Bug triage

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Triage is medical term referring to the process of prioritising patients based on the severity of their condition so as to maximise benefit (help as many as possible) when resources are limited.

Bug triage is a process where tracker issues are screened and prioritised. Triage should help ensure we appropriately manage all reported issues - bugs as well as improvements and feature requests.

Triage initially happens shortly after the issue was reported but it can be repeated later if the initial assumptions were wrong, issue was resolved otherwise, affected versions need updating or there are other reasons to review the issue.

Get involved

Anybody can do triage in form of correcting the components and/or affected versions, linking to related issues, and of course commenting asking for clarification, confirming bug, redirecting to forum, etc. Users in jira-developers and moodle-triage groups can edit any issue, jira-users can comment on any issue or edit issues they reported. Please see MDLSITE-3592 if you are not a developer but would like to help with triage process.

Adding triaged label and placing the issue on the backlog should only be done by component lead or HQ developer. At the same time other users can remove triaged label from the old issues or replace it with triaging_in_progress if they want to request an additional triage.

The triage process

Initial screening

First of all, identify the issues that should be closed or placed under investigation. Ask the following questions:

  • Is the issue a request for support/help? If so, the reporter should be directed to the forums to seek help and the issue should be closed as "Not a bug". Sometimes improvement requests can be phrased as a question, though; if this is the case, ask the reporter to reword the description to describe an improvement.
  • Have the reporter mistaken the Moodle Tracker with their own support desk? Sometimes people mistake the Moodle Tracker as a place to request help about their own Moodle instance, often about logging in. We need to refer the user to their instance administrators and close the issue as "Not a bug".
  • Has the issue been reported previously? If so, link to a duplicate issue and close the newly reported issue as a "Duplicate" with no fix version set. Encourage the reporter to search before reporting. If a newer issue has a patch or more voters/watchers, consider closing the older issue. Checking for duplicates first will save you having to check the rest of the issue. See Tracker tips for help with effective search of tracker.
  • Does the problem affect only unsupported versions? If so, the issue should be closed using "Fixed" (preferred as it sounds better) when the issue is resolved in current versions or "Not a bug" when the issue has disappeared due to changes leading to current versions. See [Releases] to find currently supported versions
  • Did the problem arise because of mistake in documentation or lack thereof? If it appears that the reporter does not understand a particular feature in Moodle and the documentation is lacking, ask the reporter where would he expect to find documentation about it. Then simply edit the relevant pages in the documentation wiki and close the issue. If required change is significant, add Documentation component and docs_required label.
  • Is the problem a language string change? Language string problems can be corrected by contributing a translation or by contacting the language pack maintainer as listed in the Translation credits. English language string typo fixes and suggested improvements can be contributed to the English (fixes) (en_fix) language pack or given the component 'Language' for fixing by the Language component lead. Such issues should be closed in the Tracker using "Deferred".
  • Was the problem caused by additional code or 3rd party plugins? If you can identify the plugin, move the issue to the respective component of CONTRIB project. Otherwise comment and close as "Not a bug".
  • Can this be implemented as a plugin? And maybe the plugin already exists in the plugins directory. Explanation should be given to the reporter that Moodle provides the framework but does not work on any possible plugin. Add label "addon_candidate" but do not close the issue. This can also apply to the requests to significantly redesign existing plugins and it would be more preferable to create a new alternative plugin.
  • Does the problem seem rational? If not, then the problem may simply be an misunderstanding on the part of the reporter. It might be a problem exclusive to the reporter's server set-up. If you can replicate the problem quickly, do so. If you can't replicate the problem, ask the reporter to attempt to replicate the problem on http://demo.moodle.net. If the problem seems persistent but strange, consider asking a developer with experience working in the area to consider the problem and determine if it could be a real problem.
  • Can the problem be replicated? If not, or information on the issue is insufficient, ask the reporter to add error messages, screenshots, environment information (OS, web server, browser) and exact replication instructions

As a result of initial screening up to 20% of new issues may be closed. When closing the issues make sure to set the correct resolution and write a polite comment with explanation, refer to the templates below. If you have doubts, ask the questions and always add label triaging_in_progress. Subscribe to the filter My old issues in triage and you will receive notifications after 30 days of inactivity on such issues. See Tracker tips about how to subscribe to filter. Very often the reporter never follows up on their own issues and this is a good way to find such issues and ping reporter again or make a final decision about closing.

