Pi’s Blog

My blog about Thunderbird and GSoC 2008

The best way to support an extension

I would like to find a better way to receive error reports for my extension to help both me and its users.  I have received error reports on 5 e-mail addresses (actually 3 and 2 forwarded accounts), comments on my blog, bug reports, and over IRC.  I read all e-mail as soon as I receive it, but so far I have been way  too slow to reply.

My only ideas so far are to make a form on my website and have a support link in the extension or to make a new XUL dialog in the extension.  A form on my website would be easiest for me but a XUL dialog could be localized with the rest of the extension.

Does anyone (especially experience extension developers) have any suggestions on how to support an extension?  I would like to put my extension on AMO but am worried that my full time internship and upcoming online classes may further delay my replies.

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March 8, 2009 - Posted by | GSOC

8 Comments »

  1. Try out getsatisfaction.com. We’re investigating integrating it with AMO in the coming months anyway, and it’s a cool, effective way to provide support, suggestions, and other comments that can be addressed by community members, not just yourself.

    Comment by Justin Scott | March 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. I receive feedback, bug reports and feature requests since 2005 using only two channels: Sourceforge (SF) forum and SF tracker.

    This works very fine and I can quickly handle any type of submission.

    I don’t think SF is the best solution but you should find something similar.

    Inside extensions I prefer to put only a link to the extension website this greatly simplify their maintenance.

    On the extension website user can find the links to forum/bugs/FR

    I hate AMO comments, you can’t be notified (AFAIK) when new comments are posted and comments content is often usefulness.

    Just my two cents

    Comment by dafi | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  3. How about mozdev? http://www.mozdev.org/ – They have a bugzilla instance for tracking bugs on projects.

    Comment by Standard8 | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  4. Honestly I don’t think the majority of users want to report issues through a bug tracker like bugzilla, it is too complex and they give up unless they are very technical. By all means use bugzilla yourself to track things you want to fix but provide something easier for users to report with.

    Personally I got a lot of results just out of a form on my website, though it was also an invitation for spammers. Still I’d suggest it is probably the easiest way to go, and you can provide a “report an issue” button in the add-on that just opens the page. Don’t rely on a dialog in the add-on since if things are very broken then they won’t be able to use it.

    Comment by Dave Townsend | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  5. Hi,

    here at Zemanta we use a couple of techniques:
    support@zemanta.com mentioned everywhere inside extension
    – GetSatisfaction.com (great) and it’s “feedback” overlays
    – daily monitoring twitter for mentions (search.twitter.com)
    – comments on our blog
    – Google Blog Search – looking for people that have any trouble with extension daily (“last day” view comes really handy)

    Generally, you have to be where your users are. All these actions actually take relatively little time every day, but they make users very very happy when we respond promptly – even when they don’t expect us to.

    Then when you need to reply, remember two things:
    a) reply immediately
    b) enter the issue in your bug tracker
    c) follow up with reporter when something happens with an issue, even if it is recognized a non issue

    bye
    Andraz Tori, Zemanta

    Comment by Andraz Tori | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  6. Reading your question slightly differently, it seems that you shouldn’t be asking how to get a unified stream of bug reports, but how to get help from your community in answering them.

    Any kind of forum would help there, I guess. In this case, even bugzilla is a forum, even though it’s highly optimized for bug tracking. Might not be the best fit. But you get other options at mozdev.org for example, too.

    Comment by Axel Hecht | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  7. If you come to the conclusion you need a forum, we can set up Drupal in your Mozdev project which comes with forums, blogs, and more.

    Reference:
    http://www.mozdev.org/drupal/wiki/MozdevDrupalSetup

    Comment by Brian King | March 10, 2009 | Reply

  8. Thanks for all the comments

    @Jusin Scott
    Thanks, I’ll check that out.

    @Standard8
    I am using Mozdev with Bugzilla now (and getting practice for working on TB bugs ;)). Some users, especially the first handful use Bugzilla, but I believe they have all had previous experience using Bugzilla. I am the main user and like to keep track of all bugs/enhancements there.

    @dafi and Dave Townsend
    Good points about the website vs extension form; I will start working on a basic troubleshooting page with a form for my next release.

    @Andraz Tori
    Searching twitter is a great idea, and I’ll start doing that on a regular basis. There isn’t much on there yet about my extension.

    I made a Google Alert for gcontactsync now as well. I haven’t looked for blogs in while and missed a few opportunities it seems.

    @Axel Hecht
    That’s an excellent point, I believe I’ll start with a forum at Mozdev and take it from there.

    @Brian King
    Thanks for hosting my projects at mozdev, I am very grateful!

    Thanks everyone for the comments. I think I’ll get started by adding a new page on Mozdev with the most common questions and answers and put an error submission form.

    Josh (pi)

    Comment by pi | March 10, 2009 | Reply


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