So I just got back from the Linux architects conference held at Google in Mountain View, CA. It was a good trip and I hope that these types of summits help spur the collaboration that needs to happen.
One of the highlights for me was Mark Shuttworth's keynote. He spoke not of the individual features, or high level visions but of the real day to day problem of duplicated efforts.
Because of the distributed nature of development there are many distributions that duplicate their efforts by opening, fixing and merging the same bugs across various distributions. This is an easy opportunity were we can work smarter not harder.
I approached Mark at the reception and mentioned how the Wikipedia also has a fairly distributed nature but that individuals are able to track and monitor topics of interest. Users are subscribed to a topic of interest and it becomes difficult for someone to make a change without notifying everyone who's interested in a particular topic.
Mark said: "What if you could subscribe to a bug tracker like you do with RSS?"
I think the concept is novel in that it allows distributed projects to monitor changes, status and progress in a distributed way. You subscribe to the things you care about. You could subscribe to a particular file, folder, a particular bug or a particular key phrase. Then when someone makes comments or change you know about it.
The actual feed would be RSS so it would work with existing feed readers and aggregators. The content of the feed would be new bugs, bug comments, code changes or other related changes.
Many bug tracking systems and source code packages already have RSS plug-ins and tools. SVN and CSV, Trac, & Bugzilla all have RSS components.
The part that's missing seems to be the actual feeds from all the major groups.
The beginnings of a distributed bug tracking system has to start with a simple standard. Another approach that was discussed was refered to as "bCard" (kind of like a an ID card for bugs). This approach would create a microformat interchange that could be indexed and searched. This would be a portable format that could be used to interchange data between different bug trackers.
This approach is also interesting but would require more work to define a schema and get the existing tools to support this schema.
Both the RSS-Bugs approach and the bCard idea aim to solve the same problem of allowing distributed teams to track monitor and view bugs so that collaboration becomes the norm rather then the exception.