Old dog, new tricks

Apache Bloodhound: a new breed of issue tracker

Elliot Bentley

With multiple project support and a responsive UI, Bloodhound is a reimagining of Trac for the needs of 2013.

When a group of
developers from software house WANdisco, which produces commercial
distributions of Hadoop and Subversion, went looking for a bug
tracker to use in-house, they struggled to find something that fit
their needs.

Atlassian’s JIRA may be becoming a “de facto standard”
within the industry, but it’s not open source – so they turned to
the next best thing, Trac,
a mature project used by jQuery, nginx and even the UN.

However, with this maturity comes contentment, and
when the WANdisco team approached the Trac developers with fresh
ideas, they were left disappointed.

“They [the Trac devs] weren’t… negative
about that,” said Ian Wild, WANdisco’s VP Software Engineering.
Instead, they decided to produce a “friendly fork” with the
features they felt were missing, including support for multiple
projects in a single instance, an easy “installation journey” and a
refreshed UI compatible with contemporary mobile devices.

Now freshly graduated from the Apache Software
Foundation’s incubator with almost 18 months’ development behind
it, Bloodhound is the
result of those ideas.

Unlike some Apache projects, Bloodhound was developed
within the Foundation from the very beginning. “One of the things
we learnt in Subversion was that having someone like Apache as the
host and the framework around which you build an open-source
project is very powerful indeed,” said Wild, “and we were keen to
have that sort of governance around the project.”

The team are keen to emphasise that Bloodhound isn’t
just an internal WANdisco project: for example, the idea to use
Bootstrap for the
front-end came from an external contributor early on in the

However, that hasn’t stopped them from making use of
the company’s internal UX talent, who have reworked Trac’s complex
interface to be as intuitive as possible. For example, WANdisco UX
Designer Joachim Dreimann says, the ticket page has been redesigned
to help returning users quickly catch up with recent changes.

The responsive design isn’t all there yet –
Bloodhound’s UI sometimes stretches off the side of an iPhone’s
screen – but with the team eating their own dog food (no pun
intended), these kinks should eventually be ironed out.

Indeed, Wild says that Bloodhound is “just about ready
for prime time”, and hopes that other Apache projects will begin to
choose it over Bugzilla or JIRA.

Another big feature yet to be implemented include a
“massively improved search” that can filter by ticket owner,
associated milestone and so on, and make batch changes to the
results. Cross-project search, meanwhile, has already been

It’s a promising start for the relatively young
project, and despite competition from both open source and
commercial offerings, could disrupt the otherwise static issue
tracking software.

Photo by SuperFantastic.

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