I went and saw Joel Spolsky’s talk about FogBugz6 tonight. It seems to be quite the powerful software development tool. But I’m afraid that it seems to suffer like every tool–it forces you into certain methods of development. For example, there’s no way to ensure that every bug entered is viewed by QA. Now, that isn’t a problem for the teams I currently work on, but I can see it being a problem for teams I have worked on. Joel mentioned very valid reasons for doing this, but they only seem valid for the subset of development teams that FogBugz targets.

In fact, as I left, almost every conversation I heard was about the product, and how people could fit it into their process, rather than use the process it gives you. Because FogBugz really is more than a bug tracking system–it now goes from documentation/requirements gathering all the way to estimation to bug tracking to customer support. FogBugz appears to be a tool that is used in almost the entire software development life cycle–hey look, it’s RUP lite.

But I’ve used never version 6, and I’m sure there are significant wins. My other concerns are that the software estimation parts sound like they’re 1.0 features (just from the words he used–at best 1.1 since they used FogBugz6 to develop FogBugz6); I’d rather wait until the features are more settled. I’m sure you could use just the bug tracking system, and they’ve certainly taken the ‘Web 2.0’/instant response/make it feel like a desktop application ideas to heart. The cost is another concern; while minimal, it is greater than $0. On many projects I’m on, just using any bug tracker, let alone an entire software development tool, is difficult, and you can’t beat stealth bug tracker installs. (I’m on record as saying “I have to say that I think the open source solutions (Bugzilla and PHPBT) are going to eat the commercial solutions’ lunch for small projects, because they are a cheaper substitute with all the required attributes”, just as an FYI.)

One thing that really surprised me at the talk is how many folks were there evaluating FogBugz as opposed to seeing Joel speak. Around one third of the audienced had used or was using FogBugz. Joel opened up the floor to questions, and every single one except one (of mine) was about features or flaws in FogBugz. I mean, this is the guy who wrote the Joel Test and no one took the opportunity to ask him general development questions, even though he said he’d field them. I don’t know what the deal was.

Will I give FogBugz a try? Not right now. But I’ll keep an eye on what they’re doing.

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