I always made the link to the bug report an answer, but I've also seen people adding that information as comment to the question. We probably should agree on one way to deal with such questions.

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10 Answers

up vote 26 down vote accepted

So far the general method has been to comment on the question informing everyone this is a known bug then close the question as off-topic if you know the bug report that the person is asking about.

This site isn't designed to handle bugs - Launchpad, or the respective software's bug tracker is, and as such and workarounds or patches should end up on the tracker.

We can't answer a question if it's a bug, the built in reporting tools in Ubuntu do a much better job at collecting the information that developers will need to fix a bug and this is a Question and Answer site, not a bug tracker.

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Yeah this is what I've been doing, it's kind of sucky, I feel like people are using the site as a fancy search engine for launchpad. But the "bug report" ratio doesn't feel as bad as when we launched. –  Jorge Castro May 3 '11 at 15:35
    
@Marco - OK, that's what I'll do from here on in. Seems to make sense to me as it: a) provides info; and b) may reduce bug tracker quasi-spam. –  boehj May 5 '11 at 17:11
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What I find challenging is that it isn't immediately obvious to a lay user when the problem is the system and when it is the user, and closing questions as "off topic" feels kind of hostile to someone who had a genuine question ("Why is this happening?") It'd be nice to find a kinder way to point to the bug. –  Amanda May 16 '11 at 2:59
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@Amanda It may seem harsh at first. However, I've begun linking to this topic, as well as making sure the bug is also linked in the comments explaining that it has been closed due to a bug. –  Marco Ceppi May 16 '11 at 11:45
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How about explicitly tagging them as bug instead of off-topic when closing it? –  Oxwivi May 16 '11 at 18:09
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@Oxwivi That doesn't get them out of the system. If it can't be answered then tagging or not, it needs to be closed so users and the system knows that the question isn't within the realm of this site –  Marco Ceppi May 16 '11 at 18:20
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Not the tags like the discussion tag used in this question, but instead of [closed] it should be [bug]. –  Oxwivi May 18 '11 at 18:13
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@JorgeCastro, maybe we can get <ubuntu.com/community/report-problem not to recommend people come here to report problems? It could say, instead, they should come here with questions but not bugs... –  poolie Feb 20 '12 at 6:11
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Sometimes the question can be presented as a bug, but can also be answered in a constructive way that can point out how the behaviour that motivated the question can be understood, modified, controlled or avoided. For example, askubuntu.com/q/133058/711 could be filed as a bug, but that bug would probably get very little attention from my team (because the system is doing what it's supposed to do, really, so unless we decide to invest time and effort on this aspect of usability before others, it'll just languish). Answering it in the way I did is probably best for the user. –  Chipaca May 8 '12 at 18:11
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I know the answer has already been decided, but I would like to elaborate my comment, on Marco's answer, and explain it.

Instead of coldly dismissing questions related to bug reports, I want to suggest that instead of [closed] appearing on the question, it should be [bug] with relevant link to the bug report.

It will also be more informative to users with the same or similar issues.

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My way would be to put in as much information as I can about the bug with at least 1 link to a bugreport. Then flag it for moderation.

Basically it is how I ended up on askubuntu: I found a solution to a problem and the way the answer was given made me register (concise and to the point with more than enough information I needed to fix it). If it was just a link I would have clicked and never even think twice about the site I ended up on.

Example

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Answer with a link to the bug report, and a short explanation of how you found the bug report (if it was easy to find, teach the asker to fish) or how the bug explains the symptoms in the question (if it was not obvious at the asker's level that that bug would be relevant).

Ideally, explain how to work around the bug in the user's specific situation.

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Maybe the user does not know how to work around a bug, but someone else does, who will come later, finding a closed question. So do you vote against closing the question. –  user unknown Feb 3 '12 at 16:56
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@userunknown Yes, I'm against closing the question. If you do, someone else will come along and ask it again. You also prevent answers explaining it's not a bug after all, or a different bug. –  Gilles Feb 5 '12 at 17:44
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Known bug is a too vague category. The bug trackers handle multiple things, from segmentation fault over ugly layout, from feature requests to incompatibilities many things.

The bug-related questions can be about different things, from solving a singular problem, resulting from such a bug, solving the bug, searching for an alternative product without the bug, workarounds for the bug, recovering from bad state from a bug and maybe more.

Just closing as [bug] is the 'I got a hammer - where is the nail?' method.

Maybe the user has already reported the bug, but it's not enough, maybe he needs instant help. The bugtrackers are full of open bugs, which isn't helpfull for the users.

Don't close.

Closing every question which is related to a bug is undifferentiated and shouldn't be done. Helpful answers are circumvented that way.

