Reverse Changelog

One of the pain points of upgrading any software package is knowing which version to upgrade to when the time comes. With software that is frequently updated, like MySQL, choosing a version that provides new features and addresses issues you are aware of, without also being exposed to other issues is an added complexity. This week, I added another new feature to our documentation, spurred on by Baron Schwarz’s idea for a ‘reverse changelog’. As Baron noted, the idea is to report the bugs reported in a specific version, and then provide information about the version in which each bug was fixed, so that you can determine which version you need to choose when upgrading to avoid that bug. You can see the output for 5.1: Bugs Reported and Fixed in 5.1.That page contains every version of 5.1, a list of the bugs known to be reported against that specific version, the bug synopsis/description, and the version in which the bug was known to be fixed. The reported version information is extracted from our bugs database. The bug fixed version is extracted from the changelog information – another part of the dynamic changelog functionality is the ability to find out information like this super easy when generating changelog related output.I’ve done a lot of work over the last couple of years to improve the quality and content of our changelog. Although the basic structure of the changelog hasn’t changed much on the outside, from the inside, I’ve simplified and expanded the content and information that we track, and made the documentation team’s work processes easier to handle too. About 20% of our time in the docs team is tied up in keeping the changelogs up to date with both the changelog content and any relevant changes to the manual, so keeping that time down enables us to focus on the content.On the outside, for our users, we’ve been publishing the enhanced ‘key changes’ information for more than a year now. This uses tags that we add to the changelog entries when we write them, and allow us to pull out the ‘key changes’, that is bugs tagged with Important Change, Incompatible Change, etc. into a single view. Hopefully both the reverse changelog and key changes will be useful to everybody – and I thank (and will thank) Baron for the inspiration for the idea, largely made possible through our dynamic changelog system. For those curious about the dynamic changelog and what it can do, you might also want to check out the Open Bugs for 5.1 list which also uses the information provided by the dynamic changelog to tell you when known bugs are expected to be fixed.If anybody has any further ideas about the sort of information they might want out of the changelog, please feel free to let me know. As a rough guide, pulling out information based on specific tags (for example, all the bugs affecting a particular storage engine, partitioning, or specific platform) are easy to produce, as are changes between specific versions, ranges, or combinations of the above.