I don’t recall precisely how I first got involved with Mozilla, but a large part of my early contributions was triaging bugs. I stumbled across Bugzilla at some point, and I really enjoyed finding duplicates and trying to figure out the root causes of bugs. I would watch the “bugs filed today” query, and try to triage as many bugs as I could. It was a fun challenge to find duplicates quickly, and memorize common issues (this, and later IRC- and bonsai-watching habits and general Mozilla addiction are what led to the coining of the name “gavinbot“). Later, as I took on more responsibility in other areas (e.g. development and code review), I stopped being as actively involved in Bugzilla triage itself; the bugmail hasn’t stopped, though 🙂
Recently Tyler posted about his frustrations with the bug triage effort. He raises some good points, but I think one of his premises is faulty: I don’t think that focusing on the number of UNCO bugs is useful. We should focus on outcomes, not on driving a number to 0 for the sake of it.
Are we missing bugs that we should have noticed, but failed to? Maybe, but we’re never going to be 100% on top of every bug, and I don’t think the situation here is as dire as “5000 untriaged bugs!” makes it sound – a very large percentage of those are duplicates, or invalid, or minor issues that we shouldn’t be focusing on. Spending contributor time sorting through many of those bugs probably doesn’t have a very good cost/benefit ratio. Important issues still tend to bubble up pretty effectively, in my experience.
Are people being discouraged from reporting problems to us because they get ignored? This is a problem, certainly (though again, I’m not sure about the degree). We should fix this by having better tools for giving feedback (i.e. not Bugzilla), and there are already successful efforts underway to do that (e.g. input.mozilla.com).
It’s important to step back and look at the bigger picture – driving a Bugzilla query of untriaged bugs to 0 should only be a goal insofar as it helps us achieve the primary goal of producing good software. I contend that it probably isn’t the most effective way to contribute to that goal at the moment.