As reported on the Dot last year, KDE is taking part in the ALERT Project, a European Union funded research project aimed at providing better bug tracking and resolution software for free software development.
Some people in KDE (mainly Dario and Ade – who attended the previous plenary meeting in Madrid in January – and myself) have been helping ALERT define the problems with existing bug tracking systems and bug resolution and this week I attended ALERT’s second plenary meeting in Bled, Slovenia.
It was quite fascinating to meet everyone and see presentations on how the various parts should come together. The final software should include extracting data from structured sources such as bug trackers and unstructured sources such as forums and mailing lists. The ultimate aim is to give developers more relevant information about bugs – for example allowing them to be notified about bugs with high activity or information relating to bug reports found in other sources.
There are also possibilities to provide some automation of detection of duplicate bugs (a major problem in KDE’s and other bug trackers) and even to try and match developers to bugs – say you have a bit of time on your hands (I know – when does that ever happen?) perhaps the system can suggest potential bugs for you to work on based on your previous bug and commit activity. This could be particularly useful for helping to find things for relatively new contributors to get their teeth into, as long as they have some contribution history.
Of course, this is all at an early stage and the project partners implementing the software have many large challenges ahead of them. The job of KDE representatives is to communicate our needs and to provide some testing and feedback on the software as it is developed.
Many (in fact most) of the people working on the project have little experience with free software. It was strange to hear some of them talk about managers assigning tasks to members in the community and using the system to evaluate their performance. There were also questions about how KDE is funded and why people would contribute for free. The involvement of KDE and the other free software case study partners is therefore important to try and make sure that the solutions developed are relevant to us.
The software will of course be open source. However, development is still being discussed and the final licence is not yet determined – initial delivery of a working system for testing purposes is expected in about a year’s time, with another year for testing, feedback, refinement and wider deployment. Reassuringly, the partners seem to be making extensive use of existing free software rather than re-inventing the wheel, but the presence of many partner organisations working on different aspects of the software means there are a lot of independently developed parts that will all need to work well together.
Bled itself is a beautiful place – on the edge of a lake with mountains around it is a quiet place (at this time of year) and ideal for an intense two-day meeting with plenty of opportunity to relax in the evening.