Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Sometimes, bug triage is no fun

Here is how I intend to respond to a private email that I received today, about a bug that was filed yesterday. How would you respond in a similar situation?

Hi [X],

Thank you for reporting a problem with Eclipse. But - and maybe it's just me - the private email you sent today comes across as demanding. You are asking us to help you quickly, without investing time on your side to make the problem easy to reproduce for us. I understand that it's frustrating when things don't work the way you think they should work. However, remember that Eclipse is free software, and please consider if you are not already getting a lot more than your money's worth.

So, in your own best interest, could you please use Bugzilla (that way, everybody interested in the issue can follow the discussion), and help us reproduce the problem with as little time investment as possible on our side? I have already asked twice, on the bug, but I will ask one more time: Please attach [a file that will allow us to reproduce the issue] to the bug. I would expect to be able to use [list of steps] to get the source code into my Eclipse. Before uploading the attachment, it wouldn't hurt if you tried the import operation on a fresh workspace to confirm that we will be able to just run it. By the way, the recommended way to produce the file to attach would be [list of steps].

Thanks,
Boris

12 comments:

Lars said...

Your answer is very well and professional written. I can relate to your problem; as I also frequently receive very demanding (and sometimes insulting) private emails requesting some information. I frequently point people to: http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

Heath said...

As a further consolation, someone that can't file a good bug report probably doesn't carry much weight in any software community.

Robert Konigsberg said...

"This job would be great if it wasn't for the f***ing customers. " http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109445/quotes

André said...

That's a very well written letter: professional tone, psychologically sound.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't take a slight issue with your use of the term "free software" here. You seem to be using it in the sense of: software that costs nothing. While that may be true, the free software guys have always been careful to point out that it's "free as in freedom" -- the freedom to study, to change, to redistribute. It may happen to cost nothing for the end user, but that's coincidental. Eclipse, I'm sure, costs IBM a lot of money to support, it's a commercial asset in many ways, so the word "free" applies in some ways, but not in others.

So, in a similar letter, I would probably write: "Remember that you didn't have to pay anything for Eclipse, and that you are maybe already getting a lot more than your money's worth."

But, you know me: that's just me :-)

André said...

I absoultely agree. I admire your professionalism and patience (you have kids, for sure ;-).

The point I'd like to highlight is the following:

Eclipse is opensource and I guess most of us enjoy the personal experience a lot. On the other hand every software is a lot of work and somebody has to do it and somebody has to pay for it (we all need to feed our own and our kids and we all have nice hobbies beside Eclipse). IMHO all parties that participate in a opensource software ecosystem have to either do the work, pay for it or support it in by any means. That's the business case of opensource. It only works effectively if you consume and contribute.

Ed Merks said...

Well said. There are few things more ironic than freeloaders with an attitude. You can imagine them as children being given everything they desire on demand. On more than one occasion I've reminded such people that "You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Or I've pointed out that "If the problem isn't important enough for you to invest significant effort in helping resolve it, why do you imagine it's important enough for me to resolve it on your behalf?"

Gunnar said...

Boris, if you use Thunderbird you should try the Quicktext add on. It allows you to save such personalized responses for future re-use.

BTW, as already said, this response is very well written.

Boris Bokowski said...

@Andre - you are right that there are several meanings of the word "free", and that in this context, I should have written "you get Eclipse software at no cost".

By the way, the Eclipse Public License is very similar to the LGPL in spirit - it's a copyleft license that requires derivative work to be licensed under the EPL as well, but allows incorporating EPL'ed code in other software without requiring that then everything has to be licensed under the EPL. So in my view, Eclipse is free software with a weak copyleft license - see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software_license. Another interesting aspect of projects at Eclipse is that the copyright remains with the authors - it is not assigned to some central entity, or a single company: This means that there is no risk that the license terms for Eclipse can be changed unilaterally (for example, to license it commercially). But that's probably best discussed in another post.

bmerkle said...

i completely agree. however there is one problem IMO: reporting bugs _manually_ with bugzilla is complicated for a user:
- he needs to create an account
- he needs to find the relevant component
- he needs to manually enter the eclipse build id
- he needs to enter lots of other information _manually_ which could be entered automatically (e.g. stacktrace etc...)

furthermore _you_ as developer dont know anything about his setup e.g.
- OS and Version
- eclipse start parameter
- installed plugins and version
etc. etc

I recently had crashes with JetBrains MPS and Firefox and it is just so easy and simple to submit the information above into their bugtracking system. Just one OK click. done. finish. basta. :-)

I think we need something like this for eclipse: "reporting errors the easy way..."

this should be configurable so a eclipse user can submit either to bugzilla.eclipse.org or the my-eclipse-admin@mycompany.com

what do you think ?

Wim Jongman said...

@bmerkle Please check your Eclipe help menu. There is a "Report a bug or enhancement" button. This is also available in the context menu for any message in the error log.

Boris Bokowski said...

@Bernhard, @Wim: the "Report a bug or enhancement" comes from Mylyn, unfortunately it's not available if you just download the IDE/SDK itself. But if you download any of the packages from eclipse.org, Mylyn will be part of that download.

Wim Jongman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.