How to Triage Mozilla Bugs

Once in a while, I get emails from users that are willing to help out with the Calendar Project. Often, these users are not developers but would still like to help. If you believe it or not, there is nothing easier than that! All you need is a cup of coffee (or any mind-soothing drink), a Bugzilla account and a nightly build of the Mozilla product of your choice. I’ll assume you’ll be using Thunderbird and Lightning for now :-)

If you’d like more information on triaging bugs, please also check out the QMO’s Unconfirmed Bug Triage Project.

Getting The Prerequisites

Coffee should be easy. If you don’t have one at home, I’m sure you’ll find one nearby.

Now you need to create a Bugzilla account, unless of course you already have one. Its a very quick signup process, but be sure to pick an email address that you don’t mind sharing with the public, it will be shown on each bug you comment on.

Next, download the latest nightly of Lightning. To use it, you must download a fitting Thunderbird version as mentioned on the Lightning nightly page. Specifically for Lightning¬† you should use the Lightning version that fits to the next major release of Thunderbird. For example, at the time of writing this post the next major Thunderbird version to be released is Thunderbird 3.1, so you want to download Lightning 1.0b2pre. Make sure you create a new profile for testing, I’ll explain more below.

In the next part of this post, I’ll explain what there is to triage. It makes sense to start small, just asking for more information can be very helpful for us. If you want do dive in deeper, then you may want to test on your own. Later on, I’ll tell you how to stay up to date with new bugs filed so you can quickly assist bug reporters and how to make life easier when processing bugs.

Asking for more Information

This is the easiest step you can take. To do this, you don’t even need a nightly version yourself, although it might be helpful for easy-to-reproduce bugs if you want to check yourself.

It doesn’t work! Help!

In the worst case, people file bugs like “Your application doesn’t work. Its very obvious. Please tell me what to do”. Now what should we do with that! What version is the reporter using? What operating system? Most importantly: what exactly isn’t working? If you see a bug like this, you need to be asking exactly these questions. If the bug is about Lightning, then we need to know:

  • What Thunderbird version is the user using, on which operating system?
  • What Lightning version does he or she have installed?
  • If more extensions are involved (for example, the Provider for Google Calendar), which extension version is being used?

Some reporters turn out to be using older versions of the Product. Users tend to use stable versions of software and if something fails they report a bug. While this might work for Products with many developers, this doesn’t work for smaller projects like Lightning. Others use the latest version in their Linux distribution, which may turn out to be over 2 years old. In any case, it helps to ask: “Does this still happen with the latest Lightning nightly <version> builds? You can find them at <url> and should use Thunderbird version <version> “. This also makes sense if the last time the bug was confirmed has been quite a while back (i.e happened in the previous Lightning version).

Debug, what!? Messages? Where!?

Also, reporters usually don’t know about the extra debugging preferences, or where to look when something is going wrong. For Lightning, there are a few preferences that can be changed to give more debugging output. Its a good idea to tell the user how to find the advanced config editor. Then, you can tell them what to change to get more debugging info. For Lightning, calendar.debug.log and calendar.debug.log.verbose need to be set to true. Although not always required, it might also make sense to have the user restart the application.

Man…I’ve seen this before!

The more bugs you visit, the better picture you get of what bugs are filed. If you see a bug report that you think you’ve seen before, then search for that other one. Pick the one that has less information on it and mark it as a DUPLICATE of the other one.

Are you still out there?

If you or someone else has already asked the reporter to provide additional info and no response has been made for a couple of months, the next thing you can do is mark the bug INCOMPLETE, telling the reporter why: “No response for a while. I’m closing this bug INCOMPLETE for now, please feel free to reopen if you can still reproduce or have an answer to the above questions”. This helps keep the number of open bugs down and makes it easier to find out what issues need to be fixed for the next release.

