Software vendors - both formal shops and open source, spare time projects - have some preferred method of bug collection. Some use a web form, some use an 800 number - many OS projects use the SourceForge bug tracker. Scott Johnson points out the limitations in reference to a complaint he had about Evolution, and the response that came back on it:
Now Jason argues that I Should have gone to the Ximian site and found the right place to put the comment and then submitted it properly all nice and tidy. Well that's just not going to happen in the real world. Its difficult to find here to put stuff on a web site, figure it out, etc. Until that's a standard thing, users are going to put comments everywhere, even in blogs*. And as someone who has been a product manager most of their professional life, I can honestly tell you this:
- Commentary on your product even in the wrong place is better than no commentary
- Commentary even negative is better than no commentary
One thing that I do think that Jason has missed is that public rants -- IF THEY ARE CREDIBLE** -- serve a real purpose. They make a company very aware that there's an issue and perhaps some incentive to get it fixed. That's huge. And someone else posted in the comments here "how would I like it if someone did that to me for one of my products (Inbox Buddy)?". Well sure I see the issues but you know something -- if I screw up badly enough for someone to write this kind of rant then I should have my feet held to the flame. Yup. That's right -- I may be difficult*** but at least I'm consistently difficult.
I have to say that I agree with him. Yes, I'd rather see bug reports go through our support system or through one of the mailing lists we monitor. The reality is, they crop up in comp.lang.smalltalk, on people's blogs and websites, and in the Smalltalk IRC Channel. They also arrive in email sent to me and to other well known Cincomers. Is this the most efficient way to get them? Maybe not, but it's how it works, and as a software vendor, we just have to deal with the reality. Raging against the nature of reality really isn't going to do us a lot of good. We try to encourage people (gently) to use the preferred channels, but that's about as far as you can go that way.