Intro to Bug Trackers (Activity)

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Intro to Issue Trackers


Learners will gain an understanding of the features of issue trackers and how they are used to identify work items to be completed in a FOSS project.



After successfully completing this activity, the learner should be able to:
  1. Describe the role that a issue tracker plays in a FOSS project.
  2. Describe the different types of issues stored in a issue tracker and their priorities.
  3. Identify and track the status of a particular issue in a project.
Process Skills


Issue tracking systems are a tool for change management and organization used by FOSS projects. Issue trackers are used to hold bug reports, new feature requests, patches, and some tasks. Issue trackers are also called request trackers, bug trackers, and ticket systems. Please read the two readings below for a more complete treatment of issue trackers and their use in FOSS projects.


  1. Open a browser and go to GNOME's issue tracker on GitLab:
  2. GItLab allows groups with multiple projects to view all their issues in an aggregated view. This is what you are viewing now. List some of the projects that these issues belong to (hint - each issue has an issue number prefixed by its project name.)
  3. What other information is available about each issue in this view?
  4. Issues can be assigned labels which are also visible from this view. These are the colorful labeled ovals. List a few of the labels that you see. Feel free to browse through pages.
  5. Browse through a couple of issues. What additional information is provided on individual issues?
  6. Click on "labels" in the left menu. Notice that labels are grouped by number and color. For example, gold (olive?) labels start with "1." and represent the type of the issue, which can be used to quickly search for issues of a certain type and to know what type an issue is at a glance. What other groups are there, and how do you think they are used?
  7. Click on "board" in the left menu. Boards are used to organize issues. This board provides a high-level roadmap of the projects in GNOME. How are cards associated with columns?
  8. Milestones do three things: 1. they aggregate a set of issues and 2. they associate a deadline with those issues, and 3. they provide a progress bar to visualize the status of a milestone. Milestones can be used to collect issues for an upcoming release, organize a time-boxed development effort (as in a Scrum Sprint), or they can be used to collect issues that compose a larger feature to be implemented. Click on "milestones" in the left menu. Browse through two or three of them. How does GNOME appear to be using milestones?
  9. Click on "Merge Requests" in the left menu. These look a lot like issues. Browse through a few. What do they have that issues do not? Often merge-requests contain links back to the issue that they are related to. What is the syntax for linking a Merge-Request to an issue?

Notes for Instructors

The remaining sections of this document are intended for the instructor. They are not part of the learning activity that would be given to students.


  • How will the activity be graded?
  • How will learning will be measured?
  • Include sample assessment questions/rubrics.
Criteria Level 1 (fail) Level 2 (pass) Level 3 (good) Level 4 (exceptional)
The purpose of the project
Why the project is open source


  • What should the instructor know before using this activity?
  • What are some likely difficulties that an instructor may encounter using this activity?
Area & Unit(s)


Estimated Time
to Complete

60 minutes

Environment /

Access to Internet/Web and web browser.


Heidi Ellis Stoney Jackson


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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