Thunderbird should have a feature request site

I believe Thunderbird should have a feature request site.

I think this one might be really simple to add here on Discourse.

  • Users should be able to suggest new features, improvements on features, etc.
  • Users should be able to vote on features requests.
  • Developers should be able to mark features as:
    • Under Discussion
    • In Progress
    • Complete
    • Rejected
  • There should be a way for developers to set a reply as “sticky” so that users know the current official stance on the feature request.

I actually set up my own Discourse instance to test if it could do this for us. It can.

A combination of https://github.com/discourse/discourse-voting.git and sub-categories gets us the voting and marking features. I haven’t figured out the “sticky” reply yet.

If anyone wants to see the demo, send me your email address. I’ll send you an invite.

2 Likes

This will add incredible noise to discourse, which will make a lot of people unhappy unless there is a way to force such requests into a box that people who don’t care about them can exclude them from their notifications and monitoring of discourse.

I agree it would encourage people to post more here. And I would expect some of the posts wouldn’t be very helpful. But I also think a lot of it would be very useful.

Up until very recently, I had no idea how I could interact with the people behind Thunderbird. This Discourse would have been one of the first places I would have checked if I hadn’t found out about all the other communication channels while working on the Get Involved page. And this category hasn’t even existed for very long.

If I had wanted to suggest something, I would have searched around a little bit, gotten lost in the current maze, and given up.

If there had been a feature request category linked to from Thunderbird’s site, or just available for Google to find, I would have been set.

A feature request site/category would also encourage more community participation. Some might be negative, but even that can be valuable if managed correctly.

As for skipping notifications, Discourse does let you mute a category. I think that should help manage the “noise”.

One thing I hadn’t thought about earlier is how much of a moderation workload it would be. I haven’t had any experience moderating a large community, so I have no idea if it would be easy or not.

Could we consider it as an experiment? “Experimental Feature Request Category” as the title, and a large “This is an experiment to see if it improves the Thunderbird community. If it ends up simply not working, or uses up too much of our moderators time, it will be suspended.” message at the top of every page?

I would have thought Bugzilla was the appropriate location for enhancement requests, but it does require the requester to have some idea how the program works. Alternatively I would be happy with a “Gee this would be good link” where folk can drop their ideas. Without any form of discussion, feedback or anything else. Developers can look at popular request, or ignore it completely. I think creating a discourse forum to be a particularly bad idea for enhancement requests. Having works with the idea category on get satisfaction forums. Folk with ideas are not interested in realities, prior decision or anything else but their personal desire to see feature X i the next point release. Giving them a place to ferment and snipe is non productive in the extreme.

I am seeing here what I see on every communication channel. Folk seeking support. I also see lots of folk that ask for already existing features through ignorance. A classic support case. How would you suggest those be handled?

basically there needs to be a separation between the user base and the discussion of how to make things happen.

Bugzilla is intimidating to me. And I’ve been a Linux System Administrator for around 8 years. Asking normal users to use it seems like a bit much to me. I’d imagine initial support would be here, or SUMO, or a mailing list. Then, if it’s a bug, someone who knows Bugzilla would post it there, or help the person reporting the bug navigate their way around Bugzilla. But that’s a whole different topic…

That’s an extremely negative view of the people Thunderbird is supposed to be for. The internet may enable some of the more negative people to be loud, but that’s not a good reason to refuse to provide useful tools to the people who appreciate what Thunderbird is doing.

Move the topic into the appropriate support channel. That’d be one benefit of having a Feature Request category in the same Discourse instance as the support category.

In a non-open source project, sure. Thunderbird is an open source project. The users are the ones who make it happen.

If keeping the Feature Requests away from the rest of the discussion channel is actually what we should do, then we could easily just use a separate Discourse instance. (I didn’t find any decent open source Feature Request apps when I searched, maybe I missed something, but sticking with Discourse does keep the number of tools to support down.) If the help is needed, I’d be happy to help administer that instance and it’s server.

(Apologies for not putting my reply lines inline, but I have no patience today to learn how to reply inline with quote levels in discourse.)

Bugzilla is intimidating to me.

Intimidating how? You mean trying to find things? Or just entering issues?

On the general topic of taking user input/suggestions IMO a project of this sort has very little ROI. Sorry this is going to sound very negative but understanding our history my experince sugggests …

A. We don’t have the development staff to impliment 99.9% (or pick a number) of existing suggestions (https://mzl.la/2r39qOH 3000+ item backlog in bugzilla).

B. Even if we had more staff it would be hard. (Mozilla Messaging had about 10 FTE? they made major changes but still barely made a dent)

C. Someone would need to process all this input and discussion. We had a system in the distant past called “Input” and afaict none of it ever went into a useable form.

D. forums take bandwidth and energy - and I think this is part of what Matt is getting at. I would point you to the rants that occurred in mozilla.dev.apps.thunderbird, before the moderated tb-planning forum was created, for many examples of discussions that were energy draining and a complete waste of time.

