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Talk plus bug reporting?

Recommend Site Improvements

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Edited: Sep 25, 2010, 10:43am Top

After a night of solving bugs, I want to introduce an idea I've had before, but never quite as clearly.

To recapitulate: I am eternally against a "true" bug tracking system. I like conversation. I don't like filling out forms. I think you guys would feel the same. A bug tracking system isn't a synonym for "all your bugs get fixed." It's just another way of dealing with them--a better way, perhaps, but a much less human one. I like Talk.

So let's make Talk a dead-simple "bug tracking" system. And let's do it today.

Here's the minimum I see.

1. A way for users to declare a conversation includes a bug—just one bug. I can't stand it when a topic named "X" ends up reporting a totally different bug at message 20, and people bug me for not dealing with it.

2. By default, the bug will have the name of the thread. But I'll be able to rename it for clarity.

3. When a conversation is marked as a bug, a little area appears on the top right, with a cute little bug, and simple panel of options.

4. There'll be a simple list of statuses--things like reported, seen, not-a-bug, need-more-info, fixed-needs-testing, fixed. Any member can change them. It keeps a little log over to the right.

5. Some way to note which part of the site it is about.

6. Some way to record that a bug relates to another bug.

7. The top Talk page gets options--hidden, under the "(More)" link. Allowing you to see bugs in the various statuses.

Sep 25, 2010, 10:47am Top

I think this would be just plain lovely. I don't think it needs much more than those 7 points to make it an effective means of communicating what's going on with bug reports. If it becomes to 'heavy' or complex, it may be less efficient a way of tracking things. But all round, yes!

Sep 25, 2010, 10:55am Top

I was wondering why all those Bug Report threads got hit last night. :)

I like Talk.

I do do but it's not going to wash my dishes. ;)

Why not just have a locked wiki page that admin (and maybe a few trusted users) can edit to keep track of these things. Be able to add new bugs in after they're confirmed, check them off if someone is working on it, and mark them as done when they're fixed and confirmed to be fixed.

With Talk, we can discuss the issue, have others verify it, and afterwards have whomever add them to the wiki and makes links to the thread.

Also with the wiki page, you;re not going to have to flip through multiple pages of Talk looking for outstanding issues.

Gotta admit though I really think the tracking portion of a Trac install would be better but you;re against that so I realize that's off the table. It does pretty much exactly what you describe though.

Sep 25, 2010, 10:59am Top

When you say 'Talk', do you mean across all groups or specifically in the Bug Collectors group?

Sep 25, 2010, 11:06am Top

>3 theapparatus:

Feels like work. :)

>4 EveleenM:

I'm thinking you can "Add bug information" to a post in any group, but that it will be a visible suggestion on bugs and maybe RSI.


Sep 25, 2010, 11:08am Top

Love it! Can there be an extra flag on a thread, not a status, which only staff can set when they post a message, that says "acknowledged by staff"? Status can change, but I think it would be great for everyone if it was obvious whether a staff member had looked in on the discussion.

Edited: Sep 25, 2010, 11:56am Top

I've been feeling inspired by all the bug fixing work Tim has been doing recently, and was going to attack the bug list on the Wiki. Now I'm wondering if I should do that...

Is this bug support in Talk something that could be coming soon?

Edited: Sep 25, 2010, 11:55am Top

I want to go break things. :)

edit: Hey, what does this link do?.....

Sep 25, 2010, 12:04pm Top

>6 r.orrison:

I'm thinking the starter status is "reported." Then we change it to something to indicate we've seen it.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:05pm Top

I think this is good, though more complicated than necessary.

My experience with bug tracking is that 1. people don't submit bug reports, they just bitch about the problems. 2. if they do submit bug reports they probably don't provide enough info to work out what's wrong. 3. the bug reports get ignored anyway, because there are too many of them and most of them are junk and it's not worth the effort finding the good ones.

So, I love the way it's done on LT: there's discussion about each bug, so you can tell whether it's a glitch or widespread, and what the real problem is; and anything that matters will keep appearing, so the real bugs will (eventually) get noticed.

So, try to keep the extra stuff as lightweight as possible - don't make it a pain to report a problem!

