Launchpad has supported assigning questions to users for several years, but the privilege was limited to project owners. This meant the feature was rarely used. Since the feature was also not visible, answer contacts often requested that we develop the feature. Question listing now include the assignee column. Answer contacts can assign a question to a user via the edit page. The assigned user will receive a notification about the assigned question. An assigned question will never expire; the assignee is obligated to answer the question.
The launchpad team had considered removing this feature two year ago because it was not popular. There were a few users who explained the need to assign questions to knowledgeable or privileged answer contacts. Simply put, the problem was not that assignment was unwanted, but that it could not be used by the people who needed the feature. The Launchpad team did not really understand how users were trying to use Launchpad until we decided to take turns answering every question asked to the launchpad project. We soon understood the need to assign questions to users. There are many questions that can only be answered by one or two people. The assignment must be visible to everyone, otherwise you would spend an hour reviewing open questions that were already assigned to someone. The cruelest part of assignment that that the assignee was never told that he has a task to complete.
This situation was especially frustrating for me because Answers is the application I started working on when I joined the Launchpad team. I knew that I could fix the issues in a few hours of work. Answers however, is not an application we are developing at the moment, I could not work on it during work hours. So I decided to fix the assignee feature on a Saturday. I could do this because the Launchpad on-call reviewer cannot easily say no to a merge request for a branch. I was also pretty certain my branch would be accepted because the reviewer is also answer contact who has experienced the assignee problems too.
The on-call reviewer rule is in place to ensure every patch is reviewed and given an opportunity to merge. This rule applies to everyone. Some Launchpad users have submitted patches for Launchpad pages and scripts and we have reviewed and merged them. Launchpad is now open source. You too can submit a branch knowing that someone must review it. Many of the Launchpad team members hack on Launchpad on our own time because we love Launchpad. Yet we still cannot fix every bug, or implement every feature. There are a lot of bugs that can be solved in a few hours work. If you want help to close a issue that you care about, we can help. Again the on-call reviewer is obligated try to advise on implementation issues. Also, Launchpad developers prefer to have pre-implementation plans to ensure that when someone decides to start a branch, it can be completed in less than two days and will be accepted by a reviewer. Someone on the #launchpad-dev channel on freenode can help.