algebraicthunk.net/ blog/ entry/ Closing bugs just because they're old is not cool

Two bug reports that I wrote were recently closed with the following explanation:

Last message was posted nearly three years ago. Considering abandoned and closing.

Whoops, I thought, I must have missed a request for more information. So I went to the bug page and, nope, the only message on the bug was my initial report.

Let me repeat that: the total sequence of interactions on these bugs was:

  1. I report a bug in 2004
  2. Someone closes it in 2007 because it's "too old".

Now, there are times when it's at least somewhat excusable to close old bugs without verifying that they're fixed (or even knowing that they might not be). When a package has hundreds of bug reports, closing old bugs that can't be reproduced can be a good thing: even if the reports are valid, keeping reports that can't contribute towards a fix around is arguably less useful than cleaning out the bug list so it's usable.

In my case, though, the package in question has only 20 or so bug reports, an easily managed number. Worse, both bugs I reported could be trivially reproduced. One of them was arguably not a bug, but the guy who closed my bugs did not argue that; as far as I can tell, he didn't even look at my bug report.

Notice that I haven't mentioned the maintainer of the package? That's because he didn't close the bug. In fact, the person who closed the bug is not a member of Debian, nor is he in the NM process. Evidently he's just a random user who decided that old bugs offend him, so they should be closed.

So please, everyone, exercise a modicum of common sense when it comes to closing bug reports. This will keep the BTS useful for all of us and keep blood pressures at a reasonable level. :)

Comment by Diego Calleja at 12:47 PM:

It has no sense to leave open a 3 years old bug, unless you can confirm it still happens in a recent release. The codebase has changed so much at that time that it's a waste of time to try to fix it....again, unless you can confirm it happens in recent releases. If so, it can be reopened.

It's more like a way to tell the reporters "please, chech if it still happens, if you don't then the bug is considered fixed"

Comment by dburrows at 1:42 PM:

You're quite right: old, unreproducible bugs on heavily changed codebases with lots of bugs can justifiably be closed. In fact, I did some of this myself just this week, cleaning out a pile of old unreproducible aptitude bugs.

In this case, the package in question has 20 bugs, the bugs I reportred can be reproduced trivially (and complete instructions on reproduction were included in the bug reports), and to top it off, the program has not been upgraded upstream in three years, so the codebase is completely identical to the one I reported against, aside from some Debian patches.

The objection is not to closing old bugs per se: it's to closing bugs just because they're old and the maintainer (!) never replied to them. The proper way of handling these bugs would have been to (1) test whether the bug is reproducible, and/or (2) email the bug and me asking if I can still reproduce it.