Sep 25, 2010, 12:07pm Top

This sounds great. It would be nice if you could add a similar structure for feature requests too.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:12pm Top

>11 _Zoe_:

With money? :)

>10 paulhurtley:

Part of the point is that people don't need to submit a bug report. They just need to use talk. They can add the bug area or not. Anyone can add it, including me. Basically, this is going to be a useful tool for me to keep track of things, and for users to help me.

Oh, I forgot, the best part for me is going to be an "assign to X" thing. Right now I email the link to another employee, which is--I'm sorry--often like mailing it to the moon.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:16pm Top

>12 timspalding: I actually really liked the money idea, but everyone else rejected it. That would be a whole other thing to program anyway, though. I was thinking of basically the same thing you proposed here, but for features, with statuses like "read by admin", "already suggested", "likely to be implemented someday", "high priority", "not going to happen", "difficult", "easy", etc.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:19pm Top

We could have a special box for "pfffft—it's from Zoe!"

Sep 25, 2010, 12:21pm Top

I like the idea, but would like to see the LT staff giving things a priority once they have seen something -
other (needs other things added/fixed/changed to fix this bug).

That might help people not get so frustrated.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:21pm Top

>14 timspalding:

Or a poll!


Sep 25, 2010, 12:24pm Top

And I loathe conversation that devolves into a vague fog where it's impossible to tell if TPTB care about the bug or are going to work on it or have even seen it. Which is how an awful lot of the bug talk has looked to me since I joined the site.

It looks like you're proposing good methods to deal with those issues, Tim. Namely, keep the user community informed of how the staff thinks of the bug. Namely, one of the primary features of a "true" bug tracking system that I look for and use.

I look forward to seeing these in action. It'll give me a reason to even look at the Talk page, which I never have since you put the subscribed postings on the Home page.

And you still get your conversation. I'll grit my teeth and endure that as long as I know the bugs are being attended to.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:25pm Top

I also like the idea, I also would like to see some indication of both status and priority. Hooray for a clearer bug system!

Sep 25, 2010, 12:27pm Top

>17 Suncat:

I actually like that vague fog. Sometimes it takes a while for an issue to percolate through my brain, and other users. So, don't be surprised it a fair number get listed as "under consideration" or something like that.

>15 FicusFan:

The problem with that is that, as I often say, whether something gets done is the product of the importance and the ease. I don't want a system where someone says that some truly daunting bug doesn't get fixed, but some easy one does, and users yell about it. Fixing easy bugs is a feature, not a bug, as it were.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:27pm Top

>18 Aerrin99:

Let's build this out slowly.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:31pm Top

6 ... 9 ... I'm thinking the starter status is "reported." Then we change it to something to indicate we've seen it.

My concern is that, since you said anyone could change the status, another user could change it to "seen", and then you might ignore it because you thought Chris had looked at it, or vice versa. I think there should be something that only staff can set to indicate that a staff member has looked at it.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:35pm Top

>19 timspalding:

Speaking just for myself, the great frustration arises when it seems that you and/or the LT staff are ignoring a bug.

If I can tell that you have seen and acknowledged it, that's better. If it's too difficult to fix, just say so. I understand that. I think most everyone else here does, too. And I experience no big frustration.

Just don't ignore it, or seemingly ignore it for a long time and then pop up and fix it--that's what can feel like a put-down to long-time dedicated users. At least this long-time user.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:36pm Top

Thanks. I hear you. At least you'll get some indication.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:37pm Top

>21 r.orrison:

Yes! I think this whole system suggestion could fall apart quickly if people can "spoof" that kind of data, even accidentally.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:39pm Top

Trust, trust, trust. Trust until there's reason not to.

You may have a point, but SO much of LibraryThing is based on the assumption that people don't. And, mostly, they don't. When they do, it's always because it presents some sort of juicy advantage to them.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:41pm Top

I don't think it's a question of trust, or of possible abuse. Just worried about the possibility of another user confirming the bug and changing the status to "seen" because he thinks he's adding useful info.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:43pm Top

Perhaps using 'seen by name' instead of just 'seen' as the status?

Sep 25, 2010, 12:50pm Top


"Under consideration" would be an enormous improvement over what we have now, where we have literally no idea if you've seen a bug, seen it and forgotten it, seen it and decided it wasn't worth the bother, or seen it and decided to work on it later.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:51pm Top

Just don't ignore it, or seemingly ignore it for a long time and then pop up and fix it--that's what can feel like a put-down to long-time dedicated users. At least this long-time user.