E. We have IMO more pressing issues that lack manpower but admittedly aren’t very exciting. For example maintaining and expanding a knowledge base for user reference.

However, I can think of some items that might be worth investing some manpower:

  • a dead simple, low maintenance suggestion system which had no discussion, process for user voting, and metrics for those responsible for distilling the feedback … such that suggestions could be ranked
  • a survey which incorporated the 3000+ item bugzilla backlog (and other sources) … such that suggestions could be ranked
  • develop an algorithm against multiple criteria in the existing bugzilla backlog … such that suggestions could be ranked

Then again, I could be totally off base. Anyway, I offer these up to inform the discussion.

Up until very recently, I had no idea how I could interact with the people behind Thunderbird.

I would ask how long you’ve been around/looking? And where? (If you were only searching on www.mozilla.org then I understsand, www.mozilla.org a total dead end.)

This Discourse would have been one of the first places I would have checked if

Again a question - why do you assert this, and how exactly did you find discourse?

I hadn’t found out about all the other communication channels while working on the Get Involved page. And this category hasn’t even existed for very long.

FWIW, I do frequent google searches on various Thunderbird items and I never saw discourse mentioned but it has existed for over a year. I only discovered it in the last couple months.

(Posting these to gather data, not to be argumentative.)

Having assisted on the Support forum for several years, it is my experience that most requests for features are made by people who are not aware they already exist.
This tends to fall into a few categories;

  1. The method already exists in standard thunderbird and they have not discovered the method of doing what they desire.
  2. The feature is available via an addon extension; even I am not always aware of all of the current addons.
  3. The feature was available via an addon extension, but that addon is no longer working with the current or future beta version of Thunderbird.
  4. The feature is new or not covered by an addon due to it no longer being supported by the author of that addon.

If they request this via the support forum, guideance can be given.
In the majority of cases I have encountered numbers 1 and 2 in the above list are the most common and can be resolved via the Support forum.
In the case of number 3, advise is given that they should contact the author and links to that addon where the email number is available is offered.
In the case of number 4, I offer a link to the budzilla website, offering general advise about what content to include and informing them that it is not a ‘chat’ forum and their idea may or may not be used.

In other words, the Support forum currently acts as a valuable screening or filtering level, so that eg: Bugzilla is not over-used as another level of support. I do not think this process of filtering should not be removed.

The main issues arise when:

  1. An addon is no longer supported by the original author and the difficulty in communicating with that author.
    At addons.mozilla.org, where addons are located, I have seen some addons do state a new author would be welcome, but is there a specific place where all authors can communicate and receive emails as a group so that they are aware of the what addons are currently in need of support?
    If an addon is not actively being supported by the author, is the author obligued to post this information and allow another author to take it on board or is it solely the property of the author?
    Would it be possible for ‘Discourse’ have a specific topic for ‘Addons’ needing new authors?
    Could or should this be a subset in some way to the ‘Feature Request’ ?

  2. The feature is a genuine new feature, bugzilla can seem it only deals with ‘bugs’. I would say that bugzilla is not as user friendly for some people. Also, people need to create another account to post in Bugzilla.

It would be helpful, to create a link in the Support forum which can be used by moderators and/or people like myself (long time proven helpers but currently with no moderator privileges) can elevate that question as a ‘Feature request’ to be forwarded to eg: ‘Bugzilla’ or ‘Discourse’ and be auto created under a specific ‘Feature request’ topic.
At the moment, I can only ‘Report Abuse’, but could a similar method by used for a ‘Feature Request’ ?
I am concerned that allowing anyone to request features without that screening level (currently in place and effective) would be an overload on the ‘Feature Request’ forum/website whether it be Bugzilla, Discourse or Support.mozilla.org etc.

Thoughts on the above anyone?

Here’s a bit of a stream of consciousness response to that question…

There are several different search tools. I honestly have no idea if the one you see on the front page will actually find what I’m looking for. I tried a couple different searches, (like this) and it found no results, but it listed a whole bunch of fields and what it had stuck in them from the main search input. Did that result in bugzilla filtering out results I wanted? I have no idea. So I go to the advanced search. Um. Yeah, I’m lost. I think I need to actually know how BugZilla really works in order to use it.

The new bug wizard is actually pretty decent.

Anyway, if all I wanted to do was suggest a new feature, and I wanted to not post a duplicate, BugZilla would be very hard to navigate. 'Course, I could be totally wrong on this. Maybe users are able to find the feature request bugs quickly, and it’s just me. shrugs

I think part of it is also the information density. Each page is packed with lots of details. Many of which are a bit confusing. I see “NEW” bugs from 2012…

Lack of staff is one of the major issues Thunderbird needs to solve. Not having enough staff was one of my concerns, I’m not sure if I addressed that earlier or not…

As for the backlog in bugzilla, I’d want to import them into any new feature request site. Then close them out in bugzilla.

