Several times now I've been faced with plans from a team that wants to build their own bug tracking system - Not as a product, but as an internal tool.

The arguments I've heard in favous are usually along the lines of :

  • Wanting to 'eat our own dog food' in terms of some internally built web framework
  • Needing some highly specialised report, or the ability to tweak some feature in some allegedly unique way
  • Believing that it isn't difficult to build a bug tracking system

What arguments might you use to support buying an existing bug tracking system? In particular, what features sound easy but turn out hard to implement, or are difficult and important but often overlooked?

+6  A: 

The most basic argument for me would be the time loss. I doubt it could be completed in less then a month or two. Why spend the time when there are soooo many good bug tracking systems available? Give me an example of a feature that you have to tweak and is not readily available.

I think a good bug tracking system has to reflect your development process. A very custom development process is inherently bad for a company/team. Most agile practices favor scrum or these kinds of things, and most bug tracking systems are in line with such suggestions and methods. Don't get too bureaucratic about this.

Can someone edit "bud" -> "bug", and "beurocratic" -> "bureaucratic", please?
Bobby Jack
There you go Bobby! Thanks for noticing.
+9  A: 

I would just say it's a matter of money - buying a finished product you know is good for you (and sometimes not even buying if it's free) is better than having to go and develop one on your own. It's a simple game of pay now vs. pay later.

Omer van Kloeten
+31  A: 

I would want to turn the question around. WHY on earth would you want to build your own?
If you need some extra fields, go with an existing package that can be modified.
Special report? Tap into the database and make it.

Believing that it isn't difficult? Try then. Spec it up, and see the list of features and hours grow. Then after the list is complete, try to find an existing package that can be modified before you implement your own.

In short, don't reinvent the wheel when another one just needs some tweaking to fit.

Lars Mæhlum
+2  A: 

I'd say one of the biggest stumbling blocks would be agonising over the data model / workflow. I predict this will take a long time and involve many arguments about what should happen to a bug under certain circumstances, what really constitutes a bug, etc. Rather than spend months arguing to-and-fro, if you were to just roll out a pre-built system, most people will learn how to use it and make the best of it, no matter what decisions are already fixed. Choose something open-source, and you can always tweak it later if need be - that will be much quicker than rolling your own from scratch.

Bobby Jack
+13  A: 

Programmers like to build their own ticket system because, having seen and used dozens of them, they know everything about it. That way they can stay in the comfort zone.

It's like checking out a new restaurant: it might be rewarding, but it carries a risk. Better to order pizza again.

There's also a great fact of decision making buried in there: there are always two reasons to do do something: a good one and the right one. We make a decision ("Build our own"), then justify it ("we need full control"). Most people aren't even aware of their true motivation.

To change their minds, you have to attack the real reason, not the justification.

+5  A: 

Most importantly, where will you submit the bugs for your bug tracker before it's finished??

But seriously. The tools already exist, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Modifying tracking tools to add certain specific features is one thing (I've modded Trac before)... rewriting one is just silly.

The most important thing you can point out is that if all they want to do is add a couple of specialized reports, it doesn't require a ground-up solution. And besides, the LAST place "your homebrew solution" matters is for internal tools. Who cares what you're using internally if it's getting the job done as you need it?

Loren Segal
+2  A: 

At this point, without a large new direction in bug tracking/ticketing, it would simply be re-inventing the wheel. Which seems to be what everyone else thinks, generally.

+6  A: 

Not Invented Here syndrome!

Build your own bug tracker? Why not build your own mail client, project management tool, etc.

As Omer van Kloeten says above, pay now or pay later.

Stu Thompson
You ask rhetorically, but this *is* the primary reason I've seen in many places. The bug tracker is in-house precisely because it needs to *integrate* with all the other in-house stuff, often in a single monolithic application with poor development practices.
There are integrated products out there too. And then there is the concept of "middleware". I stand by my answer.
Stu Thompson
+2  A: 

Your discussions will start with what consitutes a bug and evolve into what workflow to apply and end up with a massive argument about how to manage software engineering projects. Do you really want that? :-) Nah, thought not - go and buy one!

