Here's a simple, but obvious rule: if you ship a new piece of software, you will need to track bugs.
As I detailed in My open-source WordPress plug-in: Lessons learned from a release gone wrong, I recently shipped a major upgrade to an open-source WordPress plugin project. The result? Bugs that need fixing and features users want added to the software.
The good news is after two weeks, the "white screen of death" problem has been pretty well eliminated through user instruction and lots of postings on how to conduct a safe upgrade.
But there were some legitimate bugs introduced, and they needed to be tracked and managed. The thing is, since this is a nights-and-weekends side project, I didn't want to go whole hog into some sort of massive ticketing system. I really just wanted to find a way to holistically integrate supporting users and managing bugs into my daily workflow.
As it turns out, a combination of Feedly and Todoist, two services I already use every day, is nearly perfect for the job.
Feedly for support monitoring
Let's talk about the Feedly part of the equation first. Feedly is a SaaS-based RSS reader and I visit it through Chrome on my desktop. I haven't yet seen the need to pay for the premium services, so I'm getting the benefits of Feedly for free. So, win.
What Feedly helps me do is check on user postings to the support boards for the ten WordPress plugins I maintain. I've set up a category called "PLUGIN SUPPORT" and if anyone posts to any of the ten support forums, that posting shows up in Feedly.
This is hugely efficient for me, because I check Feedly every morning as part of my morning reading anyway. I just take a quick glance, and if there are posts in the PLUGIN SUPPORT category, I just add them to my daily reading. In practice, that usually means I visit one or two forums daily, rather than having to load all ten.
If you're setting this up for your work, remember you can monitor a wide variety of sites and feeds, and as long as you can find an RSS feed, you can monitor it.
Todoist for bug and feature management
Users reach out for help in either of two ways: posting on the forums discussed above or email using my Contact Me Web site form. Regardless of how they reach me, I'm able to use Todoist to track activities.
Todoist is my current todo manager of choice and so, like Feedly, I'm in and using it every day.
When a reader sends me a note that describes a bug (there were 16 repeatable bugs in the big 4.0 release), I simply record that bug into Todoist.
Todoist has both a browser extension and and add-on for Gmail. Both work the same way: you click the toolbar icon on the browser, hit the plus sign to add a new item and then choose either "add email as task" or "add Web site as task". This embeds a link to the original email or forum posting in the Todoist task.
I use tags in Todoist to manage support. Each plugin has a tag, for example: @seamless-donations. Then, I have two key tags: @bug-report and @feature-request.
This works really well. Let's say an email is describing a bug. All I need to do is add the email as a task, and select @seamless-donations and @bug-report. I can reply to the email and hit Send and Archive and the email is no longer in my inbox.
I do the same thing with forum postings. I can discuss the posting, but once I've tagged the posting, I can move on.
The premium version of Todoist allows you to set up named filters, so I have one called "SD Bug Reports" with "@seamless-donations & @bug-report" as the filter. Tapping SD Bug Reports then brings up my list of bugs. I can then set dates if I want to work on them on a specific weekend, prioritize them, and -- were I not the only developer on this project -- even share them.
The same works with feature requests, with just a slightly different filter.
This weekend, I sat down and cleaned out a bunch of bug reports. I just tapped that filter, went through and fixed the various reported bugs, and just checked off the items just as if they were any other todo item.
So there you go. Very easy user support tracking and bug and feature management with two tools you may already be using.
Oh, and all 16 reported bugs have been vacated over the last two weekends. We're now at 4.0.2.
By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.