Linden Lab reopens the Second Life JIRA

Back on September 7th, 2012, Linden Lab closed the Public JIRA and replaced it with a new “bug reporting project”. The key elements of the announcement made back then were:

  • All bugs should now be filed in the new BUG project, using the more streamlined submission form.
  • Second Life users will only see their own reported issues.  When a Bug reaches the “Been Triaged” status, they will no longer be able to add comments to their issue.
  • Once a Bug reaches the “Accepted” or “Closed” status, it will not be updated. You can watch the Release Notes to see when and if a fix has been released for your issue.
  • Existing JIRAs will remain publicly visible. We will continue to review and work through these.

Now, what this essentially meant at a first glance was that the public JIRA was still visible, but the ability to comment on specific JIRA items was removed. Several reasons have been put forward; one of the most important has been the amount of mud-flinging that had been going on in the comments of several JIRA entries, which greatly deteriorated the signal/noise ratio by burying useful comments under a pile of what often amounts to little more than downright abuse of the commenting system.

However, this was still a counter-productive course of action. Back in her initial report, Inara Pey explained why:

  • Users are often a part of the triage process. They can confirm when and how issues are occurring; they can test different hardware and different viewer options and ascertain if the problem is at all localised, or possible an artefact unique to the reporter’s system
  • Developers can similarly – and vastly – help the triage / resolution process, bringing their own knowledge and skills to bear on user-reported problems
  • Both users and TPV developers can speed the process on duplicate JIRA identification and cross-referencing, reducing the amount of work LL have to initially undertake.

It is also important to note that, since users became unable to see the bugs reported by other people, many new reports were essentially duplicates of previous ones. What this move did was greatly limit the usability and usefulness of the JIRA, which (like any other issue tracking facility) is an important tool for the collaboration and coordination between the Lab and TPV developers and users.

Fast forward to 2014, after Rod Humble’s quiet resignation that took pretty much everyone by surprise. New CEO Ebbe Altberg, as mentioned by Inara Pey, promised on the official forums that the situation with the JIRA would be improved and that the system would become more open. More specifically, Pamela Galli commented on the 2012 of the JIRA system:

… In the opinions of many, a good place to start is to make the JIRAs public again so we will know whether an issue is a bug that has arisen, or something on our end. Very often, residents working with Lindens have identified, reproduced, and even come up with workarounds if not solutions to problems. Closing the JIRA felt like a door being slammed, esp to those of us who are heavily invested in SL. (Just grateful for Maestro, who posts in the Server Forum.)

Mr. Altberg’s response was encouraging, like his other responses so far:

Funny, both engineering and product heads here also didn’t like that jira was closed and want to open it up again. Proposal for how is in the works! I hope we can figure out how to do that in a way that works/scales soon.

Later in that thread, Innula Zenovka provided, in a very clear and succinct manner, the reasons why the closure of the JIRA was more counter-productive from a technical standpoint than beneficial. Again, Mr. Altberg’s response was reassuring:

Yep, that’s why we will figure out how to open things up again…plan is in the works…

Eventually, last Friday (February 28th, 2014), the Lab announced the decision to reopen the JIRA, with the changes coming into effect tomorrow (March 3rd, 2014). The announcement was made in a technology and tools blog post and indicated that:

  • From now on, all users will be able to see all BUG issues and the issues will remain visible (i.e. will not be hidden after they’ve been triaged);
  • All users will be able to comment on a report before it is triaged; after it’s been triaged, the only people who will be able to comment on it will be (a) the reporter, (b) LL staff, (c) TPV developers and selected community members who have displayed skills in this area;
  • The “New Feature Request” will return.

The announcement also points to a set of guidelines for participation to which commenters on the JIRA will need to adhere when commenting on the reports made.

The reopening of the JIRA is certainly good news. More importantly, I must welcome the attempt to meet the needs of those who wish to comment on a report halfway, as well as the return of the new feature request.

Especially regarding the new feature request, I would like to single out a comment by Perrie Juran on the forum thread announcing the reopening of the JIRA. Linden Lab’s ToS have a clause that prohibits unsolicited ideas and materials and also makes it clear that no one is expected to have an exclusive and/or confidential relationship with the Lab – it’s Section 7.4, which reads:

7.4    Unsolicited Ideas and Materials Prohibited; No Confidential or Special Relationship with Linden Lab.

Linden Lab employs a staff of designers to develop new ideas and Linden Lab solicits and receives product idea submissions from professional inventors with whom it has business relationships.

Because of this, in your communications with Linden Lab, please keep in mind that Linden Lab does not accept or consider any unsolicited ideas or materials for products or services, or even improvements to products or services, (collectively, “Unsolicited Ideas and Materials”). Therefore, you must not send to Linden Lab (even within any of your User Content that we may request), in any form and by any means, any Unsolicited Ideas and Materials. Any Unsolicited Ideas and Materials you post on or send to us via the Service are deemed User Content and licensed to us as set forth above.

Except as otherwise specifically described in the Service’s Privacy Statement or any Additional Terms, your relationship with Linden Lab is not a confidential, fiduciary, or other type of special relationship and your Unsolicited Ideas and Materials, and anything else submitted by you will be treated as non-confidential and non-proprietary User Content – regardless of whether you mark them “confidential”, “proprietary”, or the like. Linden Lab will not assume any responsibility, obligation, or liability for the receipt or non-receipt of any of the foregoing. Therefore, your decision to submit any Unsolicited Ideas and Materials to Linden Lab  does not place Linden Lab  in a position that is any different from the position held by members of the general public with regard to your Unsolicited Ideas and Materials.

Linden Lab’s receipt of your Unsolicited Ideas and Materials is not an admission by Linden Lab of their novelty, priority, or originality, and it does not impair Linden Lab’s right to contest existing or future intellectual property rights relating to your Unsolicited Ideas and Materials.

Perrie Juran questioned whether enabling new feature requests in the JIRA contradicts with this clause of the ToS. In my view, it doesn’t, because:

  • From now on, the JIRA will have a section specifically reserved for new feature requests. These requests are in no way whatsoever unsolicited, as they are posted in a place specifically created for this purpose. In essence, in that section of the JIRA, the Lab asks users to give their ideas.
  • Second, being a regular at many of LL’s Official User Group in-world meetings, the Lindens hosting the meetings often ask for ideas and feature requests. And even in those cases when they don’t ask, they welcome submissions of ideas for new features.

However, perhaps this clause could use a bit of rephrasing (although, to be honest, I do like the “no confidential or special relationship with the Lab” idea). I will close this post with a reminder from LL’s announcement of the reopening of the JIRA:

Please remember that JIRA is an engineering tool – it’s not meant for policy discussions and the like nor is it a replacement for the Forums, where you can have all kinds of stimulating discussions.




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