Rik Garner
+4  A: 

Being a programmer working on an already critical (or least, important) task, should not let yourself deviate by trying to develop something that is already available in the market (OpenSource or Commercial).

You will now try to create a bug tracking system to keep track of the bug tracking system that you use to track bugs in your core development.

First: 1. Choose the platform your bug system would run on (Java/PHP/Windows/Linux etc) 2. Try finding OS tools that are available (by OpenSource, I mean both commercial and free tools) on the platform you chose 3. Spend minimum time to try to customize to your need. If possible, dont waste time in customizing at all

For an enterprise development team, we started using Jira. We wanted some extra reports, SSO login etc. JIra was capable of it, and we could extend it using the already available plugin. Since the code was given part of paid-support, we just got minimal time spent on writing custom plugin for login

Ram Prasad
+1 for "create a bug tracking system to keep track of the bug tracking system that you use to track bugs in your core development." LOL
+3  A: 

A bug tracking system can be a great project to start junior developers on. It's a fairly simple system that you can use to train them in your coding conventions and so forth. Getting junior developers to build such a system is relatively cheap and they can make their mistakes on something a customer will not see.

If it's junk you can just throw it away but you can give them a feeling of there work already being important to the company if it is used. You can't put a cost on a junior developer being able to experience the full life cycle and all the opportunities for knowledge transfer that such a project will bring.

Garry Shutler
+1  A: 

Every software developer wants to build their own bug tracking system. It's because we can obviously improve on what's already out there since we are domain experts.

It's almost certainly not worth the cost (in terms of developer hours). Just buy JIRA.

If you need extra reports for your bug tracking system, you can add these, even if you have to do it by accessing the underlying database directly.

Dan Dyer
+1  A: 

The quesion is what is your company paying you to do? Is it to write software that only you will use? Obviously not. So the only way you can justify the time and expense to build a bug tracking system is if it costs less than the costs associated with using even a free bug tracking system.

There well may be cases where this makes sense. Do you need to integrate with an existing system? (Time tracking, estimation, requirements, QA, automated testing)? Do you have some unique requirements in your organization related to say SOX Compliance that requires specific data elements that would be difficult to capture?

Are you in an extremely beauracratic environment that leads to significant "down-time" between projects?

If the answer is yes to these types of questions - then by all means the "buy" vs build arguement would say build.

+4  A: 

We have done this here. We wrote our first one over 10 years ago. We then upgraded it to use web services, more as a way to learn the technology. The main reason we did this originally was that we wanted a bug tracking system that also produced version history reports and a few other features that we could not find in commercial products.

We are now looking at bug tracking systems again and are seriously considering migrating to Mantis and using Mantis Connect to add additional custom features of our own. The amount of effort in rolling our own system is just too great.

I guess we should also be looking at FogBugz :-)

+8  A: 

There is a third option, neither buy nor build. There are piles of good free ones out there.

e.g.: Bugzilla:

Rolling your own bug tracker for any use other than learning is not a good use of time.

Other links that google found for me:
Three free bug-tracking tools

Comparison of issue tracking systems

Free yes, but IMHO neither bugzilla or trac are good
Orion Edwards
+3  A: 

Building on what other people have said, rather than just download a free / open source one. How about download it, then modify it entirely for your own needs? I know I've been required to do that in the past. I took an installation of Bugzilla and then modified it to support regression testing and test reporting (this was many years ago).

Don't reinvent the wheel unless you're convinced you can build a rounder wheel.

Mark Ingram
+2  A: 

Because trac exists.

And because you'll have to train new staff on your bespoke software when they'll likely have experience in other systems which you can build on rather than throw away.

Marc Gear
+2  A: 

because it's not billable time or even very useful unless you are going to sell it

there are perfectly good bug tracking systems available - eg. Fogbugz

It's worth noting that FogBugz was written to initially be internal only because they didn't want to buy one. Not to say that you're wrong but it's funny how the thing we're trying to avoid here is what actually gave birth to FogBugz

I agree to most of the people here, it is no use to rebuild something when there are many tools (even free) available. if you want to customize anything, most of the free tools alos give you code, play with it.

if you do a new development you should not be doing it for yourself only

+1  A: 

If "Needing some highly specialised report, or the ability to tweak some feature in some allegedly unique way", the best and cheapest way to do that is to talk to the developers of existing bug tracking systems. Pay them to put that feature in their application, make it available to the world. Instead of reinventing the wheel, just pay the wheel manufacturers to put in spokes shaped like springs.

