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Inspired by this question

we may want to better define which bug reports merit being a close reason for a question as off topic. We should not close questions as bug report only because a similar report exists on launchpad but the reason behind an issue may not be a bug.

There are far too many "bugs" on launchpad that are just reports on bad user settings. It is a cumbersome task for people to sort out real bugs from erroneous settings or non-reproducible issues to mark them as invalid. In many cases is is not possible to do so.

Therefore any bug without activity will expire after some time.

Indicator for such an invalid bug report may be a low rate of other users affected, little to no participation of other people in the bug comments, or lack of indicators where the bug actually sits. This also includes a lack of workarounds in bug comments.

When do we agree that a bug report is valid for Ask Ubuntu to close a question as off topic? What do we think the minimum requirements of such a bug report should be?

  • 2
    @Braiam this is not to question that AU is not the right place for bug tracking but rather that people have very different feelings on what a "bug" is. We don't help people if a question was closed as a bug report if their issue was something else. – Takkat Aug 9 '14 at 14:24
  • "We don't help people" yes, we do help them. Their issues and everyone else gets fixed if they report a bug where appropriated instead of coming here hoping we could get them fixed. We already discussed this from different angles and the consensus is "bugs are off topic". – Braiam Aug 9 '14 at 14:47
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    @Braiam so you advocate to close questions only because somebodyn claimed it was a bug? – Takkat Aug 9 '14 at 14:59
  • I voted to close, but I think it would be better to merge them in to one. – RobotHumans Aug 10 '14 at 13:30
  • "so you advocate to close questions only because somebodyn claimed it was a bug?" no, I advocate to close a question only because I claim is a bug. I use votes the way I believe is the correct, not because someone tell me to. – Braiam Aug 13 '14 at 17:35
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In the past I have attempted to draw distinction shouty bug reports (the things we closed as "not a real question") and a problem that might be a bug. They're clearly related and often the only distinction will be in their wording.

Before I plod any further, we do have to consider how the Ubuntu project works and how this feeds back into the bug tracking system. As I've said before:

Let's consider the following statements:

  • Bugs that aren't reported are unlikely to be fixed
  • Developers aren't checking Ask Ubuntu for bug reports

You're talking as if Launchpad and Ask Ubuntu users are these two completely separate user bases. But with the odd exception, we're Ubuntu users. The conversation isn't really about what's best for somebody shouting out their bug report, or what's most like another Stack Exchange site; it's about what's best for Ubuntu.

So if bugs clearly need to be reported, we need to be providing the user with the knowledge on how to push forward with their issue and submit a good bug report. That is often more than just closing with the generic "go to launchpad" error message. We should point out what package to report it under amongst other things.

But what if it has already been reported to some degree?

Something that is happening increasingly often is that people will suggest existing bug reports. They'll drop a link to Launchpad in the comments and move on. Seemingly before anybody can verify anything, the whole thing gets locked down as "This is that bug, go away and read it".

I got fairly angry when I saw this happening once. The bug report was awful but because it existed the reviewers thought that enough to close the question. They didn't read the question (which asked some fairly sensible things) and they didn't answer it.

Since then I've been fairly adamant that the best thing to do (both for Ubuntu and us) is to answer these questions. I'll use my previous post's example answer again:

This looks a lot like it might be Title of the bug report. It is responsible for this, that and the other and exists because of this explanation.

There currently aren't any was of fixing this but subscribe to the bug (link how) and you'll know as soon as it's been dealt with.

A good answer like this is a million times better than a just closing, or commenting and closing for a few reasons:

  • You've answered the post without shutting it down.
  • You now have a dupe target for the next thousand people who can't/don't/won't use Google.
  • You tell the user what to do when they get there rather than just telling them to go away.
  • The answer can be maintained by users rather than building up a stack of obsolete comments.

Even if there isn't a workaround, it's a constructive post. If you can give them a brief explanation on what's going on and explain how they help the report or just stay apprised of the bug status, you have helped them. You will probably help the bug too. And again, dupe target.

Before you start throwing rotten vegetables at me:

We have strong precedence of this approach working.

There was a bug in Apt that meant that the merging of various source lists would occasionally break. In 2011 we got a Q and A that dealt with it (as I've prescribed). In 2013 something happened that made it exhibit the issue a lot more but the same bug that was never properly fixed. Since then:

  • We've managed to close over 200 questions against it.
  • The combined views of all these duped questions lands at around 250,000.

Besides directly helping (which can't be done in every bug), it has shepherded from Google onto Ask Ubuntu (good for our SE overlords) but also moves people onto the tracker so they can take things further.

This isn't a broken window or a slippery slope and I couldn't give a damn how other sites handle this sort of thing, if done well, this approach really delivers.

  • I didn't use to agree with you 100% on this, but you've convinced me. Just a bit of clarification though, we still close case 1 posts right? When an issue is clearly a bug and needs to be reported? – Seth Aug 8 '14 at 23:34
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I'll keep it simple. Linux is community based. Help & support is community based. This includes;

  • improper settings
  • finding bugs
  • reporting bugs
  • searching for a possible bug or a bug
  • looking for a solution or a workaround for a bug (or common issue)
  • providing a solution or workaround for a bug (or common issue)

Closing topics, (questions) based on someone else's opinion only works to push people away from using AU as a community source of support and help.

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