Confirming the issue

When you confirm that issue is indeed a bug or a reasonable improvement request that was not reported preivously, make sure that the following is accurate:

  • Security level. Security level must be set as soon as possible if the reported bug discloses vulnerability in Moodle that can be exploited to access information without appropriate level, create an attack on the site, embed XSS or forge a request. In some rare cases Improvements may be also marked as security
  • Summary. Summary of the issue should clearly describe the problem or improvement area, rephrase such summaries as "Some improvements in xxx" or "Error in Moodle", etc.
  • Issue Type. The following issue types are used in Moodle:
    • Bug - represents an actual bug and should be fixed in all supported versions. Very often when reporter expects something to be better than it actually is they call it a bug when it's in fact an improvement.
    • Improvement - improvement to existing functionality. If addressed, will be integrated in the following major release only
    • New feature - completely new feature, also will not be applied to the released versions (unless implemented as a plugin and submitted to plugins directory)
    • Task - usually created by developers themselves and can not be classified as Bug or Improvement, for example, adding automated tests, improving documentation, etc.
    • Epic - created by HQ developers or component leads to collect together issues that represents parts of one project. META issues and sub-tasks should not be used any more
  • Priority. Some reporters over-state an issue's priority. Some reporters don't know they can set a priority. Priority is used as one of the criteria when sorting issues in the backlog, so it should reflect the position of this issue comparing to the others. Usually Improvements have Minor or Major priority and Bugs can have any priority up to Blocker. Priority levels have specific criteria. Please see the Tracker guide
  • Component/s. Listing components correctly is important as they are the primary variable used for searching for issues, also adding a component automatically include the component lead as a watcher. Issue may have several components when needed
  • Affects version. This field should include one or more released *and supported* versions of Moodle that are affected by the issue, with the following exceptions:
    • The issue is a bug in code that is present in the Master branch only, in which case the next major version should be used. (The next major version should not be used in conjunction with previous released versions, this won't make sense later.)
    • The issue is a new feature and is unrelated to any existing code in Moodle, in which case the 'Future dev' version should be used.
  • Labels.
    • Remove functionality tags that some reporters add as labels, only standard labels or partner-specific labels are used in Moodle
    • Issues with proposed fixes are labelled patch so that they can be found easily and given attention. When this is the case, consider whether moving the issue to the 'Waiting for peer review' state in the workflow might be more appropriate
    • Add addon_candidate label if the functionality can be implemented as a plugin;
    • If you are component lead or HQ developer you may also add triaged label to indicate that triage process is completed. Use it only when the issue has actually been added to the backlog

Note that "Fix version" is no longer used during triage. If you are in "moodle-triage" group, you can use the Triage screen to edit only aforementioned fields, see MDLSITE-3592.

When commenting on the issue give more details on replication, environment or testing. Ask questions, add watchers, modify description if needed. Link to as many related issues as possible. Do everything that will make the issues scope more clear and attract opinions, discussions and patches.

Don't forget to show Gratitude and encouragement. After triaging many issues, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the reporter has contributed their time and energy to report an issue for the benefit of the community.

It is easy to become defensive of Moodle if reports are seen as criticism (and sometimes reporters may use phrasing that suggests this), however the triagers response must always be one of sincere gratitude.

It is also important to encourage reporters to continue being involved with the issue after it is triaged. We must not give the sense that we are taking the issue ownership away from the reporter. Instead the reporter should be encouraged to discover the cause of the problem and present a solution; this is appropriate in an open-source project. It is amazing that such a challenge can lead to a sense of purpose for the reporters.

Following up on issues

Tracker is set up by default so as soon as you comment on any issue or edit it, you become an automatic watcher and any following change on the issue will be emailed to you.

If you have encouraged the reporter well, they may submit a patch or somebody else may do it. Make sure that the patch label is added or issue is sent to peer review. On the contrary, if patch label was added by somebody else but you clearly see that patch is far from ready, remove the label and leave a comment explaining it.

Users may also comment with additional details, screenshots, replicating instructions. It may happen that the issue gets re-evaluated and priority or summary changed.

Revisiting old issues

While searching the tracker you may come over issues that were reported long time ago but still remain open. Again, ask the following questions

  • Is this still an issue? If it is not applicable any more either close it or comment about it on the issue and recommend to close. Very few tracker users actually have permission to close issues but the component lead or watchers will see your comment and revisit issue. Another good practice is to replace triaged label with triaging_in_progress and add a comment asking if the issue can be closed. If users confirm that it was resolved or nobody replies in 30 days, issue should be closed.
  • Do affected versions need correction? If the issue is still applicable, make sure to add missing current affected versions or comment about it on the issue if you can't edit it.
  • Does the issue have patch and if yes, is it still applicable? If the issue has patch that still works but patch label is missing, look through comments or history to see if the patch label was removed after reviewing the current patch. If you find that label was never added, do it yourself. On contrary if the issue has patch label but the patch is no longer applicable or not sufficient, remove the label.
  • Are there any duplicating issues? When finding duplicates among the old issues it might not be obvious which issue to close as a duplicate. Usually we should leave the first reported issue but if the later issues have more watchers, better description, more votes, useful comments, attached patch, etc. you may decide to close the earlier issue and leave the later. Sometimes both issues have lots of watchers and they both remain open. In any case, always create links between duplicates or related issues.
  • Does the issue have assignee who forgot about it or misleading status "Development in process"? Due to some process changes in May 2013 some issues still have a real user in the Assignee field but this user actually does not work on the issue. Sometimes Assignee remains filled after failing peer review, sometimes developers simply forget that the issue was assigned to them. If you suspect that Assignee does not actually work on the issue, comment asking they about it and in some cases remove the Assignee completely. Allow somebody else to work on the issue without feeling that the issue is "taken". Please also note that for some time tracker had a restriction that Assignee could not be empty so you can find lots of issues assigned to moodle.com or Nobody. Do not modify such issues as this creates unnecessary activity, emails to watchers and irrelevant change in the "Last update date".

