The number of bug reporting systems REAL Software has implemented in my time using REALbasic has been astounding. Of course, some of the changes revolved around the emergence of the internet, but still, I’m amused at the iterations.
There was REALbugs (?) that was a standalone app that I never really used because I was a newbie. It memory serves, it was very much a Mac OS 9-type application. As to how well it worked – I couldn’t tell you.
Then there was the feedback web site that allowed you to sign on to a bug to ‘vote’ for it. It was nice, but people would literally sign on to EVERYTHING which defeated the purpose of the voting system to begin with.
Then RS switched to FogBugz and abandoned all of the old feedback items. Supposedly, it would make life easier on them and they’d be able to fix bugs easier and faster. Unfortunately, it made bug reporters life much harder since we couldn’t search the database. RS was inundated with duplicate items and it was hard to tell the good reports from the bad.
So, now, in the current iteration we’ve come full circle and we’re back to an application called Feedback and is part of the download package. It’s better in most respects to the previous system other than that it’s an application which just seems….odd in today’s internet world. But I understand why they did it and for the most part it works.
It’s user interface forces you to search for an existing bug before you can add a new one (that’s good!). You can see the newest cases (handy if you’re evaluating a new version of REAL Studio), My Cases, Participating In, and My Favorites.
You can add cases to your favorites list by clicking the star at the bottom of the cases listbox. But a not so well documented feature is the Priority List.
The Priority List allows us to prioritize our bug fixes and feature requests. This supposedly gives RS some feedback into what we want fixed or implemented sooner rather than later. It’s also weighted in favor of the Professional and Enterprise users (we can argue whether that’s a good or bad thing in another post). There is an algorithm to it but when I had my conversation with an RS employee I didn’t take notes so I might be off on the actual numbers.
A Personal license gets a weight of 1. A professional user vote gets a weight of 10 and Enterprise has a weight of 20. So Enterprise users are 20 times more powerful than Personal licenses. That doesn’t strike me as too off base since a Personal license is $99 and the Enterprise is $995 (again we can argue the logic of the weighting another time).
Perhaps the smartest thing they did with the priority system is that you only get five votes and if my memory serves (forgive me, this is the day I got the flu), I believe a #1 rank gets 5 points and the last vote only gets 1. So you have to be smart with your priority list and to edit it, go to My Cases and click the Edit Priorities button at the bottom of the list. A separate list of all the cases you have some interest in are presented and you drag reorder the cases as you see fit but only the top five are counted and in the list are bold.
You can find the current list by clicking on Top Cases which brings up the current list. If you double click on the list item you can see the internal rank in the upper left hand corner of the report. And this, in my opinion, is where this system breaks down.
The current #1 item is case 9433 (iPhone support). While it sounds good at first blush, iPhone development is a big break from how REAL Studio works currently, and it requires a lot of intermediate changes and there’s no evaluation from REAL Software on how long it would take to implement iPhone support or what we would have to give up during that time frame.
For example, the current #2 item is case 738 (Controls and Window Backgrounds Flicker in Windows) and is a huge problem for Windows application and my guess is that it hurts RS when Windows users evaluate REAL Studio more than they know. Would you rather fix this gaping bug or have iPhone support? Me, I want and need, this bug fixed.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to vote an item ‘down’. The current system is rigged to only tell how many people think it’s a good idea. There’s no way for RS to get a feel for how many think the top item is a BAD idea, or don’t think it should be a high priority item.
I personally think iPhone support is a rabbit hole of time and money that RS could use to adding some nice features and cleaning up long standing bugs. To support the iPhone REAL Studio has to add a number of very important things before it can begin to *start* development: Cocoa (currently in beta), LLVM compiler support (currently in beta for RBScript) only, new editors, and untold engineering problems on three platforms (is that even possible?).
Cocoa has taken close to two years to implement and ‘new features’ have slowed down (partially from Cocoa and partially from our requests for more bug fixes). RS has talked about LLVM compiler support – first with RBScript and then for the entire app and who knows how long that will take to get working 100%. The other items? Only the Universe knows.
I urge all of you to play around with the Feedback application and find your high priority bugs and mark them as such. This is the only way (currently) to tell REAL Software on what your priorities are. If you want iPhone support, that’s great, but I caution you to be careful with what you wish for.