It might be somewhat surprising that I’m discussing this limitation, because the latest releases of Bugzilla (including 2.18) don’t have it. So why am I talking about it? Well, I think that implementing the feature in question was a mistake :-)
For a long time, we’ve had requests to allow people to “reply” to Bugzilla comments – i.e. to provide an automatic paste of a particular comment, with “>” marks, into the Additional Comments box. Kiko finally implemented this feature about this time last year in bug 207754. (I should hasten to add that there’s nothing wrong with the implementation technically.)
As you may notice, I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but there you go. In a project with more than one developer, you aren’t going to win them all :-) But why don’t I like it? Well, Joel, as often seems to happen, wrote an article which mentioned in passing why he thinks quoting is a bad idea.
Since then, I’ve become even more devoted to the idea of the value of good social interface design: we bring in experts like Clay Shirky (a pioneer in the field), we do bold experiments on the poor citizens of the Joel on Software discussion group (many of which are so subtle as to be virtually unnoticeable, for example, the fact that we don’t show you the post you’re replying to while you type your reply in hopes of cutting down quoting, which makes it easier to read a thread), and we’re investing heavily in advanced algorithms to reduce discussion group spam.
His point applies even more to Bugzilla than to the discussion forum software he’s talking about. In a medium like Bugzilla which is non-threaded (another feature-not-limitation, which I might talk about another time), and is both email and web-based, discussions are easier to follow with less quoting. This means that, for maximum usability we shouldn’t add features to Bugzilla which encourage it.
This post isn’t a bitter moan in disguise – I’m very happy with the Bugzilla project’s method of making decisions, and I’m not pushing to have the feature backed out. But I felt it was a worthy addition to this series, for the light that the discussion sheds on how one can (potentially at least) decrease usability by adding features which at first glance appear to improve it.