If you want your users to report bugs, don't put hurdles in their way.

Today I was trying to convert a word processing document to plain text and make it look reasonably nice. I started with OpenOffice's "save as plain text" feature, but it wasn't handling tables very well.

So in a fit of "productive procrastination" I decided to hack together a script to spit out a better-looking plain-text version. Fortunately openoffice's native format is based on XML, so I should be able to start with that, right? Unfortunately the XML looked a little cruftier than I'd like, so I started checking to see if any of the other export formats was a better starting point for what I wanted to do. Save as HTML? nope that's no better ... save as Docbook, hmmm, this looks pretty simple and a bit cleaner than the original xml, so I'll start here.

Three hours later, I had something working, when I discovered that there was data missing from the docbook output. Some experimentation confirmed that OO was simply leaving out a few paragraphs at the end, who knows why.

Normally, when I encounter a bug in an open-source product, I feel morally obligated to report it (after checking for duplicate bugs of course).

First hurdle: openoffice.org requires you to register on the website. Maybe they're worried about spam, that's understandable.

Second hurdle: registration sends you not one but two emails. The first one is completely useless, it just tells you to be patient while waiting for the second email, which will contain your password. "That's odd," I thought.

Eventually it became clear that the "be patient" message is necessary because openoffice.org's registration system may not actually be capable of delivering it. It's been hours now, and the second email has not yet arrived.

Meanwhile, I solved my original problem in two minutes by tweaking the original plain-text export with a couple of emacs macros. So now I don't even care about the Docbook tangent. Then I wrote this rant. Still no registration mail.

The bug report I was going to file? I don't really care anymore.


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