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If the person has reported a bug and it's not enough how can we even help? –  Jorge Castro Feb 3 '12 at 19:04
    
This is a spekulative question. There is no one-fits-all answer, but sometimes, there might be an alternative way to solve a problem, there might be a hint, how to install a previous, unbuggy version, there might be a workaround and so on. I have such a nearly one year old question which was closed yesterday: askubuntu.com/q/33194/10068 . I only got advices which didn't work, but I could at least document how to verify file permissions in an efficient way, and maybe some proposal works for others. But a closed question never looks inviting. –  user unknown Feb 3 '12 at 20:01
    
you're almost certainly going to get a better shot of having that problem fixed by filing a bug with Mozilla than we can having an open question for a year that no one knows the answer to. –  Jorge Castro Feb 3 '12 at 20:05
    
I didn't get a better shot. –  user unknown Feb 3 '12 at 21:02
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Workarounds should be posted in bug reports. How to install older versions, or whether alternatives exist... well, make it a new question I'd say. Maybe this should be part of the canned comments we are leaving in such cases? Anything else will lead to long conversations in comments and that's what we are trying to avoid. –  htorque Feb 4 '12 at 0:44
    
It still a question that virtually no way of getting an accepted answer, until it is fixed in a upgrade, then you answer your own question with "It fixed itself in the upgrade" a year later. It frustrates everyone trying to answer the question, no one gets credit for answering the question, and people get down-voted for even trying. A bug question is a loose-loose, and turns into an endless teaching session. –  Mateo Apr 18 '12 at 23:25
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Have another state for questions: that of "bug-reported", as a red circle (as opposed to orange - unanswered, grey --answered, and green -- accepted). This would mean that these question would not show up as an unanswered question searchbox, but would still be searchable.

If this were linked to the reported bug, then once it is fixed, the answer can be circled green.

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I think you are over-looking something when you assume "the built in reporting tools in Ubuntu do a much better job at collecting the information that developers will need to fix a bug and this is a Question and Answer site, not a bug tracker."

Sometimes the answer to the question is to help a person figure out how to file a bug report. In other words, the standard reporting tools are not always a good fit to the problem.

As an example consider a question where a person's system is dead from an apparent ACPI problem. Are the standard built-in collection/reporting tools currently a good fit for that?

I realize you don't want to become a site that focuses on debugging. But I think there is middle ground where assistance can still be useful.

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I disagree. Having a question that only addresses the precise circumstances of the OP is a net negative to the site. Questions like "I have a problem with foo" should be dupe-redirected to a canonical question addressing that specific type of problem. –  Jacob Johan Edwards May 6 '12 at 20:40
    
Well, if you want to redirect to a "canonical question" for a type of problem fine. Where are they? (In particular, where is the standard redirect for ACPI?) My point was sort of to ask just where do these canonical questions come from? Sometimes you have nothing to redirect to and end up building what may eventually morph into canonical question. No? –  irrational John May 6 '12 at 20:46
    
Yes, but if you find yourself reanswering the same question -- as is happening a lot on this site (search apt-get install -f) -- something is wrong. –  Jacob Johan Edwards May 6 '12 at 21:36
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I agree that bugs do not belong on Ask Ubuntu, even if Launchpad is not friendly to non-technical users for reporting bugs. The Ubuntu Forums should be the backup option for diagnosing bugs not a Q&A site.

However while I think individual questions should be closed, I think that the best response to these questions as a whole should be trying to create more canonical answers on how do identify, diagnose and report possible bugs within specific areas of functionality/hardware/software/etc. Most users are able to identify that they are having a sound problem, or a video problem, or an input problem, or a problem with unity, but beyond that identifying the specific package to run apport on, and knowing where else to look for information that can assist in filing the bug can be a mystery (the ReportingBugs page is useful if you actually know the package name or have a window you can click on, but for bugs in background services related to hardware this is rarely the case).

For example "How to diagnose fan problems" is already on the list of desired canonical questions. I would like to see more topics like this, both to help users who need to file bugs, and also for non-bug questions that would benefit from the the user knowing what information is relevant and what information isn't. I believe that this question from today exemplifies the types of questions we should be answering for (and encouraging be asked by) users potentially encountering bugs.

Even if new users' other bug-related questions are closed, they at least leave more knowledgeable, with a positive experience, and with the tools to properly report their bug (or contribute to an existing report). And more importantly, Ask Ubuntu gets a widely re-usable, searchable how-to.

At first thought, such questions appear to violate the FAQ as being too broad, but I think that the scope could be kept concise by only aiming to answer what the first few steps should be in narrowing down where to look for diagnostic information and how to determine if something is a bug or not.

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I just noticed this extra documentation page which is slightly more useful than the main one (wiki.ubuntu.com/Bugs/FindRightPackage) but I still think we should aim to have more answers describing where to look/how to get more diagnostic information. I think they would be useful both both those who are experiencing bugs and also those who aren't experiencing bugs but need to know how to diagnose a problem. –  adempewolff May 27 '12 at 18:50
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How is the noob supposed to know to follow the link to the bug report and elevate the status, as in click "this affects me to"? Or to use the tools available? Judging from the recent graphics and speed issues in Precise, there are bugs that (probably) affect many people but are still tagged as only affecting "1 user" in launchpad.

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How about sending threads that describe bugs to Launchpad?

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We do, you usually we leave a comment with instructions on how to post that stuff on launchpad. –  Jorge Castro Sep 18 '12 at 20:35
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