Comments templates

Redirecting someone with a support request

Thanks for taking the time to create an issue. However, the problem you describe seems to be specific to your site, since I am unable to reproduce it on http://demo.moodle.net/. Thus I suggest you post asking for help in one of our community forums https://moodle.org/community/.

I'm going to close this issue now. If you find that your problem can indeed be reproduced on http://demo.moodle.net/ or you have a suggestion for an improvement, please create a new issue providing as much detail as you can.

Redirecting someone making a 'feature request' that is actually already possible

Thank you for taking the time to request a new feature / suggest an improvement. However, what you ask for is already possible. I suggest you post asking for help about how to set up what you want in one of our community forums https://moodle.org/community/.

I'm going to close this issue now.

Refer the user to their instance administrators

You have posted an issue on the Moodle Tracker, which relates to the improvement of Moodle code, not the Moodle site you are using at your institution. I recommend you contact the administrators of your Moodle site.

Closing duplicate

Thanks for your report.

It seems you're not the only one to have come across this bug, as it's been reported previously - see MDL-xyz. I'm going to close this issue now so we can focus on MDL-xyz. Please watch, vote or comment on MDL-xyz if there is any additional information you can provide.

Issue affects only unsupported versions

Thanks for your report. However, it seems that this problem does not affect current versions of Moodle. Thus, you are recommended to upgrade your installation in order to take advantage of recent fixes and improvements. See https://docs.moodle.org/en/Upgrading for details.

Requesting more information

Thanks for reporting this.

Could you please add more information to your report such as replication instructions, error messages and screenshots. If you are able to suggest a workaround, that would be immediately helpful to others experiencing this problem. If you can determine the cause of the problem or even determine a solution, that will be very valuable.

Request to correct translation

Thanks for reporting this.

The problem that you are describing refers to the translation in another language. Language string problems can be corrected by [Contributing a translation|https://docs.moodle.org/dev/Contributing_a_translation] or by contacting the language pack maintainer as listed in the [Translation credits|http://lang.moodle.org/local/amos/credits.php]. I'm going to close this issue because Moodle does not include translations in the standard download package.

Correction to English language strings

Thanks for reporting this.

Please note that English language string typo fixes and suggested improvements can be [contributed to the English (fixes) (en_fix) language pack|https://docs.moodle.org/dev/Improving_English_language_strings]

Bug in contributed plugin (plugin can be identified)

You have created an issue under MDL project in the tracker. However the problem that you are describing refers to contributed plugin xxx.
I have moved your issue in the appropriate component of the CONTRIB project in tracker. I will also recommend you to leave a comment on the plugin page in the [Moodle plugins directory|https://moodle.org/plugins/]

Triaging a bug request

Thanks for reporting this.

I've put it on the backlog.

In the meantime feel free to help us work on this issue. If you are able to provide a patch or links to your Git repository branch, please add a patch label so we will spot it.

Triaging an improvement or new feature

Thanks for reporting this.

Adding more detail to your suggestion will make it easier to work on.

If you can propose a code solution, that will help others who may have the same need and will increase the chance of this improvement/feature coming about sooner. If you are able to provide a patch or links to your Git repository branch, please add a patch label so we will spot it. Otherwise, how about posting in a forum on moodle.org and encouraging people to vote, comment and/or come up with a patch.

Creating a filter and gadget for triaging

If you are a component lead you are responsible for triaging issues that involve your component. A good way to monitor newly created issues is to create a filter in the Tracker and add a gadget on your dashboard to show the results of the filter.

Adding a filter

In Tracker...

  1. Select Issues > Search for Issues.
  2. Create a search for untriaged issues in your component, for example...
    component in (Assignment) AND resolution = Unresolved AND (labels is EMPTY OR labels not in (triaged)) ORDER BY created DESC
  3. Run the search query by pressing Enter or clicking the magnifying glass icon to the right of the search box.
  4. When the search query results are displayed, click the Save as button.
  5. Save the search query with an appropriate name, like "Untriaged Assignment issues".

Adding a filter in a gadget to your dashboard

In Tracker...

  1. Click Dashboards > Dashboard for XXX (where XXX is your name).
  2. Click + Add Gadget.
  3. Find the Filter Results gadget.
  4. Click Add it Now.
  5. Click Finished.
  6. In the Saved Filter input, search for and select your newly created filter.
  7. Click Save.

The most recent untriaged issues should appear in reverse-date order.

Triaging priorities and the Triaging Dashboard

The following are the priorities for ordering issues to be triaged that are reflected on the Triaging dashboard.

  1. Security issues - should always be reduced to 0
  2. High-priority issue - aim for blockers and critical issues to be reduced to 0
  3. Partner issues - aim for partner issues to be reduced to 0
  4. Patched issues - aim to triage as soon as possible
  5. Developer-reported issues (HQ and non-HQ) - should be quick to triage
  6. Recent community bugs - should be triaged last-in-first-out

See also