Otherwise, if trying to showcase a framework, its all good. Just make sure to put in the relevant disclaimers.

To the people who believe bug tracking system are not difficult to build, follow the waterfall SDLC strictly. Get all the requirements down up front. That will surely help them understand the complexity. These are typically the same people who say that a search engine isn't that difficult to build. Just a text box, a "search" button and a "i'm feeling lucky" button, and the "i'm feeling lucky" button can be done in phase 2.

+3  A: 

Most developers think that they have some unique powers that no one else has and therefore they can create a system that is unique in some way.

99% of them are wrong.

What are the chances that your company has employees in the 1%?

+1  A: 

I worked in a startup for several years where we started with GNATS, an open source tool, and essentially built our own elaborate bug tracking system on top of it. The argument was that we would avoid spending a lot of money on a commercial system and we would get a bug tracking system exactly fitted to our needs.

Of course, it turned out to be much harder than expected and was a big distraction for the developers - who also had to maintain the bug tracking system in addition to our code. This was one of the contributing factors to the demise of our company.

Rangachari Anand
+1  A: 

Use some open source software as is. For sure there are bugs, and you will need what is not yet there or is pending a bug fix. It happens all of the time. :)

If you extend/customize an open source version then you must maintain it. Now the application that is suppose to help you with testing money making applications will become a burden to support.

Why would you have to maintain your extensions to the open source software? Just share it with the upstream developers, and if it's something truly useful, somebody else will find an itch to scratch on it.
+5  A: 

First, against the arguments in favor of building your own:

"Wanting to 'eat our own dog food' in terms of some internally built web framework"

That of course raises the question why build your own web framework. Just like there are many worthy free bug trackers out there, there are many worthy frameworks too. I wonder whether your developers have their priorities straight? Whose doing the work that makes your company actual money?

Ok, if they must build a framework, let it evolve organically from the process of building the actual software your business uses to make money.

"Needing some highly specialised report, or the ability to tweak some feature in some allegedly unique way"

As others have said, grab one of the many fine open source trackers and tweak it.

"Believing that it isn't difficult to build a bug tracking system"

Well, I wrote the first version of my BugTracker.NET in just a couple weeks, starting with no prior C# knowledge. But now, 6 years and a couple thousand hours later, there's still a big list of undone feature requests, so it all depends on what you want a bug tracking system to do. How much email integration, source control integration, permissions, workflow, time tracking, schedule estimation, etc. A bug tracker can be a major, major application.

"What arguments might you use to support buying an existing bug tracking system?"

Don't need to buy. Too many good open source ones: Trac, Mantis, my own BugTracker.NET, to name a few.

"In particular, what features sound easy but turn out hard to implement, or are difficult and important but often overlooked?"

If you are creating it just for yourselves, than you can take a lot of shortcuts, because you can hard-wire things. If you are building it for lots of different users, in lots of different scenarios, that its the support for configurability that is hard. Configurable workflow, custom fields, permissions.

I think two features that a good bug tracker must have, that both FogBugz and BugTracker.NET have, are 1) integration of both incoming and outgoing email, so that the entire conversation about a bug lives with the bug and not in a separate email thread, and 2) a utility for turning a screenshot into a bug post with a just a couple clicks.

Corey Trager
+32  A: 

First, look at these Ohloh metrics:

Trac: 44 KLoC, 10 Person Years, $577,003
Bugzilla: 54 KLoC, 13 Person Years, $714,437
Redmine: 171 KLoC, 44 Person Years, $2,400,723
Mantis: 182 KLoC, 47 Person Years, $2,562,978

What do we learn from these numbers? We learn that building Yet Another Bug Tracker is a great way to waste resources!

