A million Fedora users, but how many file bugs?

Some estimates put the number of people using Fedora Core 6 at a million. So why is it that when I encounter reasonably obvious bugs, I very often tend to the the first person to have filed a bug about it?

In fact, Bugzilla reveals that 3,035 bugs have been reported against Fedora Core 6. I have to believe there are more bugs than that in Fedora Core 6, and surely each one of those million Fedora users out there has spotted at least one worth telling someone about. They may even have moaned about it to whoever was across from them or found a work-around. But did they file a bug report? To me the answer is obvious: in the majority of cases they did not.

Looking at it further, even though there are over 3,000 bugs reported against Fedora Core 6 I can see that no more than 1,682 people are reponsible for reporting them. That is, on average each person reported a couple of bugs.

A million users, but only 1,682 of them ran into bugs?

Now I know that some people will not be sufficiently technically-minded to report a useful bug, and that some bugs get discussed on the mailing lists instead of Bugzilla. Can that really explain it all?

So, if you run Fedora Core 6, and you haven’t filed a bug yet — and if, of course, you’re still reading — why not take a moment to remember that bug you ran into. The one that caused you extra work so you never got around to telling anybody once you found a work-around. Or the one that wasn’t quite annoying enough for you to tell anyone about.

If you reported it in Bugzilla, us developers would know to fix it, and everyone would benefit.

9 Responses to “A million Fedora users, but how many file bugs?”

  1. Tim Wegener says:

    Some reasons why people don’t submit bug reports:
    * average non-geek doesn’t know what a ‘bug report’ is
    * it takes quite a lot of time to gather info and try out things in order to submit a decent bug report
    * need to make a login in bugzilla, which means yet another password to remember
    * risk being told to RTFM or chastised for poor bug report
    * low reward-to-effort ratio in many cases

    If a project/organisation is keen to receive bug reports then they really need to lower the bar, and put the burden on themselves rather than the user.

    Perhaps a simple bug dumping app would be helpful, called ‘feedback’ or ‘complaints’ or ‘it’s not working’ or something obvious to non-geeks, The user would get a dialog with basically the pro forma for a new bugzilla bug. This would just dump the report via email or form for triaging at the project/organisation end. Perhaps this could be partially automated, e.g. dup detection.

    Anyway, this is not a complaint. I have been very impressed with the responsiveness to Fedora/Redhat bugs, especially from yourself! 🙂

    BTW, why no comment preview?

  2. tim says:

    Yes, the average non-geek is not used to being asked to submit bug reports. I think this is a challenge for free software: traditionally free software users have been those very people who are keen to improve the software. They were grateful that it existed at all and wanted to help out. As free software gained popularity this type of user was always going to become exceptional rather than the norm, and I think that is happening.

    I hope there is not too much risk of getting “RTFM” as a response to a poor bug report, but I suppose different developers handle them their own ways. 🙁

    The problem with a simple bug dumping app is “triage”: there just aren’t enough people who can do that job to go around as far as I can tell.

    No comment preview because I don’t know which WordPress plug-in to use for it. 🙂

  3. In reply to Tim W:

    > * low reward-to-effort ratio in many cases
    That’s inevitably true of contributing to free software.

    > * need to make a login in bugzilla, which means yet another password to remember
    I don’t mind that; I have Firefox remember all my passwords.

    > * it takes quite a lot of time to gather info and try out things in order to submit a decent bug report
    > * risk being told to RTFM or chastised for poor bug report
    I think this is the real problem. I have a question for projects that set the bug reporting bar high (such as Eclipse, whose Bugzilla recently started funneling reporters through two additional screens of nagging): Suppose I discover something that looks like a bug, but I am only willing to spend 5 minutes on it, not the 15-30 minutes it would take to properly triage the bug myself. What would they like me to do in those 5 minutes? Nothing?

    I think there is a lot of room for improvement in the bug workflow for free software projects. For example, there’s a point below which a bug report is not complete enough to be investigated by developers. However, it would still help to post the report somewhere so that future users can refer to it and the original reporter can be contacted if more information comes to light about the bug. Automated dup detection, or anything else that makes it easier for users to triage the bugs they find, would be another big help.

  4. Kurt Driver says:

    Tim, how are we supposed to report bugs? I ‘ve been to
    https://bugzilla.redhat.com/enter_bug.cgi
    It asks for a tag and a bug. What is a tag? I know a bug when I see one, but what do I call it on that page? And what in the world is eclipse-bugzilla? An 85 meg download which I thought was supposed to report bugs. No man page, nothing on the net, (it’s an environment) and I’m getting frustrated. Yum asks me to report a bug and I have been trying to figure out how. I seem unable to figure it out and I’m not new to linux I have been windows free since 99 (Red Hat 5.1). And, yet you ask, why we don’t report bugs. Thanks for you time, Kurt

  5. tim says:

    Kurt, starting from https://bugzilla.redhat.com/enter_bug.cgi do this:

    1. Click “Fedora”, as you are reporting a bug in a Fedora product

    2. In the list of Fedora products, click “Fedora”, ie. the one that says it is for bugs “related to the components of the Fedora distribution”.

    Then fill out the form. If you aren’t sure which parts need to be filled in, click on the “bug writing guidelines” link, or if you need more assistance than that click on the “Guided bug entry page” link.

  6. Kurt Driver says:

    Thank you.

  7. Jay says:

    (A ‘late’ comment)

    This is for Fedora 12 that I recently installed, alongside Ubuntu 9.04 and Windows XP:

    The ABRT (Automatic Bug Reporting Tool, “abrt-gui”) has made picking up and reporting Bugs to Fedora Bugzilla much easier. It auto-generates a traceback & checks for duplicates of the problem, if any. However this often requires download of many additional ‘debug’ packages that are often of MB size download, a possible dissuader to reporting a Bug.

    Nonetheless I have so far reported 3 Bugs in Fedora 12 and a few before (without ABRT) in Fedora 10 and 11. This is a useful way for users who are non-technical/not programmers to contribute.

  8. bobpoljakov says:

    another late comment…
    I agree that filing bugs is a useful way to contribute, that’s why I’m so disappointed because I’ve got no responses for six months
    so my question is, who cares with those filed bugs, why should users file those bugs, if no one responses, and if the developers have no time for help and fix, why they say they need more users to file bugs.

  9. tim says:

    Usually it is the case that the developers do care about fixing the bugs (that’s why they do what they do), but sometimes their share of packages for which they are responsible means they are not able to attend to all bugs in a timely fashion.

    It doesn’t mean they won’t fix the bug, it just means there are other bugs with higher priority.