Bug reporting sucks, and how to fix it: Part 2

Bug report­ing sucks, it’s clear. How can it be bet­ter?

One idea that could alle­vi­ate a lot of the headaches of bug report­ing while pro­vid­ing increased func­tion­al­i­ty is a desk­top bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion. I won’t pre­tend to be famil­iar with any APIs that are made avail­able by Launch­pad, GNOME, Bugzil­la, Trac, etc., but I have to imag­ine that some exist. I also won’t pre­tend that I’m the first to have this idea — it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that it’s been attempt­ed and that those attempts have failed many times. But from where I’m sit­ting it seems like a near-per­fect solu­tion. Here are the ben­e­fits we’d get from a desk­top bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion:

  1. It can man­age your bug track­er logins.
    Imag­ine hav­ing all your bug track­er logins stored in a lit­tle data­base for you on your desk­top. More than that, imag­ine being able to reg­is­ter at a new bug track­er with just a few clicks using the per­son­al infor­ma­tion kept by the appli­ca­tion.
  2. It can iden­ti­fy the bug track­er used by a giv­en appli­ca­tion.
    This may actu­al­ly be a bit dif­fi­cult. It’s pos­si­ble that this could be done by hav­ing appli­ca­tions make this info avail­able in some way, although that puts a bur­den on appli­ca­tion devel­op­ers, and I assume there is no sys­tem cur­rent­ly in place for some­thing like this. It’d require some cre­ativ­i­ty.
  3. It can iden­ti­fy the pack­age in the appro­pri­ate bug track­er against which to file a bug.
    Launch­pad is prob­a­bly the bug track­er with which I’m most famil­iar, and there in par­tic­u­lar it seems to me to be plau­si­ble for a bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion to eas­i­ly find the pack­age against which a bug should be filed. How many peo­ple even know that Ubun­tu’s default PDF view­er is called “Evince,” or that its default image view­er is called “Eye of GNOME,” or espe­cial­ly that the Eye of GNOME pack­age is called “eog”? Imag­ine instead being able to choose from a list of run­ning appli­ca­tions and hav­ing the bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion do the rest.
  4. It can pro­vide bet­ter search for dupli­cates.
    Launch­pad only presents you with pos­si­ble dupli­cates after you’ve entered the title of your bug report. A desk­top appli­ca­tion, on the oth­er hand, could con­tin­ue to search for dupli­cates as you’re elab­o­rat­ing on the bug in your descrip­tion, updat­ing on-the-fly and pre­sent­ing you with rel­e­vant excerpts from the poten­tial dupli­cates’ descrip­tions. And if it has a high enough con­fi­dence in a match, it can ask “Are you sure?” before allow­ing you to sub­mit.
  5. It can col­lect and upload sys­tem logs.
    Not only could a desk­top appli­ca­tion attach basic sys­tem logs and hard­ware info, but it could cat­a­log which version(s) of your appli­ca­tion’s depencenc(y/ies) you have installed, poten­tial­ly sav­ing hours of work per bug.
  6. It can open an impromp­tu chat with oth­ers suf­fer­ing from the bug, or with pack­age main­tain­ers.
    By check­ing the online avail­abil­i­ty of oth­er bug suf­fer­ers or pack­age main­tain­ers, this appli­ca­tion could inte­grate with Empa­thy, Pid­gin, or IRC to put you in con­tact with them, if they choose to make them­selves avail­able.
  7. It can search exist­ing help avenues for poten­tial solu­tions to your prob­lem.
    Stack Exchange (Ask Ubun­tu, Super User), Quo­ra, Ubun­tu Forums — search­ing all of these places takes time, and might not even occur to a large num­ber of users. Search­ing these places on-the-fly as bugs are being described might pre­vent unnec­es­sary bugs from being filed in the first place, or direct bug suf­fer­ers toward tem­po­rary workarounds.
  8. It can look for PPAs that con­tain updat­ed pack­ages that might fix the bug you’re report­ing.
    Many times the appli­ca­tions in offi­cial repos­i­to­ries are out­dat­ed, and many times the most com­mon bugs have been fixed in more recent releas­es. Giv­en ade­quate safe­guards, this could be invalu­able for peo­ple des­per­ate for a solu­tion.
  9. It could inte­grate with the mes­sag­ing menu.
    “Some­one just marked one of your book­marked bugs as ‘Affects me too.’ They are avail­able for chat. Would you like to con­tact them?”
    “The bug ‘[bug descrip­tion here]’ has a new com­ment.”

I’m sure with my lim­it­ed imag­i­na­tion I’ve not even scratched the sur­face of what a desk­top bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion is capa­ble of. What else would you like to see in one? What would some of the pit­falls be? Is this prac­ti­cal or imprac­ti­cal, and why?