Duplicate Issues, Are They Really A Problem?

Photo of Greg Harvey
Sun, 2010-01-17 10:18By greg

We often see people getting berrated for posting dupes, sometimes deservedly. Let me say from the get go that I do not, in any way, support the needless creation of noise in issue queues by people who are so lazy as to have made *NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER* to find a solution. These people are a problem, and they waste everyone's time. But shouting at them does nothing. They won't change. Blanking them is the best approach. Close the issue with a link to Google or something.

But I'd like to challenge the concept that *all* duplicate issues are a problem. And I'd also like to point out that just because someone posted a duplicate does *not* mean automatically they didn't search.

Last night I was searching on issues surrounding the possibility of the Drupal.org packager presenting zip files as well as the usual tar.gz (not very digestable for the Windows guys). If it's a contrib module, then I search the issue queue for that module, no problem - but this isn't. So which queue to look in? There's a dizzying myriad of queues available, all beginning with Drupal. Is it infrastructure? Is it the website? Could be CVS? Hmmm...

I'll search with Google instead:

Well, that first result (at time of writing) is the post I ultimatedly created. As you can see, there's sod all else there about the issue I'm hunting on. Even the comments on Dries' post don't help much. Now, at this point we try searching within Drupal.org too:

Again, nada of any use or interest. Now, I admit at this point that a sensible next step would be to use the *general* search on Drupal.org itself, but as most people reading this know, until pretty recently the Drupal.org search was utterly useless, so old habits die hard. Indeed, site searches in general are nowhere near as useful (normally) as a Google search of that same site, so it's hardly surprising people often ignore them.

At this point I've already spent five minutes or so looking for an existing post, there have been no obvious leads. Which tells me even if there is a relavent issue it's probably about as alive as the Dodo population, so I figure I'll create one anyway. And so I did. I marked it as a "support request", because I suspected it might have been discussed before and didn't want to throw in an unecessary "feature request".

And sure enough, about ten minutes later this post was marked duplicate and I was pointed to the correct issue by someone who already knew where it was. Great. I spent five minutes trying to avoid posting a dupe, I failed, but I tried. Someone else spent thirty seconds marking the dupe and telling me where to go. That's community at work.

*Together* we spent five minutes and thirty seconds getting where we needed to go (and I do say *we* because I was searching on an issue of no commercial interest to me where I was merely trying to contribute to the community). Contrast that with me alone spending fifteen or twenty minutes of painstaking searching to find the correct issue (or perhaps not - I don't even know it exists yet) the five minutes and thirty seconds is a collective win!

So is that a "bad" duplicate issue? I would say no, obviously. ;-)

And how do you tell the difference? Well, if you suspect you have a timewaster and you care enough to attempt to correct them (I don't - I normally ignore them) you can do a quick search for posts by them on Drupal.org. A person's posting history will quickly tell you if they are a true waste of space or just a temporarily lost soul looking for the right place to post.

In summation, the duplicate issue is not always a waste of time. Sometimes it is quite the opposite.