SourceForge.net woes: Project reviews

Today I am once again writing on something about SourceForge.net that bothers me. Just to get this straight first: I use SF.net 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, SF.net 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 :-).