Bugzilla as a discussion forum

Jack Tanner ihok at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 22 22:17:14 UTC 2004

Gervase Markham wrote:
> mpt has some very wise (in my view; but then he agrees with me, so I 
> would say that) comments about how making it easier to have discussions 
> in public Bugzillas is a bad idea.
> "As a result, over the past few years several of Mozilla’s best 
> programmers have begun to ignore most or all of the e-mail they receive 
> from Bugzilla, for the good reason that they’d rather be fixing bugs 
> than wading through Bugzilla discussions. The correct response from 
> Bugzilla’s maintainers would have been to make Bugzilla harder to use as 
> a discussion forum, but instead they made it easier..."

I tend to agree with mpt, but not on this. The problem isn't that the 
Bugzilla UI affords discussions; the problem is the signal/noise ratio. 
Worse, mpt makes the assumption that the s/n ratio got worse when the 
discussion UI became easier to use. In fact, it could've done the 
opposite -- good comments got are (and were) exactly as easy to post as 
bad comments. (It would be interesting to check this empirically.)

Two approaches could be used to address the s/n problem:
1) make it more difficult to post noise, but easy to post signal, and
2) make the signal more recognizable.

The latter could be accomplished by, say, visually distinguishing posts 
from important stakeholders (e.g., known developers @mozilla.org and 
elsewhere, the original reporter, etc.).

The former could be accomplished by 1) requiring a valid e-mail address 
of all Bugzilla users, 2) requiring that only really special people can 
turn off bugmail (e.g., see list above), and 3) requiring that only 
people CC'ed on the bug can post to the discussion. The hypothesis here 
is that high-discussion, high-noise bugs (e.g., the MNG fiasco) would 
then automatically generate so much mail to all discussants, that the 
social cost of posting me-too's and other noise would rise quickly.


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