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How to Have Fewer Bugs in Tiki

This page's goal is to ultimately 1- implement actionable/realistic changes of policies, and 2- prioritize systemic tasks to improve Tiki's stability (fewer bugs). The first thing is to have a common understanding of the problem, and then propose realistic and targeted actions that will actually help. Then, we can measure our progress and adapt.

1.1. Context

Some community members express a goal to reduce the quantity and severity of bugs. Everyone agrees we want fewer bugs but how can we get there? Some of the proposals like here and here are well intentioned but if implemented

  1. Would take a massive amount of effort
  2. Would demonstrably cause major issues to some active community members
  3. Would not have a net positive impact to reach the purported goal to reduce the number of bugs. (This is debatable of course, but there has been no demonstration of cause and effect. I am talking about a document like Versions which explains the choices/impacts.)

So some of these proposals are sure to cause pain, and will not solve the problem. So they will not be implemented.

However, the questions and concerns about bugs deserve consideration. What would help?

As with many things, the majority of the problems stem from a small number of root causes. Let's find the root causes and address them.

1.2. 4-step plan


Let's keep an open mind and seek the best possible information, avoiding patterns such as:

1.2.1. Establish the facts

We first need to gain a common understanding: What are the patterns for the bugs?

  • Is it more a concern of bug density? (Bugs/feature ratio) or bug severity? (fewer bugs but they are nasty)
  • Are there really more bugs than before? Or has the density and/or severity changed? Or it's just that people report them more?
  • In new features (unfinished/immature features) or in old features? (regressions)
  • In base features (ex.: menu), transversal features (ex.: categories) or in specific features (ex.: quizzes)?
  • Is it possible to deactivate the buggy feature?
  • Is it a case of a conflict of two features (each works well independently)?
  • Are the bugs difficult to fix, or easy papercut bugs?
  • Intermittent or consistently reproducible?
  • Do the bugs have error messages? Or it's that features are unusable because of bad docs, bad UI, or something else? Or it's that they randomly don't work (ex.: comments forms sometimes don't load)
  • Concentrated in specific features or they are more or less evenly spread out?
    • For example, MakeToc has a lot of bugs and it's really hard to fix, because it's a flawed design. So we created AutoToc to replace it.
  • In Tiki code or in external dependencies or in a weakness in how we integrate the dependency?
    • Example: WYSIWYG relies on an external project (CKEditor 4) designed for HTML and this is pretty good. However, we are also using for wiki syntax and plugins, which it's not designed for, thus, this part is more buggy (CKEditor v5 has been re-architected to address this)
  • What are the use cases (Website vs Intranet vs shopping cart vs multi-lingual, etc.) with more bugs? fewer bugs?
  • Happening on a Tiki community site? (tiki.org, doc.tiki.org, dev.tiki.org, etc.) or mostly in features with no community Dogfood?
  • Are they issues depending on server software, configuration, version? (Windows vs Linux, Apache vs NGINX, MariaDB vs MySQL, php.ini, etc.)
  • Issues related to client? Mobile vs desktop browser? browser choice, browser plugins, etc
  • Issues connecting to external services? (Enterprise authentication, social media service, etc.)
  • Are the bugs reported on dev.tiki.org? Do they have a show instance?
  • Expectations with the release cycle
    • We expect that a release cycle with 22.0, 22.1, 22.2, etc. will get more stable with each minor release, and given that an LTS version like 21.x has a longer life, it will typically become more stable than a regular version like 22.x.
    • We expect that post-LTS releases have a lot of major changes and enhancements, and have a higher risk for bugs and regressions.
    • Now, beyond the normal expectations, are there some things that stand out? For example, post-LTS versions have way more bugs than expected, fixes are not backported far enough, backports to stable branches are causing instability, etc.
  • Expectations when running from Git
    • Many active community members get Tiki from Git, and in some cases, with an automatic update. This permits to get bug fixes sooner, but it also leads to some regressions that are fixed shortly after.
    • Are they too many regressions in stable branches? (which could suggest a problematic backport process)
  • Do the bugs lead to data corruption?
  • Do the bugs affect unmodified Tiki instances or heavily customized instances Given Tiki's integrated nature, we can do major refactors that work fine for unmodified Tikis upgrading, but that are problematic for Tikis with custom code. Ref.: Upstream First.


What types of bugs are we talking about? Please add in the section below.

Examples of problematic bugs

  • Menu system in 18.x: Drag and drop was added in 18.0 LTS: https://doc.tiki.org/Menu#Drag_and_drop and it was very buggy. In retrospect, this should have been done in 19.x so it would have had time to stabilize before being in an LTS, or at least be optional. But we didn't expect such issues for something as simple as drag and drop. Turns out that the Tiki menus data structures is more complex than drag and drop libs can handle by default.
  • CSRF security ticket system in last few versions of Tiki has too many false positives and there is no clear solution (can't turn off the feature, errors are semi-intermittent, system doesn't tell you what was the trigger so users and admins don't know how to adjust their behavior, and coders don't know what to fix): This is an improvement to address CSRF security issues in a more systematic way, instead of "whack-a-mole": CSRF Protection, but it needs more work and likely an adjustment to its design to reduce CSRF wishes.

1.2.2. What are the root causes?

Once we are clear on the patterns for the types of bugs, let's clarify what are the patterns for the root causes.

  • How are the bugs introduced?
    • From Tiki coding or dependencies or change in ecosystem (ex.: move to PHP8, or Bootstrap)?
    • Introduced by junior devs, senior devs, or specific devs? It has happened in the past where a developer (now long gone) left a non-trivial amount of unfinished code in various places in Tiki. And the active devs are then stuck dealing with this. As of 2021, this has not happened in years, and we (Jonny, Marc and others) are alert to this and we will intervene if we see a risk. Also, now with Git, code can more easily be refined in a branch without affecting Tiki's released versions.
    • For regressions, so they occur when features are enhanced? Or when another bug is fixed? (suggestion a certain complexity or fragility in that part of the code)
    • Did the bug arrive through a merge operation? Ref: Semi-automatic merging period
  • When are they introduced?
    • Are bugs introduced in trunk while the majority of the active developers are focusing on the most recent stable branch? (And thus, they only really get uncovered months later once it's released and end users suffer (and by that time it's actually sometimes more work to deal with it)
    • Are bugs introduced in the last few weeks before a release?
  • etc.



Once we have a clear understanding of the bugs and process, we can move to the next step

1.2.3. What can we realistically do to address the root causes?


1.2.4. How can we measure we are going in the right direction?

So we'll adapt our policies and prioririze key tasks. Now, a few months later, how do we know it worked?

  • Satisfaction surveys?
  • Stats from dev.tiki.org?
  • Commit stats with Commit Tags?
  • Feedback from the Triage Team?

1.3. Potential remedies to address root causes


Below is a list of potential areas to focus on. But we can only prioritize them once we have clear answers to the questions above.

If you want to fix more bugs, you need things like:

  • More developers fixing bugs
  • More testers
  • A better process for bug prioritization
  • Making bugs easier/faster to fix
  • Catch regressions early, while they are easy to revert
  • Reduce the introduction of bugs
  • Etc.

1.3.1. Better triage

1.3.2. Reduce the effort to reproduce bugs

1.3.3. Catch bugs early

  • GlitchTip
  • Pre-dogfood servers for Tiki 24 release process
    Pre-dogfood servers test have been very superficials (only testing if a Tiki page is editable, etc) years after years. A checklist of things to test (with checkbox for things completed) may help to perform more test and share the operation with several users.
  • Test of "real life" Tikis using various configurations (features and settings)
    Tiki is filled with options and configurations parameters and each Tiki has its own life. Because of this, testing essentially our Pre-dogfood limit drastically the capabilities to catch early introduced regression or configuration conflicts between 2 features/settings that work well independantly. We need a panel of Tikis used in real life environment with different settings (that's the easy part per nature of our application) so we can have wider issues caught earlier and reported. There is a mutual interest here : Fixing productions Tiki that people want to maintain / Have more/better sources for reports. This also may encourage people to upgrade earlier.
    One clear drawback those are the contrary of Pre-dogfood servers where everything can be broken and accessed by our developers in a known environment.
  • Encourage upgrading Tiki during the first stage of test
    Tiki community turned to be a conservative community and people are waiting (too long) before upgrading their Tikis. I have a few cases where Tiki "owners" waited several versions fearing breakage and then found themselves where they had to make a choice between "upgrading cost and pain on a not-popular Tiki" VS "new (better) site software migration". Tiki is likely to be ditched in such case because the "herb is always greener at your neighbour garden".
    • We could implement a "rewarding" system where selected Tiki site being upgraded and tested during beta and early release are "covered" by Tiki assistance for some duration. I can roughly imagine (TBD):
      • Selected Tikis with time limited access to our team (need better definition)
      • 15 days of assistance provided
      • Mobilised team to review, triage and fix (as possible)
    • A "Tiki tested" tag...
    • We need to be creative

1.3.4. Automation

1.3.5. More developers

  • Make it easier for new developers
  • Make it more interesting for developers
    • Better dev process
    • Professional opportunities
    • Learning opportunities


1.3.6. Clarify expectations



Keywords

The following is a list of keywords that should serve as hubs for navigation within the Tiki development and should correspond to documentation keywords.

Each feature in Tiki has a wiki page which regroups all the bugs, requests for enhancements, etc. It is somewhat a form of wiki-based project management. You can also express your interest in a feature by adding it to your profile. You can also try out the Dynamic filter.

Accessibility (WAI & 508)
Accounting
Administration
Ajax
Articles & Submissions
Backlinks
Banner
Batch
BigBlueButton audio/video/chat/screensharing
Blog
Bookmark
Browser Compatibility
Calendar
Category
Chat
Comment
Communication Center
Consistency
Contacts Address book
Contact us
Content template
Contribution
Cookie
Copyright
Credits
Custom Home (and Group Home Page)
Database MySQL - MyISAM
Database MySQL - InnoDB
Date and Time
Debugger Console
Diagram
Directory (of hyperlinks)
Documentation link from Tiki to doc.tiki.org (Help System)
Docs
DogFood
Draw -superseded by Diagram
Dynamic Content
Preferences
Dynamic Variable
External Authentication
FAQ
Featured links
Feeds (RSS)
File Gallery
Forum
Friendship Network (Community)
Gantt
Group
Groupmail
Help
History
Hotword
HTML Page
i18n (Multilingual, l10n, Babelfish)
Image Gallery
Import-Export
Install
Integrator
Interoperability
Inter-User Messages
InterTiki
jQuery
Kaltura video management
Karma
Live Support
Logs (system & action)
Lost edit protection
Mail-in
Map
Menu
Meta Tag
Missing features
Visual Mapping
Mobile
Mods
Modules
MultiTiki
MyTiki
Newsletter
Notepad
OS independence (Non-Linux, Windows/IIS, Mac, BSD)
Organic Groups (Self-managed Teams)
Packages
Payment
PDF
Performance Speed / Load / Compression / Cache
Permission
Poll
Profiles
Quiz
Rating
Realname
Report
Revision Approval
Scheduler
Score
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search
Security
Semantic links
Share
Shopping Cart
Shoutbox
Site Identity
Slideshow
Smarty Template
Social Networking
Spam protection (Anti-bot CATPCHA)
Spellcheck
Spreadsheet
Staging and Approval
Stats
Survey
Syntax Highlighter (Codemirror)
Tablesorter
Tags
Task
Tell a Friend
Terms and Conditions
Theme
TikiTests
Timesheet
Token Access
Toolbar (Quicktags)
Tours
Trackers
TRIM
User Administration
User Files
User Menu
Watch
Webmail and Groupmail
WebServices
Wiki History, page rename, etc
Wiki plugins extends basic syntax
Wiki syntax text area, parser, etc
Wiki structure (book and table of content)
Workspace and perspectives
WYSIWTSN
WYSIWYCA
WYSIWYG
XMLRPC
XMPP




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