Tips for Fixing Open Source Bugs

Support isn’t sexy, but it’s necessary. How open source software is supported is just as important as how well it works. Given the choice between building awesome new features or carefully reading and responding to 10 bug reports, which would you choose? Which is more important? When you think of Open Source maintainers what do you see? I see issues. I see dozens of open bug reports that haven’t been responded to in days. I see a pile of feature requests waiting to be worked on. Now when I open those issues, I see maintainers spending most of their time trying to get the information they need. “What version are you using?”; “was it working before”; “can you give me an example app?” Would you rather maintainers spend time asking for minute in-bug reports or fixing issues?
When I think of open source bug reports, I think of hospitals. A bug report is like a sick patient walking into an emergency room. No one knows exactly why they need to get better. They have self-reported symptoms, but more information is needed. When someone goes into an ER, they don’t immediately go to a thoracic surgeon to get their blood pressure taken. Instead, they go to someone that records their vitals, takes care of their paperwork, and then makes sure the right doctor is assigned to the case. Hospitals call this process “triage,” from the French “separate out.” This person or team of people doesn’t need to know exactly what is wrong with you, they only need to know what information the doctor will need. Every minute someone spends on triage is an extra minute someone else gets to dig into the root problem.