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11:21 am: Bug tracking and software development

I think that my company’s structure needs some structure in order to stay cool without swamping us (me) in support calls. It occurred to me that many development teams use some sort of bug / feature / request tracking system. Broadly, instead of selling 10 more copies and struggling to stay current with support, I would like to sell 200 more copies and have a well organized system for improving the thing.

I googled around and read this, which seems pretty enlightened. I like the personal accountability aspect. If “all of us” own something then none of us is responsible for it. So I picked up a demo copy of the product he mentions, and I’m trying it out.

Turns out that my company already has three different solutions in use for this purpose:

* RT by best practical – allows us to funnel emails into a tracking system … where they tend to languish. It fails (from Joel’s article above) because: The golden rule is that only the person who opened the bug can close the bug. The programmer can resolve the bug, meaning, “hey, I think this is done,” but to actually close the bug and get it off the books, the original person who opened it needs to confirm that it was actually fixed or agree that it shouldn’t be fixed for some reason.

* Basecamp is a web based project tracking system that provides file sharing, email lists, and time tracking … but very little in the way of planning support. We’ve also sprawled out into like a billion projects for our seven person team … and I don’t think it’s recoverable without a forklift redesign.

* TRAC … which seemed like a good idea at the time, but it falls down in terms of being way too tied to “what line of code did you change” and less focused on “whose problem is this and when are they going to fix it? Again from Joel: Avoid the temptation to add new fields to the bug database. Yeah, look at TRAC for a great example of why.

Of course, the consultant part of my brain knows that any tool is useless unless you use it. There is no piece of software written that will “do my job.” All I want is a tool that will make the job I’ve already decided to do, easier.

So here are my questions for my smart and beautiful friends:

* What do you use for bug / feature / request tracking?
* What do you use for project management? Same? Different?

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.

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