Why we need to Radically Change Bugzilla, Part 1


Since April 7th, 1998, bugzilla.mozilla.org has served Mozilla. Over 657,000 Bugs have been filed in the multiple products and components covered in the vast database. Over these 13+ years, Bugzilla’s users have been divided into two groups.

  1. End-users: Those people who have found what they think is a bug in a Mozilla product. These may or may not be legitimate bugs in the product and the likelihood that the original reporter will ever reply on their bug is unfortunately low. However, many very real bugs are reported by general end-users, this is a very very important function of BMO.
  2. Developers: Mozilla employees, contributors, etc. Those who actually are working on the Code of Mozilla products. They submit patches, they review changes, etc. They use Bugzilla for both reporting bugs, and for reviewing new changes and features to a product.

These two groups are both essential to the Mozilla ecosystem. Without end-users reporting bugs, software quality would tank, because lets face it, there is simply no possibility that Mozilla’s QA team can catch every bug. The more eyes on the software, the better. Without developers, well, there would be very little change going on in Mozilla.

These two groups use BMO in very different ways. That is why we have the UNCO and NEW bug resolutions. Developers and established community members can file a bug as NEW without having to go through the confirmation process. End-users submitting a first-time bug need to have the bug double-checked and confirmed by another person before it changes state. Developers usually know right where they want their bug to be, end-users often need help navigating Bugzilla’s complex interface. Triagers exist to help end-users, we hardly need to do anything to help developers.

While there have been attempts to improve Bugzilla, the main problem is, Bugzilla is broken. Yes, it is busted, broke, shot, however you want to say it. Now, before you start hyperventilating until your pocket-protector breaks, let me clarify. Bugzilla is broken for end-users. For developers it is an extremely powerful tool. A painfully complicated tool from time to time, but it is a wonderful tool that will continue to serve Mozilla for many years. The recent upgrade to Bugzilla 4.0 makes it much easier to use and quite a bit better. However, for end-users it is a broken tool that only serves to confuse, intimidate and create bad feelings ( I won’t give specific example to protect the innocent, but I’m sure you’ve all seen this).

I think that the best overall solution to this problem is two Bugzillas. One to be dedicated to Developers, the other for End-Users. Yes, this is a very very complicated solution. However, I don’t believe it is possible to “fix” bugzilla in its current state. It is being used for things it wasn’t ever meant to be used for and right now is juggling being an end-user support site and a developer bug database. This brings quite a few benefits to end-users, as well as triagers, developers and QA. While it may seem like too large of a solution to the problem, at this point I think we are standing between major changes, or seeing BMO become unusable and resulting decrease in software quality. I’ll flesh this idea out more over the next week, so please bear with me and tolerate my insanity. I think we still have a few more years of use out of bugzilla, but we do need to seriously change how we handle bugs.