Testing unconfirmed or new bugs

This step requires you to download a nightly build of Lightning. Assuming you are using Thunderbird/Lightning for your normal Emails and Calendar, you want to create a new profile dedicated to testing, since you might be breaking things with a nightly build. It makes sense to create a desktop shortcut or alias to directly start Thundebird with your testing profile. Adding the¬† “-no-remote” command line flag to the alias or shortcut allows you to run it alongside your normal Thunderbird. Also, you’ll want to download the Lightning Nightly Updater extension, which allows you to stay up to date with the nightly builds.

Now that you have things set up, you can start testing bugs. In most bugs, there will be a set of “Steps to Reproduce” in the first few comments. Just repeat exactly these steps and see if the error happens to you too. If so, leave a comment on the bug which Lightning Nightly version you are using and that the error is still happening. If not, try to be creative. Think about what the user might have done unknowingly, or change the steps a bit to see if you can make the error occur. To make it easier for the developers, you can document what you’ve changed on the bug.

If you can’t reproduce, go ahead and tell the user too. If its an obvious case, you can mark the bug WORKSFORME, otherwise you might want to ask the user additional questions, see “Asking for more information” above.

Verifying fixed bugs

These are bugs that have been marked RESOLVED and FIXED. Usually a patch has been checked in so the bug was marked FIXED. To identify if the bug is really fixed, you can test again using the original steps to reproduce. If the bug is really fixed, set it to VERIFIED. Otherwise you have two options. If the bug was just fixed recently, you can just set the bug to REOPENED and tell us what fails. This will ensure the developer takes a second look. The other option you have is to file a new bug. Note which bug you were testing and what goes wrong. This is also the better option if you notice that what fails is not directly related to the bug.

Now where do I find those bugs?

There are two different types of bugs that need triaging. The most important are UNCONFIRMED bugs. These are bugs that users have filed, but have not been confirmed by developers or bug triagers like you. We need to find out which of these are really bugs and which ones are support issues. About a week ago, we had almost 500 unconfirmed bugs. These are the bugs that can easily be processed by “asking for more information”, but are more quickly resolved if you test them yourself.

The next category is NEW bugs. These are bugs that have been confirmed before. If this has been a longer while back, then it might be that it works by now, maybe it was fixed by a different bug. These are not so important to triage, but if you see someone asking if the bug still exists, you might want to check if this is the case.

To find the bugs, use the Bugzilla search. For this task it makes sense to use the advanced search interface. There you can set the Product to Calendar, select only NEW or UNCONFIRMED bugs, and make sure nothing is selected in the “Resolution” box (use Ctrl+Click to unselect). You can also use these quick links for the queries: NEW and UNCONFIRMED.

Also, johnath made a very nice video blog post introducing you to Bugzilla, its worth listening to.

But I’m now allowed to!

When creating an account, you don’t directly have all privileges. You will be able to file bugs and comment on them, but actually setting other fields like the bug status needs some extra permission bits. I’d suggest to start out with just adding some comments to existing bugs as noted above. Once you’ve made a few comments and we see that you want to help out, contact me or others from the calendar team, asking for “canconfirm” or “editbugs” priviledges. The first lets you only set bugs from UNCONFIRMED to NEW, the second lets you change any aspect of the bug. Please note that to achieve editbugs, we need to have the feeling we can trust you. Of course we can undo bug changes, but you’ll probably understand that if an evil-doer comes along and just re-opens all calendar bugs, this is quite annoying and causes unneeded work.

I hope this interests you in helping out with a Mozilla product, and personally I hope it even inspires you to help out with the Mozilla Calendar Project. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

All this typing is getting very annoying!

When triaging bugs, you end up typing the same stuff over and over again. Still happening? What version? Please retest! Your questions get shorter and shorter, which makes it hard for new users to understand what you really want. To help with this, I’ve created a few jetpack extension which makes work much easier. First of all, you need to install the jetpack extension to Firefox. Now you can visit my jetpacks page. You should install “Bugzilla Comments Helper” and “Close on Submit”. The first one gives you a set of predefined comments you can easily select from a dropdown, while the second adds a “Commit and Close” button, that closes the tab after your changes have been made.