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Shlomi Fish (918)

Shlomi Fish
  shlomif@iglu.org.il
http://www.shlomifish.org/
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I'm a hacker of Perl, C, Shell, and occasionally other languages. Perl is my favourite language by far. I'm a member of the Israeli Perl Mongers, and contribute to and advocate open-source technologies. Technorati Profile [technorati.com]

Journal of Shlomi Fish (918)

Friday May 18, 2007
04:55 AM

Bad Usability of the Parrot Bug Tracker

[ #33303 ]

Note: I clarified the text a bit due to the input.

So I wanted to submit a small patch to Parrot. Where do I start? Possibly its Bug Tracker. However, there isn't any link there on how to post bugs. None whatsoever. Not even a link to an explanation. None.

So I had to ask the #parrot channel. They referred me to this document. After reading it, it said to prepare the patch, and send it to "parrotbug at parrotcode dot org" (a spam-obfuscated email "address" of parrotbug@parrotcode.org, which is the address for sending patches to parrot). However, since I could not press the link in my browser to invoke the email client (or right-click+copied it), I had to type it from memory. So I typed it as parrotbug@parrot.org which is the incorrect address. I received a bounce which I didn't notice, and naturally the mail did not arrive there.

Eventually, after the patch recipient complained that the email did not arrive, I sent it again (using my mailer's "Send Again" feature) while CCing her. She received the email with the patch, but the patch was still not registered in the issue tracker, because it was still sent to the wrong address.

I see several usability problems here:

  1. The bug tracker, which is where people expect to be able to submit bugs doesn't have a link to submit them, or at least explaining how to.
  2. The email address is spam-obfuscated, and so people mistake it for something else.

I hope both these issues will be corrected.

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  • It sounds like you can't do things correctly, so you like to blame your problems on other people. You made a typo and got a bounce message which you ignored. Apparently you then forgot to include the patch with the next email.

    Still, you blame every one else.
    • For the record, I included the patch in that message. It's just that I still sent it again to the same address believing it was correct.

      And for the record, if I could not get something right, and had to consult people, and then the admins on something (and I'm very intelligent and computer savvy) then the blame is on the system. It's bad usabilty as I demonstrated.

      If I designed a program, and someone had a problem using it, and he asked me what to do, then I should first explain him how to do it, a

      • And for the record, if I could not get something right ... then the blame is on the system.

        Sometimes I try to pull doors clearly marked "Push", even if they have the proper type of affordances (that means appropriate door handles). I take from that lesson two possibilities. One, I could be a complete fool. Two, people sometimes make mistakes no matter how well designed things are.

        Maybe you can only insert your house key with the correct alignment, but that doesn't prevent you from cleaning your ear

        • And for the record, if I could not get something right ... then the blame is on the system.

          Sometimes I try to pull doors clearly marked "Push", even if they have the proper type of affordances (that means appropriate door handles). I take from that lesson two possibilities. One, I could be a complete fool. Two, people sometimes make mistakes no matter how well designed things are.

          Actually, Norman Walsh talks about that in "The Design of Everyday Things" [shlomifish.org]. He shows how some everyday objects have serious usability problems, and the signs of them don't help at that. So these doors are badly designed.

          I demonstrated two easily fixed things in which the parrot bug and patch submission process got it wrong:

          1. There wasn't a way to submit bugs from the bug tracker, not even a referral to a document that explains how. Yet, people expect it to be there, because that's normally the wa

          • There wasn't a way to submit bugs from the bug tracker, not even a referral to a document that explains how.

            Completely wrong. See bugs6.perl.org [perl.org] as well as rt.perl.org [perl.org]. You said that you visited the latter.

            I'm still waiting for an explanation as to how people have the magic knowledge of the URL of the Parrot bug tracker such that they can type it from institutional memory without error without having to use a search engine or ask someone, yet are completely incapable of copying and pasting an e-mail

    • The thousands of pointless installations of junoscript suggest that stupidity is common and even normal, and should be designed for.
  • The bug tracker, which is where people expect to be able to submit bugs...

    How do people find the bug tracker? Magic powers?

    (My theory is that they look for suggestions on how to report a bug on the Parrot website.)

    • I have a theory too.

      People who complain about how the Perl developers are rude, and then intentionally post de-obfuscated developer e-mail addresses on a public web site that are certain to get picked up by spammers, have very little basis for their complaint.
      • As if spammers don't know how to deobfuscate that.

        Such obfuscation is ineffective and indeed does make using the email address harder.

        If you want people to report bugs, MAKE IT EASY AND OBVIOUS. If it takes longer than just typing the bug report itself, there will be people who no longer bother.

