Bugs, support and confusion

Someone recently reported a build problem as a “bug” in apache bugzilla: he’s been unable to build with LDAP support.  Setting aside the obvious workaround (use a ready-built distro package), what can we say?

(a) It’s probably user error rather than a bug.
(b) But only probably … it’s possible there’s a perfectly good LDAP install which the build scripts should have found.  General-purpose build scripts are notoriously tricky: that’s why commercial vendors wimp out and only ever support selected platforms/distros.
(c) It’s not clear whether the problem arises from the user’s OS/distro or from something he’s done, though it looks like the latter.
(d) We should also consider the possibility of a documentation bug.  That is to say, something that’s not a bug but where we could/should provide more helpful docs.

These are issues that need sorting out in a support forum.  Bugzilla is not supposed to be a support channel, and most of us are reluctant to let it be used as one (and may get shirty if you try).  Apache provides an official support mailinglist and there’s a semi-official IRC channel at Freenode, either of which would be a good start.  A common approach to “bugs” like this is to close them, with an invitation to re-open if they turn out to be (or reveal) an actual bug after working through what the user has really done.

In this case, I didn’t close it, but I did try to point the user at a support forum.  And then came the bombshell:

I have tried to ask for help and have placed a couple of questions on http://www.apache.com/forums/modules/installing-enable-authnz_ldap-module/ and got no response. If there are better forums please could you let me know where these are?

He’s gone to some third-party site that purports to provide a forum, and unsurprisingly come away empty-handed!  The usual response to that is dismissive: WTF does the luser expect from $random-probably-clueless-bod?  But in this case the domain is called apache.com and appears to be about apache.  Perhaps that makes our user’s confusion an understandable mistake?

Well, up to a point.  Apache.com does have a disclaimer (albeit only at the bottom after scrolling down a great deal of page).  And the user has found our bugzilla, which is unambiguously apache.org.  Hmmm, perhaps Bugzilla itself could use a bit more Help information, about where to seek help (the existing Help is only for Bugzilla itself).  A simple pointer to look for latest versions, project documentation, and support fora at [project-name].apache.org might avoid some confusion.

Posted on January 7, 2010, in apache. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks again for replying.

    Though I am no closer to resolving my issue. Yes trying to find the correct support group is very difficult and confusing, even from the official list.

  1. Pingback: Scammers using the Apache name « niq's soapbox

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