This, a thousand times this.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:52pm Top

> 26, 27

Rorrison sums up exactly what I was concerned about. I think Paul's suggestion would be an easy, simple fix.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:57pm Top

"Seen by name" would be good.

Sep 25, 2010, 12:59pm Top

>31 _Zoe_:

That would reveal how much I do...

Help on statuses?


Sep 25, 2010, 1:35pm Top

Bugs don't tend to bother me much; I just assume life demands workarounds. Still, this thread emphasizes what I really like about LT. It's not mob rule--Tim cares about maintaining a certain vision and culture for the site--but he and the rest of the staff genuinely care about feedback, particularly when a mass of us come together to say something. Active dissent is allowed and even encouraged, although it might generate a ribbing from time to time. (Sorry, Zoe!) Tim often works to find compromises that address member requests without sacrificing company values/interests. I would rather not sacrifice the casual, personal interaction between developers and members, even if that means that sometimes speed of fixes isn't like that in more impersonal companies. Thanks!

Sep 25, 2010, 2:41pm Top

Well, with the caveat that I'd still prefer a real bug system like the google one, which has a tiny amount of form with a large amount of unthreaded comments that looks EXACTLY like Talk here - I think this will be an improvement.

One thing I'd really like taken into consideration is searching. If you don't provide a really good way to search it from LT so you can find out if the thing you are already posting about has been reported, you need to at least give googles some cues that can be included in the search box. I mean some very specific strings that can be included in a google search to filter in bug reports.

And finally, I don't want to sound like a nag here, but this is seriously one of the cases where you can't abandon this feature before finishing it (at least to the first fully working version, even before adding future bells and whistles). If you lose interest in this one before it's done and all the bugs are worked out, it's going to create a lot of bad will. If you're going to do this thing, for the love of LT do it right.

Sep 25, 2010, 2:49pm Top

Bzzzzt! I'm sorry. Thank you for playing.

Sep 25, 2010, 2:53pm Top


Sep 25, 2010, 2:56pm Top

Not gonna get your Google one :)

And I reserve the right to develop this piecemeal, which you call abandonment...

Edited: Sep 25, 2010, 3:14pm Top

And finally, I don't want to sound like a nag here, but this is seriously one of the cases where you can't abandon this feature before finishing it (at least to the first fully working version, even before adding future bells and whistles). If you lose interest in this one before it's done and all the bugs are worked out, it's going to create a lot of bad will. If you're going to do this thing, for the love of LT do it right.

Yes, for the love of LT YES. Thank you brightcopy for being the one to say that.

But yes, I definitely like this and am VERY much looking forward to it. It's dang near impossible right now to tell if an admin has seen a bug-thread, has it on their radar, etc etc.... And then there are those long-standing bugs where admin have commented, so you know they've seen it, but then.... nada.

Statuses will be SO HELPFUL.

edit: developing "piecemeal" is no big deal if the feature actually *works* while you are developing the other parts, figuring out ways to make it better, etc etc.

Sep 25, 2010, 3:25pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 25, 2010, 3:35pm Top

34> I think Brightcopy used Google in two different ways in this post which got conflated. The first was for the report form, but the second was just talking about finding previous bug reports (googling in the generic sense of just looking for something).

Edited: Sep 25, 2010, 3:39pm Top

37> Not gonna get your Google one :)


And I reserve the right to develop this piecemeal, which you call abandonment...

And I reserve the right to be disgruntled. Increasingly so. The "piecemeal" approach (half-way developing a cool new feature, then leaving it riddled with bugs for the next few months or years) is one of the least desirable things about LT for me.

ETA: I had something a bit more harsh above, but then jjwilson pointed out that you might have been referring to using google for bug reports rather than google for searching Talk (as we have to do now because Talk has never had a usable search system).

I like snark as much as the next person, but sometimes it can be a bit of an impediment to communicating.

Sep 25, 2010, 4:48pm Top

Where is it? I want to use it.

