I feel that we should continue to close questions which are or should be bug reports, but we should apply our policy less strictly to questions which are not bug reports but are related to bugs, or change our policy to allow such questions in at least some cases.
While reviewing recently, I noticed a number of questions that I felt really ought not to have been closed as bug reports being closed as bug reports. This prompted me to read some of the meta discussions about bug reports being off topic, and I found that those discussions in general, though with some differences of opinion, justified closing questions about bugs as off-topic in most cases. I recently talked about this in chat.
I found the policy embodied on meta (as in what actually happened, for the most part, on the site), somewhat stricter than the policy I would personally like us to have, which is to only close questions as bug reports if they were obviously intended as or should definitely be bug reports or feature requests and could not readily be interpreted any other way.
The reason I would like us to have this policy is that I think the only benefits of closing questions about bugs are that
- it motivates people to report bugs and make feature requests on Launchpad and prevents Ask Ubuntu being perceived as a bug-reporting service
- it might result in the deletion of obsolete questions
The former seems to me only to apply to questions which obviously should be bug reports or feature requests. I agree completely that we ought to close the question and direct people to the developers/maintainers in such cases, but when someone asks for a workaround for a known bug, there seems no benefit in redirecting the OP to the developers.
Deleting truly obsolete questions (to prevent visitors wasting their time) is certainly a benefit worth having, I think, but it depends heavily on
- the question actually being obsolete and useless to everyone
- the question actually being deleted
This is hard to predict. Many bugs are long-lived. I have been using a workaround for one bug for the last 3.5 years. An answer describing such a workaround would be useful for longer, than, say, a configuration option applying to a particular version of a desktop environment... Thinking about this benefit, we have three options
- Assume the above criteria will be met (the question will become useless, and closing it will cause it to be deleted), and close all questions about bugs
- Ask reviewers to assess whether the above criteria will be met, and close bug-related questions which are not likely to be useful in future (rather subjective)
- Give bug-related non-bug report questions the benefit of the doubt, and assume they will probably be useful, so leave them open (unless, perhaps, they have clearly already become obsolete).
I personally favour an err-on-the-side-of-leaving-open version of option 2., or better, option 3., while our current policy seems to be closest to option 1..
My own practice has been to interpret questions as not being bug reports when another interpretation seems better, and to not close bug-related questions that seem to me to be likely to benefit more from being answered than being closed and deleted. For example I recently advocated answering this question instead of closing it.
I think our policy favours closing this type of question, and I would prefer our policy to change to be more generous to such questions, while still closing questions that really should be bug reports or feature requests.