As of this writing, there are over 5,600 active issues in the Drupal core queue. About half of those are listed in the 2,650 active issues for Drupal 7. And the "patch queue for Drupal 7 -- those issues that have at least *some* code to fix them in various stages of completion -- clocks in at 1,040 issues.
These numbers are, quite frankly, staggering. Discouraging, even, some might say. With so many issues out there vying for attention, how are we to find those ones that are really important, such as killer new features, powerful API enhancements, and critical bug fixes? While Drupal 7's development cycle doesn't have an expiration date on it yet, we all know that day will come, and probably sooner than we'd ideally like. What can we do to make sure that important patches are raised to the surface and receive adequate developer and committer attention?
To succeed, we'll need to employ a two-pronged approach: taking out the trash, and digging up the treasure.
Taking out the Trash
One thing that will naturally help increase the visibility of important patches is reducing the number of invalid issues. Many of those 5,000+ issues are duplicates, misunderstandings, or already-fixed issues. Many are support requests that could be answered by someone who has a little bit of Drupal knowledge. Many are mis-filed under the Drupal project when they belong in a contributed module's queue. Many are documentation improvements for API documentation that could be made quickly by anyone with CVS access.
The great thing about taking out the trash, which is more nicely called "issue queue farming," is that anyone can do this. Really! Anyone at all. In most cases, it just involves a fair bit of reading. In fact, this type of work can have a kind of soothing effect, and is great when you're on that never-ending conference call, or when you're waiting for supper to cook, or when you're having your teeth drilled. Ok, maybe not that last one. :P
It's also great for quickly exposing you to broad swaths of Drupal, or to contributed modules if you do issue queue farming there. And finally, issue queue farming is also among the quickest ways to ingratiate yourself with maintainers; the more of this people who are not maintainers do, the more maintainers can stick to -- you guessed it -- maintaining their projects! ;)
Digging up the Treasure
Another nice side effect of issue queue farming is that in the process of finding invalid issues, you'll inevitably also find all kinds of valid ones as well. It's really useful in an issue that's 5 years old to post a reply that says, "Yep, this is still a problem. I verified it by doing x, y, and z." Or to post a summary of that 200-reply issue that states the major problems and proposed solutions that you learned from reading it over. This is a great way to turn what would otherwise be trash (old, crufty issues and twisty, windy discussions) into valuable treasure.
And, if you strike it really rich, you might come across some long, lost patch that will truly ratchet Drupal up to the next level. If so, consider adding it to the new Patch Spotlight 2.0 that just went up over the weekend. This is a way to "bubble up" those really important patches in the queue, to help focus developer (and committer) attention on them. Killer features, performance enhancements, theme system improvements, user experience revamps, and more are all fair game. And, if you're a developer, patch reviewer, or someone with specialized Drupal knowledge looking for a place to jump in to core development, please check that page out as well!
So hope to see you in the queues, de-weeding the mighty issue queue fields, and hoisting up that buried booty! Arrrr! ;)