woes: Project reviews

Today I am once again writing on something about that bothers me. Just to get this straight first: I use and a lot, and in general it works fine for me; but in the past year or so, more and more things keep piling up that really annoy me about it. And so I feel the need to vent some of my frustration by telling the world (or at least the handful people reading this blog 😉 ) .

Now before you yell at me “Don’t blog about it, dude, report it to them!”: Of course I report all issues I find via their tracking system or their IdeaTorrent. All right and proper. It just is that it recently most of the time feels that all the reporting is for nothing… I report things, and they get ignored; or they get lots of attention and in the end are still closed with “Won’t fix, this is as intended” or “We currently decided not to fix this”…  To give another example, just today, I went to their IdeaTorrent, and noticed some duplicate ideas. IdeaTorrent allows you to report duplicates. Sweet! Until you realize that lots of people report duplicates, but they never get resolved… I am not sure whether to cry or laugh when I read this on the page where you report duplicates: “The admins will accept or reject the merge shortly.” (Emphasis mine). “Shortly”, right… 🙂

Anyway, back to the subject: Some months ago, added a “project review system”. It allows anybody to give any project a thumbs up or down, and optionally a review. At first my thought was, neat idea, this could help filter out all the junk, and let the few real gems shine.

That is, until I realized that anybody can vote, even people not logged in. So you can quickly abuse it to generate many thumbs. Moreover there is nothing a project admin can do to delete inflamatory, off-topic or simple insulting “reviews”. Don’t get me wrong, of course negative comments must be allowed. If you try a product and it doesn’t work well for you, you should of course be allowed to give a negative review. But a constructive one, please! Take libpng for example: At the time I am writing this, they had 26 “thumbs up” and 21 “thumbs down”. With “reviews” like “YOU SUCK!!!!!!!!!!” or “that sucks man”. I kind of doubt that the reviewer, “anonymous” (who would have guessed…) is basing this on actual user experience. Well, or if he does, after this “review” I sadly don’t know what the experience actually was. To me it looks more as if it has beome a sport for various people to thumb down random projects. Man, I am glad that ScummVM (444 thumbs up, 92 down) and Fink (37 up, 6 down) are not hit as badly. Although I really wish I knew what those 92 thumbs down guys were complaining about. Maybe some of them even left reviews explaining their gripes, but so far, I haven’t found a way to read any reviews except for the last 25, so I’ll probably never know…

To sum it up, I just wish this project review system wasn’t so horribly broken and… naive? unprofessional? incomplete? useless?

There are certainly many ways to improve the situation, and luckily not all of them involve removing this feature. Instead of writing about those in detail, I’d like to point you to the relevant IdeaTorrent page, and ask you to vote on the various proposed solutions there. Yeah, I started this post with a complaint on how ideas on this IdeaTorrent may not be read at all… but I haven’t lost hope yet, and one should at least try, right? :-). So, let’s all try together, maybe we can move this unmovable rock a little bit.

P.S.: In case you are wondering which IdeaTorrent idea I found duplicates for, it was of course the one I linked to above… Seems quite some people are annoyed by these reviews and post new ideas suggesting improvements. If you wonder why they keep posting new proposals instead of voting on or adding to existing ones, well, my guess would be that it’s because the IdeaTorrent’s “Search” button, quite surprisingly, doesn’t do what it says. My request to rename it to “Filter by tags” (that’s what it actually does… not quite the same, nor quite as useful, don’t you agree?) was, of course, rejected long ago :-). woes: IdeaTorrent broken, no remedy in sight

Update Nov. 26: finally fixed the voting issue. Yay! I still don’t understand why they didn’t manage to post a warning sign for the whole period of this, but for now I am just happy this is resolved. So now it’s easier for all of you to vote on the ideas I linked to below (and all others, too 😉 ). has been busy changing lots and lots of things in the past years. Some things certainly got a lot better by this. But some really got a lot worse. Well, when renovating a system, that happens; usually such “regressions” are simply fixed quickly, and one we go.