Sep 25, 2010, 4:59pm Top

It seems to me that LT is Tim's game and as such he gets to set the rules. He can even change those rules if he wishes although in practice he rarely does so. I would have some sympathy with complaints about substantive changes to the rules but complaints about Tim's longstanding methods seem fruitless. This is not to say that noone may feel annoyed; more that noone has the right to expect Tim to change his values.

Sep 25, 2010, 5:02pm Top

It's going to have an icon?!?!?!?!? :D

Sep 25, 2010, 5:08pm Top

>41 brightcopy:

No, I see your point. You may think I don't, but I really do. I think there's a difference between partial and buggy. Partial is, I think, good practice. Buggy is bad, especially if it continues for a while.

I'm going to release it very minimal--just a status box. Then perhaps we can talk through what else needs to be there. Mostly this is because I'd like to get something out before I go to sleep.

Sep 25, 2010, 7:21pm Top


A good example of partial is the contained in/by relationships. No deleting and still limited to the BETA group.

A good example of the buggy is touchstones. Stickiness problems lasted for a loooong time, and when it finally got some more attention that improvement actually had bugs of its own.

The real question about piecemeal is in what value a certain piece has. What you're talking about for bugs looks like it will have value. On the other hand, the contained in/by doesn't really have a lot of value due to the pieces left out (fixing your mistakes being the major one).

Sep 25, 2010, 7:41pm Top

I'll be right back - I have to go see if hell has frozen over! :p

Sep 25, 2010, 7:52pm Top

I don't think something like this would work for improvements. Many times a suggestion for improvement will have to be changed a lot before it should be implemented. It might be a suggestion for a small change that really should be generalized and applied more globally. Or maybe it should be tweaked and combined with a different but related suggestion. Sometimes the result of the discussion is such that what comes out was nowhere near the suggestion that went in. This tracking that Tim proposes is applied to threads, but a thread for the discussion of a new feature often spawns discussions about other related features and multitudes of options so that it makes little sense to attach a single status to a thread discussion.

In general, bug reports are much simpler.

Sep 26, 2010, 2:35am Top

>46 brightcopy:

It's limited to the beta group because we haven't been able to get the gears moving in the partner who is to provide us with content.

touchstones: Agreed. It's a good example of a bug that's larger than it seems, but yeah.

Sep 26, 2010, 2:38am Top

49> You have no deleting because you're waiting on a partner with content? ;)

Sorry, I had to say it! Anyway, I hope that puts into context what I'm talking about. Partial can be bad, and many times worse to the user than you. Like how we didn't know you had stopped working on contained stuff because of this partner/content issue. To us, it seemed like you just lost interest.

You need to hurry up and finish it so we can start bitching that it doesn't support short stories.

Sep 26, 2010, 2:45am Top

>49 timspalding:

We're waiting for the shipment of erasers!

Sep 26, 2010, 3:33am Top

He's talking to himself again!

Sep 26, 2010, 3:43am Top


Okay, here's a mockup. It's not "working." It's only on this page. Comments?


Sep 26, 2010, 4:05am Top

See, now this is what gets up peoples noses...

41 years since last change (from link above)

Pull yer finger out, Spalding!

Sep 26, 2010, 7:44am Top

Sep 26, 2010, 8:02am Top

We have a beta group?

Can I get access?

To add this this:


I recommend a OMG! for serious problem that break the site and make an important part of it unusable. Like no libraries are accessible for the database. Or the site is displaying in pig latin.

Sep 26, 2010, 8:53am Top

Looks excellent - who can set the short description, is that a staff thing? Probably better that way (to prevent short hyperventilating).

Sep 26, 2010, 1:17pm Top

56> Just mail Tim and he'll add you to the BETA group.

Sep 26, 2010, 7:58pm Top

No email necessary. Invite sent.

Sep 27, 2010, 8:20am Top


Where are the chorus girls and marching band though? :)

Group: Recommend Site Improvements

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Bug Tracking

This topic is part of LibraryThing's in-talk bug tracking.

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Bug (edit)

ID: 99229

Category: Miscellaneous pages

Assigned to all

Reported by AnnaClaire

Status: Closed by staff

Sep 29, 2010, 3:05am

9 years since last change

By timspalding

Status log

Reported. AnnaClaire (Sep 28, 2010, 12:06pm)

Closed by staff. timspalding (Sep 29, 2010, 3:05am)


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No touchstones

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