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Help needed: creating a WSDL file to interact with debbugs

I am upstream and Debian package maintainer of python-debianbts, which is a Python library that allows for querying Debian’s Bug Tracking System (BTS). python-debianbts is used by reportbug, the standard tool to report bugs in Debian, and therefore the glue between the reportbug and the BTS.

debbugs, the software that powers Debian’s BTS, provides a SOAP interface for querying the BTS. Unfortunately, SOAP is not a very popular protocol anymore, and I’m facing the second migration to another underlying SOAP library as they continue to become unmaintained over time. Zeep, the library I’m currently considering, requires a WSDL file in order to work with a SOAP service, however, debbugs does not provide one. Since I’m not familiar with WSDL, I need help from someone who can create a WSDL file for debbugs, so I can migrate python-debianbts away from pysimplesoap to zeep.

How did we get here?

Back in the olden days, reportbug was querying the BTS by parsing its HTML output. While this worked, it tightly coupled the user-facing presentation of the BTS with critical functionality of the bug reporting tool. The setup was fragile, prone to breakage, and did not allow changing anything in the BTS frontend for fear of breaking reportbug itself.

In 2007, I started to work on reportbug-ng, a user-friendly alternative to reportbug, targeted at users not comfortable using the command line. Early on, I decided to use the BTS’ SOAP interface instead of parsing HTML like reportbug did. 2008, I extracted the code that dealt with the BTS into a separate Python library, and after some collaboration with the reportbug maintainers, reportbug adopted python-debianbts in 2011 and has used it ever since.

2015, I was working on porting python-debianbts to Python 3. During that process, it turned out that its major dependency, SoapPy was pretty much unmaintained for years and blocking the Python3 transition. Thanks to the help of Gaetano Guerriero, who ported python-debianbts to pysimplesoap, the migration was unblocked and could proceed.

In 2024, almost ten years later, pysimplesoap seems to be unmaintained as well, and I have to look again for alternatives. The most promising one right now seems to be zeep. Unfortunately, zeep requires a WSDL file for working with a SOAP service, which debbugs does not provide.

How can you help?

reportbug (and thus python-debianbts) is used by thousands of users and I have a certain responsibility to keep things working properly. Since I simply don’t know enough about WSDL to create such a file for debbugs myself, I’m looking for someone who can help me with this task.

If you’re familiar with SOAP, WSDL and optionally debbugs, please get in touch with me. I don’t speak Pearl, so I’m not really able to read debbugs code, but I do know some things about the SOAP requests and replies due to my work on python-debianbts, so I’m sure we can work something out.

There is a WSDL file for a debbugs version used by GNU, but I don’t think it’s official and it currently does not work with zeep. It may be a good starting point, though.

The future of debbugs’ API

While we can probably continue to support debbugs’ SOAP interface for a while, I don’t think it’s very sustainable in the long run. A simpler, well documented REST API that returns JSON seems more appropriate nowadays. The queries and replies that debbugs currently supports are simple enough to design a REST API with JSON around it. The benefit would be less complex libraries on the client side and probably easier maintainability on the server side as well. debbugs’ maintainer seemed to be in agreement with this idea back in 2018. I created an attempt to define a new API (HTML render), but somehow we got stuck and no progress has been made since then. I’m still happy to help shaping such an API for debbugs, but I can’t really implement anything in debbugs itself, as it is written in Perl, which I’m not familiar with.