for spam or undesirable content in the discussions.

On the plus side, it was a quick app to write and it succeeds admirably at what it does.

Having said all that, and because I work for DevExpress in a management position, I'm going to get asked, well, where's our version of this? A nice simple application, community maintained, and one that would give DevExpress a great deal of information to help them decide on what needs to be done.

Well, we already have it: our support center. There are some differences, of course.

  • our "voting" is done by counting the number of people who are tracking each issue
  • you can't vote to demote an issue: either you vote for it, or you're not voting at all -- this tends to aid the "squeaky wheel" customers
  • our "voting" numbers are hidden from public view
  • support center is actually our bug tracking database, so there's no import to do
  • we track more data, such as sample code, version numbers, OS details, etc
  • our RSS support is even more primitive (there's no way to be notified of all new public issues added, for example)

Once we release the Code Central part of Support Center, we'll revisit some of these items to see whether we can't improve things a bit.

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