Not so with SourceForge, it seems :-(. For example, they shelved from their old “request for enhancement” tracker (on which you could suggest your ideas on how SourceForge could improve their site, have it sit there for some years, then watch it being closed with a comment stating that they will consider it at some point. Yes, I am bitter :-/). Instead of the good old RFE tracker, they now use a new way to track feature requests: They switched to using IdeaTorrent, a fancy pancy Web 2.0 thingy which allows people to vote on issues! So, the community can put emphasis on what features are important to many people, and thus this helps SourceForge to prioritize things.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Only, it doesn’t work. Voting on SourceForge’s IdeaTorrent has been silently broken for over two months now. Silently meaning that it looks as if your vote has been registered, it increases the count, no error. Only when you reload, you notice your vote was, in fact, ignored. This has been reported via their Trac and via their IdeaTorrent in September. And they haven’t even managed to put up a simple box on the IdeaTorrent page that warns people about this, and points them to the workaround. (I requested this highly “innovative” workaround September 21).

In principle, staff has been great in personal communication on this issue; they gave me a “VIP” treatment and even skyped with me about this. Only, in the end, the result is still the same: For two months, people would vote on the IdeaTorrent, and their votes were silently lost. And not even a warning sign (something that should take virtually no time, even with testing before deployment) has been put up yet.

Wow. I am baffled. Something must be really wrong with their internal organization, I have no other explanation. Lack of internal communication? Strange priorities? Incompetence? I am trying to think of an explanation that doesn’t let them look quite incompetent, but just can’t come up with any (if you have a better imagination than me, feel free to leave a comment).

I have been using SourceForge for many years. I used to be a big fan and supported. I used to defend them whenever people raved about how sucks. I still use it a lot, but I get more and more annoyed with how things are these days, and how slow things move. And how unimportant the wishes of the developer community seem to be (but maybe it’s just me who perceives it this way). Normally, I’d keep silent about this and hope for a fix, but I kind of have lost hope on that by now. A sad day for me :-(.

Anyway, if you haven’t given up on them, consider voting on some of the following IdeaTorrent entries (but don’t forget to use the workaround, else your vote is sent to /dev/null):

And maybe I should recycle a rejected support request of my own: “Add real searching to IdeaTorrent”. Because the “search” box in IdeaTorrent apparently doesn’t actually perform a search. Instead it filters based on tags. Intuitive… But I was told that this is the “intended behavior”, and answer I get a lot these days. Maybe now you have a glimpse as to why I am unhappy :-(.

Vote for us in the CCA

Good news: We have been selected as candidate in the final round of the Community Choice Awards, in the category “Best project for gamers” – a big “Thank You” to everybody who nominated us!

Now we need you again: Please give us your vote in the final round again! You can at the same time also vote for other projects in several other categories. Click here to vote, with ScummVM pre-selected. Community Choice Awards 2009

Just wanted to alert you of the fact that once again, is running its Community Choice Awards program. You can nominate any project listed on or Freshmeat. And of course you can nominate ScummVM! Just use the button below to nominate us (I suggest as “Best Project” and “Best Project for Gamers”).

As you may recall, we won CCA 2007 in the category “Best project for gamers”. Among the prizes was a donation made to the EFF in our name (and as a result a free EFF T-Shirt for me, yay!), and this “wonderful” toy (which produces terribly annoying sound and has no other useful function, but nevertheless, or maybe because of this, almost always attracts the attention of first time visitors):

Noisebot CCA 2007
Noisebot CCA 2007

First Post!

This is the first post to my new blog, and I guess it’ll be rather boring (whether this refers to this post or the whole blog remains to be seen). For now, I am not even sure how and whether I will make use of this blog, but given that we are now forcing asking all our GSoC students to run a blog detailing their progress through the summer, I figured it was only fair if I made the effort, too. Of sorts at least.Ah well, maybe I’ll use this to report on some of my work on ScummVM, or my mathematical research, or whatever else. Most likely, though, it will end up as dead and boring as 99.9% of the other blogs out there… Time will show 😉