        It's still unnecessary and rude to deobfu it in a journal, though.
      • Let me tell you something: if you're living today and think that you're protecting your addresses from spam by obfuscating them, then you're really deluded. Spammers can and do:

        1. Use web crawlers that read all addresses off web-sites.
        2. Install malware on millions of exploited computers and periodically keep record of all the addresses in their address books or received or sent email messages.
        3. Subscribe to mailing lists and listen to the traffic.
        4. Etc.

        If you think you can keep an obfuscated addr

        • Let me tell you something

          No, I will not let you do any such thing. This is not your decision to make. They want to obfuscate it. It is their address. Taking it upon yourself to de-obfuscate it is rude and disrespectful, and you have no argument to make on that matter.

          Just for the record, this is the "Disqualifier disqualifies based on his own fault" or Ad-hominem [wikipedia.org] fallacy.

          It's not a fallacy. It is legitimately calling into question whether your subjective judgment about rudeness is a reasonable one.

          And I never complained that Perl developers are rude

          That is, of course, a lie. [perl.org]

      • Obfuscated e-mail addresses are like copy protection systems. They annoy the legitimate user and pose absolutely zero problems to a spammer gang. I mean, how hard is it to write s/ AT /@/g and see what falls out? And how much effort do I have to go through to decode the latest trick to fool the harvesters?

        For all I know, there's a Mozilla filter that deobfuscates addresses on the fly, which means the code is out there to do this. In that light, Shlomi posting a normal e-mail address is neither here nor th

        • Sure, there's code out there to do this. But usually (at least for me) de-obfuscated email adresses work pretty good. Since the net is full with non-obfuscated mail adresses, why should the spammers bother with the small part that is?

          I second the thought that deobfuscating it was rude and childish, and Shlomi owes a big apology.

          --
          Ordinary morality is for ordinary people. -- Aleister Crowley
    • Well, I'm used to rt.cpan.org where I have a convenient "New Bug" link at the top. And a bug tracker is the first place I'd expect to find that, because that's where every other project expects you to submit bugs.

      So it is bad usability.

      • I'm used to rt.cpan.org...

        Not everyone is. Not every Parrot contributor is a CPAN contributor or even a Perl user. I'm not sure why you think this matters.

        ... a bug tracker is the first place I'd expect to find that...

        Again, how do you expect people to find the bug tracker? Magic powers? Innate knowledge? Is it part of Joseph Campbell's monomyth, or some sort of Jungian archetype that me in my pushes-pull-doors-occasionally cluelessness have failed to integrate into my worldview?

        Me, I think

        • chromatic, most of the large or semi-large projects I know allow you to submit bugs using the bug tracker: KDE [kde.org], Mozilla [mozilla.org], GNOME [gnome.org], all the Various SourceForge projects [sourceforge.net], CPAN [cpan.org]. Etc. This is the default behaviour of most bug trackers, and it meets the users' expectations.

          And as for my generalisation, let me invoke Joel's Generalisation [perl.net.au] here: if it applies to me, it applies to everybody. I'm probably not the first one to make this mistake, and I won't be the last.

          When someone points a usability problem in

          • ... most of the large or semi-large projects I know...

            Now it's merely most, not every. A good UI is consistent. Please be consistent.

            ... if it applies to me, it applies to everybody.

            Thus clearly we should publish all of our documentation in Hebrew first, as it's your native language. It's easier for everyone to understand their native languages than secondary or tertiary languages.

            My corollary to Joel's law is: Joel is wrong.

            When someone points a usability problem in your system, the easy-wa

  • Shlomi, I've actually defended you before in some forums because I think you're actually trying to be helpful. But frankly, at some point people have to consider whether the annoyance of dealing with you is worth the potential benefit of receiving your patches or other input.

    I mean, you're bitching about having to correctly type in an email address, for fuck's sake. Think about it objectively: do you think it's worth someone's time to look at patches from someone who is unable to type in an email address?

  • However, since I could not press the link in my browser to invoke the email client (or right-click+copied it), I had to type it from memory.

    Does not compute. The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

    • Deductive reasoning has bad usability because it is not intuitive.

    • Aristotle, for the last time - please stop being so laconic and cryptic. Explain what you want to say in meaningful and understandable English.

      Regards, Shlomi Fish.

      • for the last time

        When was the first time?

        Explain what you want to say in meaningful and understandable English.

        My comment is perfectly meaningful and understandable English. The conclusion (“I had to type it from memory”) does not follow from the premise (“I could not press the link in my browser to invoke the email client (or right-click+copied it)”). Just because it wasn’t a mailto:-link doesn’t mean you couldn’t copy-paste the obfuscated email address an