Monday, February 19, 2007

Faceless Bugs and Advanced Users

These are really two very different topics but they came to my mind while reading about Linus' Gnome patches and bugs.

The first is about creating a new account when I need to report a bug or submit a patch for some software. Most of the projects prefer attaching to bugzilla or they send it to their member only mailing list. I am extremely reluctant to create new accounts, so I have created bugzilla and mailing list accounts for KDE and Gnome. That covers a lot of ground. But still now and then I face a need to send something to somewhere else and bam! Sign up for an account sir! There is definitely merit in this approach, since otherwise bugzilla and mailing lists would be flooded with spam. But it definitely keeps me from submitting patches or commenting on something due my lack of interest in new accounts. Last week, a friend of mine (the inventor of Sperner's Game) was trying to install Kubuntu in his brand new Lenovo T60 when he spotted some typos in the installation windows. He was ready and willing to file a bug in Kubuntu and was told to create a new account for kubuntu bugzilla. As always, he was supposed to get a confirmation email.

The email came 12 hours later and I do not know if the bug was ever filed! Even if the email was prompt, the desire to report a bug has to be high enough to cross these technical potential barriers. *sigh*

This week I made extensive addition to beagle query syntax. There is an open bug in bugzilla asking for a visual way to add these advanced query expressions in beagle-search. I was thinking how best to achieve that; it is not easy to capture the power of beagle query expressions in a gui. I found the answer while reading some posts in desktop-architect mailing list about Linus' patch. There is nothing like an expert user or a novice user. Users always try to act as if they are smart and take the path of the expert user. Presenting different set of options for these different class of users does not work in practice.

In a similar style, there is no need for a GUI for advanced query expressions. Novice users i.e. users who will simply enter search terms will never know what a full boolean query expression does (with those OR and excluded expressions). On the other hand, expert users who know how to deal with the boolean expressions, the different keywords to do property search and other advanced syntax can anyway write it by hand. In fact, it is much easier for them to write it by hand than to do it visually. In this matter, I like the approach taken by
Google. I think I will push towards a simpler advanced search UI for beagle-search and Kerry, some simple choices like choosing type of file, extension, date range etc. Write the query by hand if you need that extra ounce.


Jonathan said...

I'm keen to avoid typos in our installer so please let your friend know he can contact me at jriddell@ubu to report such problems.

We all suffer from having too many accounts, including this blog which " does not allow anonymous comments." Suggestions welcome.

dBera said...

Thanks Jonathon. I have email my friend your comment. I hope he can resume giving back to the community.

I did not realize that I have members only turned on for comments. I do not like that, its solving a symptom a not a problem. As far as tackling automatic comment spams, I am enabling a captcha. The human spams; nothing in the settings can prevent them. Thanks for informing me.