Most packages have bugs in Debian's BTS (Bug Tracking System). This page describes some ways that anyone can help maintainers to deal with them.

General points

Ways you can help

Trying to reproduce bugs

Try reproducing old bug reports or any recent bug report which isn't tagged confirmed or pending.

If you can reproduce the problem then you should send a message to <bugnumber>@bugs.debian.org saying so and a message to control@bugs.debian.org which says:

found <bugnumber> <versionnumber>
tags <bugnumber> +confirmed
thanks

If you are sure that the bug does not exist in the current version of the package then you should close the bug by mailing <bugnumber>-done@bugs.debian.org with an explanation of why this bug is now fixed (or how you couldn't reproduce it in the current version though be careful as you may just have a different setup to the submitter). Add as the first line of that message:

Version: <current version of the package you tested it under>

so the BTS knows which version it was fixed in and add a blank line under that before your message.

If you can't reproduce it but you're not sure it's fixed you could tag the bug as unreproducible and/or moreinfo and mail <bugnumber>@bugs.debian.org and the submitter (and anyone else who has the problem) for more information in order to try to reproduce it.

Reassigning bugs

If a bug is filed against a generic or meta-package but actually concerns a different package then please reassign it to the correct package with a message to control@bugs.debian.org which says:

reassign <bugnumber> <correct package>
thanks

To find the correct package if you don't know you might use dpkg -S <some file> to find which package actually ships a particular file or use the interface to search the contents of packages (at the bottom of that page).

You might find when it is reassigned to the correct package that there is another bug for the same issue in which case please merge them (see below).

Merging bugs

If you find two bugs for the same issue then they should be merged together. To be merged bugs must be on the same package and with the same severity and state. You can manipulate the packages, severity and tags with a message to control@bugs.debian.org and at the end to merge the bugs add:

merge <bugnumber for one of the bugs> <bugnumber for the other bug>
thanks

Forwarding reports upstream

Many bugs in Debian packages are bugs in the upstream package which have affected Debian users. If the package has an upstream bug tracker (see the upstream webpage for reference) then searching it for similar reports can be useful and may yield either a work around or in some cases the fact that the upstream author doesn't consider it a bug or doesn't want to fix it.

Both of these are useful information so post to the bug <bugnumber>@bugs.debian.org cc'ing the submitter and let them know. You might like to tell the BTS that the bug exists in upstream's bugtracker by sending the following to control@bugs.debian.org:

forwarded <bugnumber> <URL of the bug in upstream's bugtracker>
thanks

If you can't find a report upstream but it looks like a bug in upstream's software and you can reproduce it then you should file the bug in the upstream bugtracker with all the information necessary to reproduce it. You should also tell the BTS that you have done so with the forwarded command as above.

If you find a report that upstream claim it's fixed you could tag the bug fixed-upstream but be sure to mail the bug and explain why and which version it's fixed in which may persuade the maintainer to upload the new version.

If you find a bug in upstream's bugtracker has a patch then reviewing and/or testing it and mailing the bug to give the results is useful. If you find a patch that does indeed fix the bug then you could include it in the mail and tag the bug patch.

Other resources

Often team maintained projects have an IRC channel and/or a mailing list for the team. You can use these as resources when you are triaging bugs. If they have an IRC channel you may well find other users around at the same time that you can enlist to try to reproduce a bug you're having trouble reproducing or other people to advise you on issues with bugs.

Upstream normally have a mailing list for their software even if they don't have a bug tracker and they may have an IRC channel too. Again an IRC channel might be useful to find people who can help you to reproduce or rule out bugs.

Search engines can some times be useful resources in tracking down if other distributions or people have seen the same bug.

Other bug manipulation

There are many commands that the control interface to the BTS accepts and you might want to read the Guide to bug control on the BTS mentioned earlier to find out more about them.

Thanks

If you have triaged bugs in anyway whatsoever then thank you for your contribution to Debian.

Don't stop there though! There are always more bugs and maintainers are always grateful for all the help you can give them.