A modest little change I'd like to see in bug reporting systems

July 22, 2015

It is my opinion that sometimes little elements of wording and culture matter. One of those little elements of culture that has been nagging at me lately is the specifics of how Bugzilla and probably other bug reporting systems deal with duplicate bug reports; they are set to 'closed as a duplicate of <other bug>'.

On the one hand, this is perfectly accurate. On the other hand, almost all of the time one of my bug reports is closed out this way I wind up feeling like I shouldn't have filed it at all, because I should have been sufficiently industrious to find the original bug report. I suspect that I am not alone in feeling this way in this situation. I further suspect that feeling this way serves as a quiet little disincentive to file bug reports; after all, it might be yet another duplicate.

Now, some projects certainly seem to not want bug reports in the first place. And probably some projects get enough duplicate bug reports that they want to apply pressure against them, especially against people who do it frequently (although I suspect that this isn't entirely going to work). But I suspect that this is not a globally desirable thing.

As a result, what I'd like to see bug reporting systems try out is simply renaming this status to the more neutral 'merged with <other bug>'.

Would it make any real difference? I honestly don't know; little cultural hacks are hard to predict. But I don't think it would hurt and who knows, something interesting could happen.

(In my view, 'closed as duplicate' is the kind of thing that makes perfect sense when your bug reporting system is an internal one fed by QA people who are paid to do this sort of stuff efficiently and accurately. In that situation, duplicate bugs often are someone kind of falling down on the job. But this is not the state of affairs with public bug reporting systems, where you are lucky if people even bother to jump through your hoops to file at all.)

Written on 22 July 2015.
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Last modified: Wed Jul 22 23:48:16 2015
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