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Why I didn’t fix your bug

Many of you have left me bug reports, feature requests, and other issues relating to my tools in the WikiVerse. You have contacted me through the BitBucket issue tracker (and apparently I’m on phabricator as well now), Twitter, various emails, talk pages (my own, other users, content talk pages, wikitech, meta etc.), messaging apps, and in person.

And I haven’t done anything. I haven’t even replied. No indication that I saw the issue.

Frustrating, I know. You just want that tiny thing fixed. At least you believe it’s a tiny change.

Now, let’s have a look at the resources available, which, in this case, is my time. Starting with the big stuff (general estimates, MMMV [my mileage may vary]):

24h per day
-9h work (including drive)
-7h sleep (I wish)
-2h private (eat, exercise, shower, read, girlfriend, etc.)
=6h left

Can’t argue with that, right? Now, 6h left is a high estimate, obviously; work and private can (and do) expand on a daily, fluctuating basis, as they do for all of us.

So then I can fix your stuff, right? Let’s see:

-1h maintenance (tool restarts, GLAM pageview updates, mix'n'match catalogs add/fix, etc.)
-3h development/rewrite (because that's where tools come from)
=2h left

Two hours per days is a lot, right? In reality, it’s a lot less, but let’s stick with it for now. A few of my tools have no issues, but many of them have several open, so let’s assume each tool has one:

/130 tools (low estimate)
=55 sec/tool

That’s enough time to find and skim the issue, open the source code file(s), and … oh time’s up! Sorry, next issue!

So instead of dealing with all of them, I deal with one of them. Until it’s fixed, or I give up. Either may take minutes, hours, or days. And during that time, I am not looking at the hundreds of other issues. Because I can’t do anything about them at the time.

So how do I pick an issue to work on? It’s an intricate heuristic computed from the following factors:

  • Number of users affected
  • Severity (“security issue” vs. “wrong spelling”)
  • Opportunity (meaning, I noticed it when it got filed)
  • Availability (am I focused on doing something else when I notice the issue?)
  • Fun factor and current mood (yes, I am a volunteer. Deal with it.)

No single event prompted this blog post. I’ll keep it around to point to, when the occasion arises.



  1. AndreasP wrote:

    Very understandable, and thanks for your effort and time! For example, Wikidata would be empty and unusable if it were not for your tools. Your text makes it all the more clear that this issue should be dealt with by Wikimedia. I don’t know how, and they probably can’t grow another Magnus, but I guess there must be some people on this planet who can help with maintaining and fixing your scripts.

    Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 14:35 | Permalink
  2. Waldir Pimenta wrote:

    As someone who has submitted several issues, pull requests and talk page posts related to your tools, I would like to reassure you that if anyone’s feeling like you owe them more of your time and attention, they’re insane (or more likely, just misinformed).

    More than anyone I have seen in the Wikimedia tools universe, you’ve gone to great lengths to provide meta/programmable tools that others can take up to build richer and more diverse services (Toolscript, the Distributed Game, Mix’n’match catalogs, to name a few) and you regularly market those efforts in this blog. So you already go out of your way to… well, get out of the way and allow people to help themselves, without depending so much on you.

    That said, I’ll be honest: indeed, it bothers me that your efforts haven’t been met with more widespread adoption (matching their fantastic potential) from the tool developer / power user community; however, I must admit that in the cases where I’ve looked into contributing myself, I found the meta-tools to have a bit of a steep learning curve, which I suspect that may have played a role in the levels of adoption we’ve seen so far.

    I feel conflicted to say this, since it’s like me saying that you must spend *even more effort* in polishing these meta-tools, when the current effort probably hasn’t yet paid off in highly motivating ways. I’m not sure what would be more helpful here — perhaps a improved documentation? Visual diagrams to explain the data flows? I don’t know, but if you have ideas or would like specific feedback, I’d be glad to help out as I can.

    Friday, March 23, 2018 at 13:19 | Permalink
  3. gondo wrote:

    your wikipedia links on your About page are both (en, de) broken
    also where can I find a list of your tools? thx

    Friday, March 23, 2018 at 15:32 | Permalink
  4. B wrote:

    What is “work” 9hrs. Seems like these people who so desire your bugfixes could pool their money and this could be your new job 😉

    Friday, March 23, 2018 at 17:44 | Permalink
  5. Quiddity wrote:

    @Gondo, see

    @B, I think it has been tried! I believe he likes his current job.

    @Waldir, +1, well said. I’m also very interested in helping (for Magnus’ tools, and the other great tools). Please ping me if this gets discussed elsewhere.

    @Magnus, thanks for the good linkable writeup, that applies to all volunteer devs. <3

    Friday, March 23, 2018 at 20:21 | Permalink
  6. Jean-bernard wrote:

    Hi, we are a French non-profit advocating FLOSS. Would you please authorize us to translate this blogpostinto French and publish on our adfree&tracker-free with due credits to you and source ?

    Draft is ready, we just need your permission to push the “publish” button

    here is a screenshot

    Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 16:35 | Permalink
  7. Magnus wrote:

    Hi Jean-bernard, sure, go ahead!

    Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 18:53 | Permalink
  8. Magnus wrote:

    @Waldir: Thanks. Yes, the “meta tools” sometime suffer from being too complex and powerful for their own good. Will have a think about that…

    @Gondo: Thanks, updated. Good (but inclomplete) overview is at

    @B, @Quiddity: Yes, I like my dayjob, plus I suspect working on tools would lose a lot of fun if it were a paid-for venue…

    @Quiddity: I am slowly refactoring/rewriting my tools to put them on a saner code basis, which I hope might attract some more developers. Help is always welcome, be it becoming a tool co-maintainer, working on the code, or pull requests! 🙂

    Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 19:05 | Permalink
  9. Andy Mabbett wrote:

    This makes me all the more grateful for all the time you’ve spent fixing bugs I’ve reported, responding to my feature requests, and answering my questions. Thank you.

    Keep up the good work (but maybe allocate a little more time to your girlfriend!)

    Monday, March 26, 2018 at 11:45 | Permalink
  10. Waldir Pimenta wrote:

    > Yes, the “meta tools” sometime suffer from being too complex and powerful for their own good. Will have a think about that…

    Funny enough, soon after I read this post I came across a project whose documentation was so simple and effective that it made me wish I had something to contribute just to make use of it. Take a look and see if it inspires you (especially the diagram at the end):

    Friday, March 30, 2018 at 17:09 | Permalink