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Reconsidering Ubuntu bug-filing redirection


I think we should reconsider Launchpad's bug-filing redirection for
Ubuntu a little bit.  While it's serviceable and there are good reasons
for it to exist, it's also a somewhat frequent source of confusion and
annoyance, often directed at the Launchpad team.

== Background ==

Ubuntu gets a lot of incoming bug reports, some percentage of which are
low-quality.  apport was developed partly to try to improve the quality
of incoming bugs by gathering more relevant information about them from
the user's system, either when the bug is filed (using "ubuntu-bug" or
"apport-bug") or after the fact (using "apport-collect").

Furthermore, at one point the bulk of incoming bugs were apparently
filed against Ubuntu directly (without a package name), making life
especially difficult for bug triagers.

About ten years ago [1] [2], Launchpad was changed so that, if people
try to file a bug on Ubuntu directly via the web, then they're instead
redirected to https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ReportingBugs which
explains how to file a bug using the appropriate tools.  Some way down,
this explains how to file bugs manually and bypass this redirection.

Members of Ubuntu's bug supervisor team [3], including Ubuntu
developers, are exempted from this redirection; if I remember correctly,
this was on the grounds that we should know what makes an effective bug
report and that it would otherwise be too annoying for us.

At the time, this change was described as an experiment.  I think it's
worth having a look at this and seeing if we can tweak it to reduce some
sources of frustration.

[1] https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/ubuntu-devel-announce/2009-September/000624.html
[2] https://bugs.launchpad.net/launchpad/+bug/423862
[3] https://launchpad.net/~ubuntu-bugcontrol

== Problem ==

The fact that Ubuntu developers are exempted from this redirection means
that we also don't experience the frustration caused by it.  Some
samples I've found over the years:

  https://bugs.launchpad.net/launchpad/+bug/1847647 (first part)

Anecdotally, one thing I've noticed is that the people coming to the
Launchpad team on IRC and the like with complaints about this are often
reasonably experienced free software people who just aren't particularly
plugged into Ubuntu's processes.  Their bug reports are often valuable,
and not the sort of thing that a hundred other people are going to
report anyway, but they just can't figure out how to file them without

The information about how to file a bug manually is deliberately [4]
buried deep in a wall of text on
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ReportingBugs.  I find it very easy to
see how people could read that multiple times and still miss it (indeed,
over the years I've spoken to several people who have done exactly

I understand what we were trying to do by introducing this redirection,
but I think it goes slightly too far.

[4] https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/ubuntu-users/2012-August/262951.html

== Suggestions ==

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/QATeam/Specs/IncreaseApportAdoption has various
approaches that were considered.  I'd like to say up-front that I don't
think we should do things like expanding the set of people who bypass
the redirection based on karma: this isn't because I object on principle
to making decisions based on Launchpad karma, but because letting more
people bypass the confusing UX is really just papering over the
confusing UX and doesn't solve the underlying problem.

I think we could consider other approaches in the Launchpad UI to give
people a nudge towards good local bug-reporting tools while being
slightly less user-hostile to people who know what they're doing about
bugs in general but not about Ubuntu's processes.  I have two specific
independent ideas that I'd like to submit for consideration:

 * Rearrange the UX for reporting bugs on Ubuntu as a non-member of
   ~ubuntu-bugcontrol so that it presents the reference to ReportingBugs
   and the advice to use ubuntu-bug in a way that's hard to ignore but
   that can still be skipped.  For example, much like the way we
   currently have a first step of the bug-filing form that presents
   people with possible duplicates, we could have another step that
   guides people towards using ubuntu-bug; they'd only get the full form
   if they skip that as well.

   (I'd suggest that a good test for whether this has been done well is
   if we can tolerate removing the special case for members of
   ~ubuntu-bugcontrol.  It isn't a great sign when we have to exempt
   developers from something partly because it's too annoying.)

 * Remove the redirection entirely from /ubuntu/+source/PACKAGE/+filebug
   pages (though retaining the bug reporting guidelines displayed
   there), keeping it only on /ubuntu/+filebug.  This would still serve
   the purpose of stemming the flow of low-value bug reports that don't
   specify a package name, while making it easier for people who at
   least have some idea which bit of software is going wrong.

Colin Watson                                       [cjwatson@xxxxxxxxxx]

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