Confessions of a bugmail addict

I’ve developed a little bit of a reputation, at least among regulars, for being pretty familiar with the bug database. A little too familiar, perhaps.

I thought it would be interesting to do a little bit of analysis on the 1.2GB mbox file that holds all of the bugmail I’ve received since April 2004, and to shed some light on the methods to my madness. Here’s graph that shows the number of messages per day, since April 2004 (each point is one day, the vertical axis is number of bugmail messages receieved on that day):

Bugmail per day

This might be surprising to some people. It was a surprising to me, to be honest, when I received 1882 bugmail messages on January 29th. I’m not sure exactly what happened on that day, but most of the bugmail was probably generated by Gecko 1.9/Firefox 3 blocker and approval triage. I suspect it’s not completely out of proportion compared to some other heavy Bugzilla users, though. I would be interested in seeing bugmail graphs for beltzner or mconnor or bz or dbaron, say.

Beyond the raw numbers, which I will attempt to rationalize later, there are a few things you might have noticed in the graph. The most obvious is that my bugmail volume has been increasing steadily since I first started receiving bugmail in 2004 (as far as I can tell, my first Bugzilla CC was on bug 48037 on April 11, 2004) . You can see drops in volume during the year-end holidays in 2006 and 2007 – the drops are less visible in 2004 and 2005. Weekends are also visible as pairs of dots near the bottom of the range (not as easy to see in this horizontally compressed graph).

I also wanted to see how my bugmail frequency matched up to the Firefox release cycles. Here’s a chart with the messages grouped per month, with major Firefox releases shown on the graph:

Bugmail per month

You can sort of see a pattern – a buildup of bugmail volume up until the release, with a drop right after the release. Obviously my involvement in Firefox releases has increased as time’s gone by – I had very little direct involvement in Firefox 1.0’s release, but I did quite a bit of work writing and landing patches for Firefox 2, and the bugmail volume reflects that.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you read all of your bugmail?
    • Yes, for some definition of “read”. A lot of the messages I receive are quick to skim – flag or dependency changes, comments I don’t need to reply to, bugs being resolved – it probably takes me only about a second or two to skim past these, and since Gmail groups messages for the same bug together, I can quickly flip through threads and see what’s changed without too much context switching. Messages that require a response or further action are usually queued up in tabs that I’ll go through later.
  • How do you CC yourself on so many bugs? Do you have a script that crawls Bugzilla and CCs you?
    • Yes, I have a script. I call it MassCC, and I run it on Bugzilla twice a day. It CCs me on bugs where the sum of any 3 digits multiplied by any fourth digit is a Mersenne prime. (This algorithm means I end up only being CCed on bugs whose number contains a “1”, but this hasn’t proven to be a problem so far.)
  • How do you keep track of so many bugs?
    • Most of my knowledge of currently-active and recently-fixed bugs comes from going through a “confirmed bugs filed in the past three days” query at least once every two days, moving bugs to the correct component, marking duplicates, CCing people who might be able to help fix the bug, and providing input if I know what the fix is. When I first started doing bug triage I would look at all bugs, but the number of UNCONFIRMED bugs quickly became overwhelming. A lot of other folks regularly do UNCONFIRMED bug triage, though, and I love them for it. I’ll also sometimes pay attention to the #bugs channel while when I’m on IRC, where firebot announces bug changes. If I see something interesting I’ll click over and CC myself. Having that channel’s scrollback easily available helps with quick bug lookups, when I know something happened in the past 2 or 3 days.
  • I filed a bug 3 minutes ago and you’re already CCed. Are you watching me?
    • No, I am not watching you. Reed is watching you, and I have a special arrangement with him.
  • I’ve noticed gavin.bugzilla at gmail dot com always gets mail, no matter what I do in Bugzilla. What’s up with that?
    • That’s an address that’s been set up as a “global watcher”. It gets mail for every change on I set it up a while ago when the global watcher capability was added to b.m.o, but nowadays I very rarely actually use it. It’s mailbox is currently 37% full (2427 MB of 6480 MB), with 287088 unread threads. If it wasn’t for the “New bug filed” notifications having a different subject line than the mail for changes to the bug itself, the unread count would reflect the number of bugs that have been modified since the account was created.
  • Isn’t all this bugmail too much?
    • It’s starting to be a little too much, yes. Things should get better as Firefox 3 is wrapped up, but I’ll probably adjust my bug watching habits anyways, to try and reduce the amount of mail I need to sort through. I currently have 49 addresses in my Bugzilla “watch list”, most of them generic QA contacts that let me receive bugmail for an entire Bugzilla component. I can probably reduce my overall bugmail volume a fair bit without really diminishing my ability to “know what’s going on”. I want to be careful not to narrow my focus too much, though, since I do like being able to keep track of things happening in the Mozilla world that aren’t necessarily related to my job.

10 thoughts on “Confessions of a bugmail addict

  1. zbraniecki

    Did you ever thought about writing a kind of webapp to sort it for you?
    I mean, do you feel that the amount of data answers the questions you want to answer this way?

  2. Gijs

    You can actually spot Christmas / New Year 2007 on that graph, as one big crater in the amount of bugmail. I guess that proves we’re all still human…

  3. BlueMM

    Hey Gavin, how did you produce the bugmail graphs? I guess the email has to be in mbox format, but what tools/scripts are involved?

  4. gavin Post author

    > Did you ever thought about writing a kind of webapp to sort it for you?

    Not sure what you mean – Gmail does a good enough job sorting it 🙂

    > Hey Gavin, how did you produce the bugmail graphs?

    I used python’s PortableUnixMailbox class and sort/uniq to parse the mbox file and process the results, and OpenOffice to produce the graphs.

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