IMO, bugzilla seems like an odd place for feature requests. It seems like it should be for bug reporting or in progress development work. Not support or feature requests. Feature requests should be filtered before they hit bugzilla. A feature request site would help with that. If developers take on a feature request, they would be the ones opening a bugzilla ticket to track progress.

I know that kind of topic happens. But I really don’t believe the answer to the problem is to simply not have a place for discussions.

I also believe that we could figure out ways to moderate the site/category that would keep it under control. Maybe require a topic receive a certain number of “likes” before it can be moved into the feature request category? Maybe once a developer has responded to the idea, the topic is closed for discussion? Things like that.

I think the most I ever did was when looking for support. It’s been long enough, I really don’t remember what all I found. So, maybe what I said there doesn’t really apply. I do know I have looked for official forums a few times and only ever found MozillaZine. At least I think that was what I found… I know I never found the mailing lists or newsgroups. This would be as far back as when Thunderbird first launched.

My first email client was Netscape 3.x I believe… The only large period of time I wasn’t using Netscape/Mozilla/Thunderbird was a few years I only had a gmail account. So I have been looking for support, at least, off and on since before Thunderbird was launched.

I always look for a forum to ask for help in. I’ve never had much success with mailing lists. Either searching their archives, or posting to them. Forums have always worked better for me.

I found the Discourse here. At that time I thought this category hadn’t been around for very long. Was there a Thunderbird Discourse instance outside of this instance before?

If support was moved into Discourse and a feature request category was part of the same Discourse, then you could just move the topic into the appropriate category. It would also work in reverse.

Ok, this is getting long, time to stop. :slight_smile:

Edit:

One more thing…

That sounds like a Discourse category with voting enabled, but replies disabled.

Other than votes, what kind of metrics would you want?

Have you ever tried just pressing F1 in Thunderbird. You know the “help” short cut? Or selecting Help off the help menu? As far a I am aware they were in Version1 they were in Version 2 when I first looked for help.

I understand you are a fan or discourse. I am not a fan of yet another forum for support. we have had 4 in 5 years if I count the return to kitsune and none of them have been as good as get satisfaction. If I had to move the support forum, I would be looking to return there, not go down another rabbit hole that offers a lot and delivers madness. The last exercise in futility that was Lithium was an unmitigated disaster.

To be quite honest, I find this https://discourse.mozilla.org/ to be intimidating in the extreme. It is not perfect, but I think it is better https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/new

The chance that someone requests something that isn’t already tracked (in bugzilla) is very, very, very small. So in that sense, it’s not much of a win.

For reference, this is how the discourse team manages feature requests:

And yes, you can also display a category sorted by votes or likes if needed.

I just want to say thanks to everyone who has taken the time to consider and respond to my idea. :smile:

At this point, it seems most are wary of implementing it. So I’ll bow to their greater experience. (Seriously, as far as I can tell, most who have responded have much more experience with forums, and Thunderbird specific forums, than I do.)

Of course, I’d love to see something like this happen, so if anyone wants to ping me for more ideas on how it would work, I’d be happy to respond. I’d also be happy to help with implementing anything in anyway I can.

Could someone get this request to the team, please?
I would like Thunderbird to offer to scan my emails for addresses I’ve used before (when I need to reinstall from scratch) and add those email addresses to my remembered address/OK-list.

I have been using Thunderbird for some 10 years on multiple machines. I have never had to “reinstall from scratch” so perhaps it is something that you are doing that leaves you thinking there is a need here. Like not moving you data to new devices.

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/moving-thunderbird-data-to-a-new-computer

My mail accounts are all imap. So I don’t need to move data when setting up a new system. That means my address book doesn’t get transferred. Perhaps @tsguerin is in a similar situation.

I actually wouldn’t mind a feature like this. Thought it might work better as an addon.

@tsguerin I’d suggest making a new topic describing your request in more detail. You also could consider submitting it as a feature request on Bugzilla.

Imap does make it easy to reinstall mail accounts, but moving a profile is just as easy and it also moves a load of other stuff like emails in ‘Local Folders’ mail account, address books, message filters, junk control settings, preferences etc etc.
For anyone that wants to know…It is easy to get address books moved to new profile name folders. The ‘Personal Address Book’ called ‘abook.mab’ and the ‘Collected Addresses’ called ‘history.mab’, can be copy pasted from one profile name folder to another. In Thunderbird, any address book can be exported as LDIF and imported via Address Book > Tools > Import > Address Books.

There used to be an addon called ‘Email Address Crawler’, https://freeshell.de/~kaosmos/index-en.html#eac
It is no longer up to date and no intention of updating to meet new addon requirements. If someone wants to take it on then perhaps they could contact the authors.