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Background

I'm an immigration / refugee lawyer, and that means I'm one of several kinds of people (retained lawyers, duty counsel, licensed consultants, paralegals and notaries, settlement agencies) assisting newcomers and refugee claimants with making application (refugee claims, immigration applications, and things like updating their contact information) with the government. There are three government agencies involved, only one of them is any good at doing things online, but all three of them are moving to online applications and submissions. There are multiple different portals, the portal to be used in a given situation changes from time to time, procedures and policies change constantly, and there is very limited two-way communication. What there is, is between the government departments and a number of membership-based organizations, none of which comprehensively cover all of the people trying to assist refugees/newcomers with the changes. That means information about the changes is unevenly distributed, and feedback about problems isn't getting back to the departments.

In Search Of

I'm looking for a free or very low-cost solution that allows people to:

  1. Track issues - for example, if for a week the portal didn't believe the year "2007" existed, the first person comments about it and other people with the same problem upvote it or somehow indicate that they are having the same problem - because some issues are system-wide, some are particular to a given portal, and some may only occur in an individual application - whoever is moderating the system can report to the government agency that there is a widespread issue (in theory the agency could check on its own but they don't work that way, but are open to having liaisons)
  2. Respond back on issues - if the agency implements a fix, or if there's a viable work-around, anyone who said they were having that issue is automatically notified when the "post" (or whatever) is updated
  3. Allows some moderation, and allows moderators to get back to posters - this could be as simple as having their email, but if the moderator/liaison is asked by the agency to get more information from the person having the issue, they would need to be able to contact that person
  4. Continues to function as a repository of problems and issues that can be searched in future (and maybe "reactivated" if they reoccur?)
  5. Distributes updates, maybe in some sort of digest version, to people too busy to check the site/app/whatever frequently

1 Answer 1

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It's actually reasonably common to use GitHub Issues for this kind of situation, where a third party wants to track issues for a product or service that has no official public issue tracker. You just create a repository that has one commit with a README describing the repository, and all the action happens in the issue list. You don't actually need to know anything about Git.

Here's how GitHub Issues lines up with your requirements:

"Free or very low-cost": You don't have to pay for it, but it's not free software. You can't even get a copy of the software to run on your own hardware, so you're dependent on GitHub's infrastructure. But, there are many free-software bug trackers with very similar features. GitHub Issues is the only system I've used much, so it's what I'll describe.

  1. Users can create, comment on, and add thumbs-ups to issues.
  2. Users can be notified by email when an issue is updated.
  3. Issue lists can be moderated by repository maintainers. You can trigger a GitHub notification to a user of your choice with syntax like @BarackObama check this out in an issue comment. Users can publish other contact information on their profile, but GitHub doesn't force them to.
  4. Issues can be searched, and they can be reopened after they've been closed. You can also categorize them with tags.
  5. This one I don't know about.

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