JIRA: feedback from the Lab

The dust is slowly settling from the recent announcement vis the effective closure of the Public JIRA for bug and issue reporting and the implementation of the simplified Bug Tracker approach and associated changes.

Comments passed from front-line staff by Linden Lab make it reasonably clear that the new approach to bug reporting and management has impacted more than just those users who have in the past been actively and positively engaged in the Lab’s JIRA; the Lab itself is undergoing something of a shift in how issues are handled, and that is it likely to be a few weeks before matters settle down internally.

JIRA change: seen as a disappointing move by many

The Lab is also adamant that the overall aim of the change is to try an improve the utility of the bug reporting and management process from their own perspective – part of which was to eliminate the issue of having the JIRA used either as a forum for discussion and / or for posting irrelevant / angry statements, neither of which were seen as assisting the process of problem management and issue resolution. However, there has been an acknowledgement in some quarters as to whether or not the new system will increase or decrease the effectiveness of bug tracking  / management over time is an open question at the Lab, and that depending upon how the new system is seen to work over the next weeks / months, further changes may be made.

“JIRA Support Groups”

During the TPV/Dev meeting on September 7th, Oz Linden indicated that there are two “user groups” which are being established in relation to the new changes, and which the Lab will use to allow those residents with a demonstrable need to access a JIRA system and who are known to do so “responsibly” to have greater access to the new system.

Commenting after it became apparent during the meeting that some in attendance already had greater access to LL’s JIRA than others (including the ability to still comment on JIRA items), Oz said:

It should be noted that not all of you have exactly the same privileges. As part of this change [to the JIRA system] I created some access groups that do have somewhat deeper access … I haven’t actually figured out exactly what got set-up in the end … so be a little careful about asserting that, “Anyone can do such-and-such”, because if you’re in the active contributors’ group or the support helpers’ group, you have privileges other people don’t have … As I said, these changes have only been in effect less than 24 hours now [at the time of the meeting] … because there are a couple of levels of indirection involved, it’s not trivial to figure out what privileges a given person has – which is weird, but there you go … So, I have put in place a mechanism that I hope will make it easier for those of you who are actively collaborating with us on making the world better to continue doing so. It will probably take some time for all the bugs in that accommodation to be worked out.

Later in the meeting, he indicated one of these two groups, the “active contributors’ group” is being aimed towards the likes of TPV developers and those who have contributed to Second Life in terms of code and fixes, etc., in order to try to ensure they continue to have access to the new system which is beneficial to them (and more particularly, to LL) in order to better resolve bugs.

Similarly the “support helpers’ group” will be overseen by Alexa Linden and will comprise those who have demonstrated their value in assisting with the broader triage process (such as identifying duplicate issues, recognising where short-term workarounds for problems may exist, etc.).

Both groups were referred to as having greater ability to search reports in the new system, although the precise function and capabilities of these groups is liable to mature alongside the new system. While some people have already been added to the groups, this has been done as something of a “first pass” and appears to have been based upon first-hand knowledge of those involved. How additional people will be added to each of the groups is not entirely clear, although it is evident that in order to qualify for consideration, an individual must have a track record of positive and beneficial engagement in the JIRA process to triage and / or resolve issues.

Also during the meeting, Oz encouraged TPV developers who are concerned about the negative impact of the change and who have “Legitimate use cases that serve the needs of Second Life in general and Linden Lab in particular,” which may not be met by the new system, to write them up “In non-emotive form, … [but] in terms of how they are useful to Second Life residents and how they provide utility to Linden Lab … a calm exposition of the value to Linden Lab of doing something different would be.”

Forum Discussion Option

The JIRA situation was also raised at the Simulator User Group Meeting, also held on September 7th, Simon Linden put forward a suggestion that perhaps the forums could be used in some capacity. He was encouraged by those attending the meeting to pass the idea back to the Lab itself, with Toysoldier Thor suggesting a new Forum category of “Post-JIRA Forums” to facilitate general discussions. During the Content Creation User Group meeting held on the 10th September, Alexa Linden further indicated that the possible use of the forums was being considered.

Going Forward

The debate on the positive / negative aspects of this change are liable to continue for some time to come. That steps were taken to create two new “JIRA support groups” ahead of the launch of the new system tends to demonstrate that some within LL were not blind to the part played by users in the overall management and resolution of bugs. The hope appears to be that these new groups will offset the more negative aspects (lack of access, ability to contribute, etc.), presented with the launch of the new system.

