b.android.com: It's Full of Stars

Jeff Gilfelt (a.k.a., readyState) posted a profane tweet a few hours back, complaining about a comment Dianne Hackborn made a few months ago:

Lots of votes for bugs just makes me want to ignore the bug. Just saying. I hate bug voting. Drives me crazy.

I certainly cannot speak for Ms. Hackborn, but I can understand her position. To paraphrase (and sanitize) Mr. Gilfelt:

Do Android developers asking people to go up-vote issues give a flying fig about the developer community? Sometimes I wonder.

To be clear, we need a way to get bug reports to the core Android developers. However, I have long felt that b.android.com was not a good tool for that purpose. While the intention is certainly noble, and the desire to “dogfood” is not completely insane, this issue tracker has failed on a few broad-brush areas:

  • Never use a technology that offers end-user features that you don’t intend to honor (e.g., voting on issues)
  • Never use a technology that looks like the system of record if it isn’t the system of record (i.e., the real issue tracker is internal)
  • Never use a technology that prevents you from explaining the use of the technology (e.g., nothing on the b.android.com page that explains what issues belong here, and from whom)
  • Never use a technology that requires a culture if you will not cultivate that culture (e.g., excessive debates in comments on issue trackers turning them into virtual discussion boards)

Various Android developers have not been helping the situation. “Star this issue” campaigns are one example. First, they don’t really work — only 21 of the top 100 issues have been addressed in a release, and 40 out of the top 400 (note: does not count “FutureRelease”). Second, they drive a bunch of “me too” and related drivel in the comments, which will simply cause interested parties to tune out just to cut down the noise. My guess is that is what is causing Ms. Hackborn to be frustrated — not the votes themselves, but the chaff that comes along with them. Certainly I have dropped out of various issues, some of significant importance (e.g., optional permissions), due to this.

In the fullness of time, Google’s choice to use a Google Code issue tracker for bug reporting appears to me to be an unfortunate choice. That being said, I can’t fault engineers who dislike the way some community members have elected to try to exploit that issue tracker.

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