Bugzilla, YUI, and other things.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Forgotten User

So there is the persona page, the list of "users" that the bugzilla community recognizes. However, there is at least one set of users that has grabbed my attention recently. Mostly because they have been in the IRC the most recently. That group of users is what I am calling the new Bugzilla admin group. These are the guys who:
  • Have never installed apache
  • Have never installed mysql
  • Have never installed perl
  • Have never installed or admined bugzilla
It seems like the Bugzilla community has more or less given up on helping these guys and figured "eh, let them come to the IRC channel" (understandably so, which I will explain in a bit). Unfortunately I think a lot of these users don't even know how to get into the IRC (just a guess). I think by lowering the barrier of entry to installing Bugzilla we can drastically increase the number of people who use Bugzilla. The problem (and reason why many of the Bugzilla developers have given up on this part) is that setting up apache, mysql, perl really isn't the responsibility of Bugzilla developers. It really makes me wish there was an easier way of doing it. At first I thought, "Hey, I write installers for work, I'll do it for Bugzilla" the problem is then I have to maintain it every time windows/osx/linux changes or does something funny. Mkanat basically said it needs to be fully automated, which seems to be the best case. So lets say people didn't have a hard time installing apache, mysql, and perl, then how could we make setting up Bugzilla easier. I'm not sure if I know the answer either. Maybe some nice System admin will figure out a good way of doing it.

Until then, people who want to try out Bugzilla for the first time. I salute you!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fieldsets, printing and firefox don't get along

There are few things that have given me headaches like fieldsets and printing in firefox. We've basically removed all fieldsets from our code to take care of issues we've been having field content being cut off by firefox not printing fieldsets correctly. I know i should file a bug against firefox, but it seems to not be so bad in firefox 3.0 and it's easier to just fix it in our code than file the bug... yeah i know, bad me.

Anyway, if anyone happens to find this page, yes, firefox 2.0 also has printing problems. Bug 234015 says it fixed the problem, but i've got at least one page where it doesn't. If a firefox developer reads this and says, "HEY YOU! file that bug, then maybe i will". First i'll say, well i wanted to ask about it in the IRC channel but i couldn't find the irc channel. Anyway, it's annoying. Fieldset != my_friend

The search for the "Normal" bugzilla User

So it turns out Bugzilla is more or less in a formative stage for 4.0. There are a lot of bugs with the 4.0 as the target milestone. But there are a few features that are high up on the list.

By far my favorite is bug 344619. Which is supposed to be as nebulous as it seems. It could be read as "Make bugzilla user friendly".

This is a task which some people spend their careers trying to make happen and is a task which might never be done. However, the hardest part as a mozilla UI person mentioned is finding the Normal user.

There was an attempt to make some Bugzilla personas, but it is clear that these are not flushed out at the time of this writing and (turns out they were flushed out, you had to click on the links... but) not very useful in helping to find the "Normal User" other than giving them names.

So the question becomes who is the "Normal" Bugzilla user and how do we design to them? I'm not sure I know that answer yet, but it seems clear that part of my task as the Bugzilla UE lead is to determine who they are. The hard part is there are some huge disconnects, mainly:
  1. The stuff that developers think are important
  2. The stuff (i think) usability people might think are important
  3. The stuff that people I talk to think are important
  4. The stuff that I think a normal user might think are important
What's the lesson to learn? I need to do some formative research to determine what people actually need. Too bad the most important resource in doing formative research is time, something I have little of. For now I'm going to be happy with moving stuff from PRACA back to Bugzilla and helping with the stuff I thought a normal user might want.

I might start writing full Bugzilla personas and then posting them to this blog, but we'll see. Writing personas isn't as easy as one might think.

The other task, continue to look at other bugzilla instances and just chatting to whomever i can talk to. It is by no means scientific, but at least it is some feedback, which is better than the zero feedback I've currently got!

Oh also: http://eclipsewebmaster.blogspot.com/2008/02/mozilla-getting-feedback-from-its-users.html
Go team Venture!

Better Comment/Thread support

So as I use BMO more and more I've noticed that 90% of the work that is done is via the comments. This isn't at all how we use it for our NASA work, but after talking to a co-worker if the comments system supported more threading, inline images and linking to threads it might be useful to both. I also talked to some guys at Mozilla and it seems they share this need as well, well at least the UI guys do :P.

It seems clear that different groups have different needs (duh), but that's another thread, I'm going to focus on the threads for this entry.

So what would we like to see? Well based on discussions here is what i could come up with:
  1. Actual threads, not just reply to's, maybe with twiddles to open and close the threads.
  2. Linking to attachments, especially when people approve or decline them.
  3. Inline attachments (images mostly). This is REALLY helpful for designers
  4. Syntax and code highlighting. Really useful for developers, hopefully we can use a plug-in method
However, as a mozilla member suggested, we don't want to turn Bugzilla into a strange form of a message board. Things to think about.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Suggestions for Bugzila 4.0 part 1

There are lots of things that could use some improvement in Bugzilla, I think everyone is in agreement with that. But the question is what do I work on first?

This is the first part of an unknown number of postings about what I and others would like to see in the next version of Bugzilla and hopefully I can update this post with the bug numbers that match the enhancements. Some of these are enhancements that we have done over here at NASA and want to give back to the Bugzilla community.

  1. Make the homepage useful for signed in users (maybe everyone!) Bug 130835
  2. Make a user preference for where comments go Bug 398473 and Bug 371645
  3. New Reports Widget Bug 412685
  4. Menu for saved Searches with filter Bug 324402
  5. Menu for Admin prefs Bug 400674
  6. Option for HTML email that presents information in a more readable form Bug 65477
  7. AJAX search suggestions in the cc field and reassign field, similar to a web-based email client (which i think is in 3.2 already)
  8. The ability to have inline images in comments. Bug 252782

Other than that my hope is to have features that will help get User Experience people more involved with bug tracking and fixes. I'm less sure how we can do this and perhaps some UI folks have some suggestions.

Bugzilla 3.2 patches and polish

The next version of Bugzilla has a few UI improvements that I helped to implement. One of the improvements was revamping the page that is used to edit bugs, aka edit_bugs.html.tmpl Bug 374020

The last part of fixing-up the edit page for version 3.2 is removing the knob. Yes that's right, no more knob in Bugzilla. For those of you not familiar with it, the knob is the small area at the bottom of a bug that lets you change the status of the bug. In previous versions of Bugzilla it was also used to assign the bug to people. Once I am done with this last patch the only thing close to the commit button will be the the comments. I think everyone in the Bugzilla community will be happy to see it go. So... RIP Knob!

Lastly once I'm done with this change to the knob, I'm going to start doing a Usability QA and filing some bugs with the polish keyword. My plan is to do a heuristic evaluation of the latest version of the code. Hopefully this will reveal some easy things to fix for the latest version of Bugzilla.

I hope to post the evaluation results to this blog along with links to various Bugzilla bugs filed based on the results.