Whether this proves to be the case will come down to how effectively the groups are managed, the level of access those within the groups are given, and whether or not the new system itself achieves the level of improved utility in the reporting, triaging and resolution of bugs the Lab hopes will be the case. Currently, it would appear that none of this is liable to be objectively known for the next several months.

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10 thoughts on “JIRA: feedback from the Lab

  1. What will work now, in terms of identifying useful non-Linden contributors from their past use of JIRA, may not work a couple of years down the line. There will be potential supporters who may never be identified, and existing residents will inevitably move on.

    I’m not impressed by the vagueness of what Oz says. How can this access be controlled if they can’t be sure who can do what?

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    1. It’s tough, I agree. My impression from listening to the recording in full and reading transcripts, etc., is that there is a lot of head-scratching going on at the Lab, and that despite all the discussions which may have preceded the change, the decision perhaps didn’t get a unanimous reception among front-line staff; however, that is only an impression / opinion, which I preferred to keep out of what is a “news” article.

      There are certainly very large holes in the entire process – and in the idea of the “support groups”; however, it’s probably fair to say Oz’s own “vagueness” on the matter is pretty much down to the fact that there is so much head-scratching that is having to be done at the Lab, rather than in him trying to obfuscate or anything.

      What this situation doesn’t do, is increase one’s own (already fading) confidence that senior management within LL actually have a clear idea as to just how negatively moves like this can actually be for the platform as a whole and not just for what is likely to be perceived as a “minority” of SL users.

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  2. We should also keep in mind that what Oz says while a representative/employee of the Lab will be taken as official, and so he really needs to be careful when discussing the goings on inside the Lab. Dependng on the topic, he may have to refrain from being anything more than vague. And he definitely can’t speak out against his employer.

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    1. Absolutely.

      Circumspection should always be anticipated and allowed for, no matter how “official” or otherwise any statement made may appear to be. Hence why I emphasise in my reply to Wolf, that it is my personal opinion – and more directly, why I nowadays strive to keep personal opinion and / or bias away from what I regard as “news” items.

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  3. I am a little puzzled by the idea of essentially moving what was previously the jira to a subforum; a place I left a while back exactly because I was tired of being called, and hearing others being called “‘tards” and several variations on that.

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  4. I think the Lab is tilting at windmills here. I can hardly blame them for wanting a JIRA that’s filled with nothing but non-emotive, purely technical or test related comments. But then I want world peace. They’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater in an effort to attain an ideal they won’t ever have. Users are SL’s most valuable resource, both in-world and out, warts and all.

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  5. I think they are going to shrink their JIRA userbase by an amount they weren’t prepared to handle. I stopped submitting JIRA’s when they changed over to the current format (or the one previous to August 2012) because it was too difficult to find the JIRA’s I had made, and even harder to find the ones I contributed to. I think less will get done, because less users will be willing to wade through it all, and the important bugs that users have been pointing out for years will get less and less time on that roulette wheel they use to determine which bugs should be fixed.

    I’m wholly unsurprised that they want to hear less from the userbase, but I’m quite surprised about how forward they are about contradicting themselves. It’s “our world”, yet they really don’t want to hear from us, unless it’s in their favour or it’s a highly technical thing that most users wouldn’t know about. I wonder what the last 5 additions to SL have been ‘normal’ user-submitted.

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  6. To be fair, there’s often a lot of comments by users who (a) demand their pet hobby-horse of an issue be fixed RIGHT NOW DAMMIT, or (b) have no damned clue of why a given thing is. (The classic ‘why is everything rezzing so slowly’ complaint by a blinged-out, thousand-script avatar with a facelight as brilliant as a sun.)

    Then you have (c), the people who, for whatever reason, are just in some kind of codependent abusive relationship with SL; it doesn’t matter WHAT Linden Lab does; if they do exactly what was asked, they did it wrong. And in the wrong color, and at the wrong time. And of course, doing anything else? Utter travesty.

    Which is not to say that there isn’t a valid complaint to be found in the move, but if there’s a way for people who actually need access to the JIRA to identify and fix bugs to do so while minimizing the conspiracy theorist types, I’m all for that.

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