He, Bugzilla, is misguided (and on Open Source QA)

Dennis Heuer posted an article called I, Bugzilla on OSNews. His essential claim is that Bugzilla makes life hell for open source users by making it ridiculously hard to get support. As the numerous reader comments on the article point out, his gripes are mostly about annoying personalities around OS projects, not the software itself. Not that I didn't agree with some points though; the default Bugzilla UI is a bit frightening. Luckily it is being worked on.
However, the article and its reader comments do raise several interesting points about open source project QA. Some readers claim that anybody creating OS software has a moral obligation to support it, and "Everybody here is a volunteer and under no obligation to fix your bug" is just bad behavior. If the quality and bug tracking of OS software is close to your heart, I suggest taking a quick read.
As for my personal opinion, even though I understand why people are inclined to expect some support even for free software, I find the ability to "fire-and-forget" code a very valuable characteristic of modern Internet-based software engineering. Take my Bugzilla contributions for example. If I had the moral obligation to support every line of code I've ever written, I just couldn't (and wouldn't) squeeze the time to implement any features that I don't need myself. The risks would be too big. The lack of permanent responsibility is what allows me to use my occasional spare time to do work that helps others.
Comparisons to freeware/shareware of the 90s aren't justified. The modern OS movement is the engine for huge products (Mozilla, Linux, OpenOffice…) where the touch of personal responsibility can never be what it used to be for all those euro calculators years back. The fact that much of the world's computing runs on software without a guaranteed support is somewhat frightening – but then again, am I any less convinced by the commercial apps?
Be it as it may, blaming the OS developers for not supporting their code forever isn't going to solve the issue. If you personally feel obliged to support every free code line you've given others, you have my respect. I try to be as supportive as possible, too. But when (not if) I fail because there's a life outside open source, I can't afford to feel too bad about it. If I did, it would increase the social cost of OS participation enough to stop me from doing it. I believe the same goes for a fair number of contributors.

September 25, 2004 В· Jouni Heikniemi В· No Comments
Posted in: Bugzilla

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