When bugtracking systems are fences, not bridges
Today, in my quest for a media center solution that suits me, I started fixing some issues with running Elisa on CentOS 5. Elisa looks very interesting in the sense that it is written in python, it is a relative young project and it is esthetically pleasing (more than one of the other projects I investigated). And soon in RPMforge for CentOS (albeit not without issues yet).
The only downside at the moment is that it does not do TV viewing from a screengrabber or MPEG encoder card, so it is not the replacement I was looking for.
The Elisa project is using Launchpad for bugtracking and project management and so I created an account to send a few patches. I also took the time to see how Launchpad worked feature-wise and while doing that searched for some of my own projects that are part of Ubuntu. Launchpad looks nice, with a lot of attention to workflow and lowering the barrier for people to report issues and work together.
However what I found was a few bugreports, some for known issues and some for new issues I haven't heard of. Now the sad part is that nobody contacted me (upstream) regarding these issues. And nobody was fixing them either, let alone commenting on them.
Comparing this with Debian bugtracking system, I was notified by the maintainer when the package went into Debian, get all reported bugs send to me (upstream) and I always took care of fixing them and marking the bug number in the ChangeLog. Not so for Ubuntu, and to be fair, not with Fedora, OpenSUSE or Gentoo either.
Not only is this a lost opportunity, it is a bad service to both upstream and the user itself. Without a bugtracking system, users would directly contact upstream. Now with Launchpad users report their bugs and nothing is done with them. Not by the maintainer and not by (unaware) upstream. And they are not being send to Debian (their upstream) either.
And this is not specific to Launchpad per se, I have similar remarks for Fedora's bugzilla or OpenSUSE. I have no clue what bugs are reported regarding my tools, nor have I been contacted to be involved. I should be commending Debian for doing what is right and expected. Maybe it is the responsibility of the maintainer to communicate with upstream, but Debian's automated system clearly works much better in that respect than any of the other distributions. The process takes care of that.
So there is a lot we, as a community, can improve by connecting users to upstream, or rather, by connecting bugtracking systems to upstream for the benefit of all.
PS I for one am interested to subscribe to dstat, unoconv, mrepo and dconf bugreports for Fedora, OpenSUSE, gentoo and others if I knew how to do that.
Update: I changed the title because bugtracking systems are not being fenced, they are fences.