So here are my reasons to build your own internal bug tracking system:

  1. You need to neutralize all the bozocoders for a decade or two.
  2. You need to flush some money to avoid budget reduction next year.

Otherwise don't.


Suppose, tomorrow(next year), if they decided to bring in a popular open source/commercial tool for ALL bug tracking system in the company, how will this tool be able to export all its bug tickets to the other tool ?

As long as there is a real need for a custom bug tracking system, and such questions are answered, I would NOT bother too much.


There's so many great ones out there already, why waste the time to re-invent the wheel?

Just use Fog Bugz

+2  A: 

I have been on both sides of this debate so let me be a little two faced here.

When I was younger, I pushed to build our own bug tracking system. I just highlighted all of the things that the off the shelf stuff couldn't do, and I got management to go for it. Who did they pick to lead the team? Me! It was going to be my first chance to be a team lead and have a voice in everything from design to tools to personnel. I was thrilled. So my recommendation would be to check to the motivations of the people pushing this project.

Now that I'm older and faced with the same question again, I just decided to go with FogBugz. It does 99% of what we need and the costs are basically 0. Plus, Joel will send you personal emails making you feel special. And in the end, isn't that the problem, your developers think this will make them special?

Jonathan Beerhalter
What's the 1% you're missing for FogBugz?
I didn't mean that as an insult or anything. No product meets 100% of the user's needs. Its just not possible.
Jonathan Beerhalter

Don't write your own software just so you can "eat your own dog food". You're just creating more work, when you could probably purchase software that does the same thing (and better) for less time and money spent.

Chris Pietschmann
+1  A: 

I think the reason people write their own bug tracking systems (in my experience) are,

  1. They don't want to pay for a system they see as being relatively easy to build.
  2. Programmer ego
  3. General dissatisfaction with the experience and solution delivered by existing systems.
  4. They sell it as a product :)

To me, the biggest reason why most bug trackers failed was that they did not deliver an optimum user experience and it can be very painful working with a system that you use a LOT, when it is not optimised for usability.

I think the other reason is the same as why almost every one of us (programmers) have built their own custom CMS or CMS framework at sometime (guilty as charged). Just because you can!


I don't think building a in-house tracking system is relatively easy to build, and certainly it won't match a paid or open source solution. Most of the times I would go for "programmer ego" or just having an IT department that really can't use third-party software and has to build literally every piece of software used. Once I worked on a telco that their own in-house version control system, and it was pretty crappy but kept a whole team busy...

+1  A: 

I agree with all the reasons NOT to. We tried for some time to use what's out there, and wound up writing our own anyway. Why? Mainly because most of them are too cumbersome to engage anyone but the technical people. We even tried basecamp (which, of course, isn't designed for this and failed in that regard).

We also came up with some unique functionality that worked great with our clients: a "report a bug" button that we scripted into code with one line of javascript. It allows our clients to open a small window, jot info in quickly and submit to the database.

But, it certainly took many hours to code; became a BIG pet project; lots of weekend time.

If you want to check it out:

Would love some feedback.

+1  A: 

We've done this... a few times. The only reason we built our own is because it was five years ago and there weren't very many good alternatives. but now there are tons of alternatives. The main thing we learned in building our own tool is that you will spend a lot of time working on it. And that is time you could be billing for your time. It makes a lot more sense, as a small business, to pay the monthly fee which you can easily recoup with one or two billable hours, than to spend all that time rolling your own. Sure, you'll have to make some concessions, but you'll be far better off in the long run.

As for us, we decided to make our application available for other developers. Check it out at


Tell them, that's great, the company could do with saving some money for a while and will be happy to contribute the development tools whilst you work on this unpaid sabbatical. Anyone who wishes to take their annual leave instead to work on the project is free to do so.

Andy Dent

ive built my own bug tracking systems, i too thought: "how hard could it be, its just a bug tracking system" ERR - WRONG* - it took 6 months to code it

the main reason i baked my own was to get it exactly how i wanted. the other reason was as a hobby project

id say thats about the only time it is justified to build your own, if its as a hobby project. no company should be spending its time doing it

my software is called bugweb by the way (