We had a discussion in our Slack channel recently (logs here) about how we use Trac, focusing around tickets and milestones. This morning, I was inspired to think about how we use Trac, and put some suggestions forward for ideas we could consider. I’m sharing them here to start a discussion and see what everyone else thinks.
(In the following, I’m defining “milestone” as a version number, e.g. 2.2 or 2.3. “Future Release” and “Awaiting Review” are special milestones and what follows isn’t meant to apply to them.)
- Tickets are often punted from one release to the next, then to the next release, then to the next release, and so on — because no-one wants to work on them. Yet at some point, we felt they were important and are reluctant to close them.
- It’s impossible to look at a milestone report and easily understand which tickets are planned for the next release (or are realistically achieveable).
- Future Release is a graveyard where old tickets go and die, rather than a holding area for tickets yet to be assigned to the next milestone.
Ideas to fix this
Moving tickets to a milestone
If you move a ticket to a milestone, you are accepting the responsibility to get that task done for the next release.
- You must maintain an active presence on the ticket by monitoring it for new discussion or any changes, and responding promptly.
- You must keep the rest of the project up-to-date with the progress on your ticket. It’s preferred that this update is made at least every 2 weeks, in either: a dev chat meeting, a post on the bpdevel blog, or as a new comment on the ticket.
Generally, a person should not be responsible for more than 2 unfinished tickets in a milestone at any given time. Estimating time is hard, and real life is full of unexpected demands on one’s time, which are more important. :)
Tidy up the Future Release milestone
Let’s audit all tickets in the Future Release milestone. If a ticket has not been updated in over 1 year?, close it as “maybelater”.
Closing tickets does not mean the project will never implement the suggestions, but it will help to de-clutter our workflow and return the Future Release milestone to being a list of actionable “patchless things that are not scheduled for the next release”. I think this feels like a hard idea but is something we need to do.
We’ll need to do this on a periodic basis; maybe 2 or 3 times a year (looking for the “needs-patch” keyword).
Managing new contributions
Tickets should never be moved directly from a milestone to another (“punted”). If a ticket fails to make a release, and if we still want to implement it in a future version, then it is moved back to Future Release.
New tickets with patches (often bug fixes)
- Will be moved to the Future Release milestone, with the “has-patch” keyword.
- Remain in Future Release until the patch has been reviewed and is ready to commit (therefore being “sponsored” by the reviewer for inclusion in the next release).
New tickets without patches (often enhancement ideas)
- Remain in Awaiting Review until the idea is fully explored. It needs to be detailed enough so it is ready for a contributer to start working on.
- If the exploration takes some time, assign a new “in-review” keyword.
- Once the idea is ready and it has been decided that the project would benefit from having it included, move the ticket to Future Release with the “needs-patch” keyword.
Most of the existing Trac reports were copied from WP’s Trac a few years ago. My feeling is that most of them aren’t useful for us. Let’s remove them all, and build the following reports to match our workflow:
- All tickets waiting review
- All tickets in review
- Future Release tickets needing a patch
- Future Release tickets with a patch
- Tickets in the next major milestone
- Tickets in the next major milestone, grouped by Owner (i.e. the person who set the milestone).
I just want to make clear these are my own ideas which I’m sharing for discussion. Maybe nothing will come of them, but it would be nice to try something different for the 2.3 cycle.