the answer to "What can be done to get some attention on this?"

R Kent James kent at caspia.com
Tue Dec 22 02:59:16 UTC 2015


In https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1077418#c9 the commenter 
writes:

"This is a critical dataloss bug that I've just hit _again_ - entire 
emails just vanishing into the ether! That's pretty much the worst sort 
of data loss in a mail client (OK, perhaps silently deleting incoming 
email is worse).  What can be done to get some attention on this?"

That is an important question that really needs a long-term answer, and 
I think that answer to that question says a lot about where I think that 
Thunderbird needs to go. Although the particular quote is from a 
particular person, this message is not directed specifically at him or 
that bug. It is a common issue that needs some direction.

It seems to me the current answer to "what can be done" is to hope that 
we can attract more volunteer developers, or try to get more or better 
work out of those who are currently active. (I had a more colorful, 
snarky answer to this that I decided not to include.)

I don't think that answer is realistic, but it is no fun to ignore users 
with problems, either. Maybe I'm someone who just doesn't really grok 
open source, but I think we need a better answer. The Thunderbird code 
base is too large for a handful of volunteers to feel responsible for 
the many critical issues that are only affecting a small minority of 
users. Maybe for code that is a fraction of the size of Thunderbird, 
there is some hope that volunteers can address these issues. But our 
code base is just way too big for that. I do not want to be made 
responsible for everyone's critical issues, merely because I decided to 
volunteer some time to the project. For many open source projects, the 
users are primarily developers, and at least in theory those developers 
have the ability to fix bugs that annoy them. But as a project directed 
to end users, we do not have that advantage.

Yet those problems are important to those users. Here's what I think 
that the answer should be.

Really everyone needs to have some path where they can advocate for a 
particular bug to be fixed, using a path that ultimately leads to 
someone who is a paid developer. Here are the paths to that:

1)    Certified support organizations with level 3 support capability 
(this is borrowed from TDF and LibreOffice). We should be able to point 
people or organizations with issues to service organizations that have 
the capability to actually fix bugs, and let the user advocate with that 
organization why their bug is important. I'm not saying that such an 
organization would be able to fix each specific bug from a single user, 
but the organization should accept input from customers, and be prepared 
to fund fixes that are important to some significant number of their 
customers. Practically, what this means is that the support organization 
needs to have on-call, and be prepared to pay,  one of the core developers.

2)    The Thunderbird users group, the "Thundernest", would have paid 
membership, with a mechanism within that organization to decide which 
bugs will be fixed. Members can advocate for their bugs within 
Thundernest that has some paid capability to respond.

If you are an organization that uses Thunderbird, or a corporate 
customer with a mission-critical use, the advice would be to retain one 
of the certified support organizations. If you are an individual, the 
advice would be to join Thundernest, and advocate there for your bug. 
People who contribute to Thunderbird in some meaningful non-financial 
way would also be offered membership.

If you are unwilling to do either, than I would say "Sorry we cannot 
help you". That is, your expectation to have a free-as-in-beer email 
client, that you are unwilling to fund or contribute to in any 
meaningful way, does not create an obligation in me as a core developer 
to fix your problem.

This is a rather severe position, and I expect many of you will take 
exception to this. Maybe many of you would like to offer Thunderbird as 
your gift to the world, without charge. Fine, but what is your answer to 
"What can be done to get some attention on this?" for that bug and many 
others?

:rkent



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