Monthly Archives: July 2010

Look down. Now back up again. The Defects are now Issues.

From my software development experience, there are a few different words for the generic notion of a “problem”.

A bug or a defect, for example, is defined as the following from Wikipedia:

A software bug is the common term used to describe an error flaw, mistake, failure, or fault in a computer program or system that produces an incorrect or unexpected result, or causes it to behave in unintended ways. Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made by people in either a program’s source code or its design, and a few are caused by compilers producing incorrect code.

An issue goes a level higher – a bug is an issue, but an issue might not be a bug.  Wikipedia says:

In computing, the term issue is a unit of work to accomplish an improvement in a system. An issue could be a bug, a requested feature, task, missing documentation, and so forth. The word “issue” is popularly misused in lieu of “problem.” This usage is probably related.

Where am I going with all of this?

Well, remember when I said I was going to add defect reporting/tracking capabilities to Review Board?  I asked for some feedback on my UI mockups on the developer mailing list, and an interesting conversation on terminology erupted.

Anyhow, the long and the short of it is – we’re going to be calling “problems still existing within a review request revision” issues.  And this is distinct from the sort of thing that might show up in an issue tracker.

Maybe down the line, we’ll have a way for administrators to set their own word for it.  From the thread, it sounds like everybody and their brother has their own favourite terminology.  “Issue” will have to do for now.

Thanks again to everyone on the list who contributed to the conversation.

Be the first to like.

Filing Defects in Review Board

In my last post, I talked about an extension for Review Board that would allow users to register “defects”, “TODOs” or “problems” with code that’s up for review.

After chatting with the lead RB devs for a bit, we’ve decided to scrap the extension.

[audible gasp, booing, hissing]

Instead, we’re just going to put it in the core of Review Board.

[thundering applause]

Defects

Why is this useful?  I’ve got a few reasons for you:

  1. It’ll be easier for reviewees to keep track of things left to fix, and similarly, it’ll be harder for reviewees to accidentally skip over fixing a defect that a reviewer has found
  2. My statistics extension will be able to calculate useful things like defect detection rate, and defect density
  3. Maybe it’s just me, but checking things off as “fixed” or “completed” is really satisfying
  4. Who knows, down the line, I might code up an extension that lets you turn finding/closing defects into a game

However, since we’re adding this to the core of Review Board, we have to keep it simple.  One of Review Board’s biggest strengths is in its total lack of clutter.  No bells.  No whistles.  Just the things you need to get the job done.  Let the extensions bring the bells and whistles.

So that means creating a bare-bones defect-tracking mechanism and UI, and leaving it open for extension.  Because who knows, maybe there are some people out there who want to customize what kind of defects they’re filing.

I’ve come up with a design that I think is pretty simple and clean.  And it doesn’t rock the boat – if you’re not interested in filing defects, your Review Board experience stays the same.

Filing a Defect

I propose adding a simple checkbox to the comment dialog to indicate that this comment files a defect, like so:

Comment Defect Checkbox Screenshot

No bells. No whistles. Just a simple little checkbox.

While I’m in there, I’ll try to toss in some hooks so that extension developers can add more fields – for example, the classification or the priority of the defect.  By default, however, it’s just a bare-bones little checkbox.

So far, so good.  You’ve filed a defect.  Maybe this is how it’ll look like in the in-line comment viewer:

The inline comment viewer is showing that a defect report has been filed.

A defect has been reported!

Two Choices

A reviewer can file defects reports, and the reviewee is able to act on them.

Lets say I’m the reviewee.  I’ve just gotten a review, and I’ve got my editor / IDE with my patch waiting in the background.  I see a few defect reports have been filed.  For the ones I completely agree with, I fix them in my editor, and then go back to Review Board and mark them as Fixed.

The defect report has been marked as being fixed.

All fixed!

It’s also possible that I might not agree with one or more of the defect reports.  In this case, I’ll reply to the comment to argue my case.  I might also mark the defect report as Pass, which means, “I’ve seen it, but I think I’ll pass on that”.

The defect report has been marked as "pass".

I think I'll pass on that, thanks.

These comments and defect reports are also visible in the review request details page:

A defect report has been filed, and we're in the review request detail page.

A defect has been filed.

The defect is marked as fixed, and we're in the review request detail page.

All fixed up.

We're passing on the defect report, and we're in the review request detail page.

It's all good - just pass this defect report.

Thoughts?

What do you think?  Am I on the right track?  Am I missing a case?  Does “pass” make sense?  Will this be useful?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Be the first to like.

Review Board Statistics Extensions: Karma, Stopwatch, and FixIt

I just spent the long weekend in Ottawa and Québec City with my parents and my girlfriend Em.

During the long drive back to Toronto from Québec City, I had plenty of time to think about my GSoC project, and where I want to go with it once GSoC is done.

Here’s what I came up with.

Detach Reviewing Time from Statistics

I think it’s a safe assumption that my reviewing-time extension isn’t going to be the only one to generate useful statistical data.

So why not give extension developers an easy mechanism to display statistical data for their extension?

First, I’m going to extract the reviewing-time recording portion of the extension. Then, RB-Stats (or whatever I end up calling it), will introduce it’s own set of hooks for other extensions to register with.  This way, if users want some stats, there will be one place to go to get them.  And if an extension developer wants to make some statistics available, a lot of the hard work will already be done for them.

And if an extension has the capability of combining its data with another extensions data to create a new statistic, we’ll let RB-Stats manage all of that business.

Stopwatch

The reviewing-time feature of RB-Stats will become an extension on its own, and register its data with RB-Stats.  Once RB-Stats and Stopwatch are done, we should be feature equivalent with my demo.

Review Karma

I kind of breezed past this in my demo, but I’m interested in displaying “review karma”.  Review karma is the reviews/review-requests ratio.

But I’m not sure karma is the right word.  It suggests that a low ratio (many review requests, few reviews) is a bad thing.  I’m not so sure that’s true.

Still, I wonder what the impact will be to display review karma?  Not just in the RB-Stats statistics view, but next to user names?  Will there be an impact on review activity when we display this “reputation” value?

FixIt

This is a big one.

Most code review tools allow reviewers to register “defects”, “todos” or “problems” with the code up for review.  This makes it easier for reviewees to keep track of things to fix, and things that have already been taken care of.  It’s also useful in that it helps generate interesting statistics like defect density and defect detection rate (assuming Stopwatch is installed and enabled).

I’m going to tackle this extension as soon as RB-Stats, Stopwatch and Karma are done.  At this point, I’m quite confident that the current extension framework can more or less handle this.

Got any more ideas for me?  Or maybe an extension wish-list?  Let  me know.

Be the first to like.