Eclipse bugs resolve later…or never

One of the challenges for any software development project — whether enterprise or for-sale, open source or not — is what to do about all those pesky defects that nobody’s going to fix. Why aren’t they going to be fixed? It might be that they’re not a show-stopper, or that there are other priorities, or there’s no easy fix, or simply that nobody wants to do it.

Every non-trivial software project has bugs that won’t be fixed. Sometimes you know that it’s not going to be fixed, and at other times, everyone has the best of intentions, but it just never gets done.

One of the benefits of most open source projects is transparency. Take Eclipse, which uses a public bugzilla feed to let users and contributors report defects. When defects are reported, often they’re resolved, but sometimes they’re marked RESOLVE LATER. Does that mean that the issue truly will be resolved later, or as some people suppose, is that a polite euphemism for RESOLVE NEVER?

Let’s face reality: Not every bug is going to be fixed. Yes, it would be nice to have less ambiguity, and to know, for certain, that a specific bug is going to be (or not going to be) addressed. But at least with a system like the RESOLVE LATER system, you can see if action is being taken or not. With non-open-source projects, or OSS projects that take place with less transparency than Eclipse, bug reports go into a black hole.

By contrast, with commercial software, a bug will only be fixed if the software owner sees the business value of fixing it. While I agree that RESOLVE LATER is suboptimal, it’s easy enough to see that a bug that’s been ignored for months or years isn’t going to be addressed. And that’s valuable information.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick