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Sherpas for WordPress

Shelley had a bad experience with the new WordPress bug tracker Mosquito, and Matt (among others) thought she was being a poor sport about it. Nonetheless, Shelley does have a good point. To be successful, WordPress has to provide support to users that is both effective and understandable.

Bug trackers are a subject near and dear to my heart, since maintaining them is one of my main responsibilities at work (using Mantis, the same software behind Mosquito). My bug trackers at work take a relatively closed approach. The customer communicates solely with a supporter, not directly with the developers. The support is able to solve most problems on his own. If he needs help, his communication with the developers in the tracker are flagged as "private", and are invisible to the customer. We thus use Mantis as both a support tool and a development tool, but the two functions are kept separate.

The supporter is the main link in the process. He acts as a sherpa between the customer and the developers, and decides whether the issue is a customer-side problem that he can help the customer solve, or a software problem that requires a developer (or a feature request that needs to be negotiated into the software spec). The customer doesn't really care what kind of problem he has, he simply wants it solved.

I'm not sure if this model can be applied to an open source project. Sherpas for open source are few and far between. But without them, an open-to-all bug tracker can disintegrate into chaos. Support for WordPress is probably best given in a forum rather than a bug tracker, with real people and plain language. Technical projects like Samba or FreeBSD can take a 'apply the diff and see if it works' approach, but WordPress probably needs to act a little more commercial to serve its users well.

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