What’s your bug #1?

Evan Prodromou recently asked the following on the laconica-dev list:

So, Ubuntu has a pretty famous Bug #1:
The title is “Microsoft has a majority market share”. I think it’s a great part of the Ubuntu culture, because it focuses people on what they want to do with Ubuntu.

Our bug #1, by the way, is “/doc/contact”.
Since this was long-ago fixed, I’d like to wipe this ticket* and replace it with an overall project purpose, like Ubuntu’s. But what would the bug be?

It got me thinking – and not just about Identi.ca and open microblogging as a federated, distributed alternative to centralized approaches like Twitter.

Moose and Squirrel - photo by Paul Lannuier.
Moose and Squirrel - photo by Paul Lannuier.

Remember Boris and Natasha, and their plans for world domination? They ultimately failed because they always decided "but first, get moose and squirrel" – they chose the wrong bug #1. (See 21 Things I Wish My Broker Had Told Me).

At its core, having a bug #1 is really a geek-centric way of having a mission statement. What’s wrong with the world as it exists without your effort, and what would it look like to solve that problem?

This could even be adapted to personal goals – you could have a shortlist of “bugs” with the world you hope to focus on, and while you may not ever close each of those bugs, you should be able to tell whether your work is headed in the right direction – whether you feel like you are contributing to progress in that direction or not.

One concern might be that phrasing each goal as a bug limits innovation – the old FUD that open source imitates, but doesn’t innovate, for example – but describing a broad problem you hope to solve doesn’t, in reality, limit the innovation you might create.

Side note: it’s really interesting to read the threads associated with Ubuntu’s bug #1 and Evan’s question (view by thread in laconica-dev archives) – both are core cases of a “reflexive public” in the process of defining itself (see Chris Kelty’s Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software for more on that concept).

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