The Responsibility for Bugs

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Most software has bugs. Actually, maybe all software has bugs, but often we can live with some of them. Over time, vendors regularly issue patches to fix things, and despite these issues, many of us continue to use software productively, if not happily. We live with some workarounds or issues, and continue to get work done, entertain ourselves, and the world keeps moving forward.

Recently a software developer issued a full refund to customers that had been running into issues with their software, in this case a game. Apparently this is more of a platform issue, as the early reviewers saw the game on a PC, and many of the complaints are on dedicated consoles. The developer of the game has promised patches to fix the main issues, but if customers want a refund, they can get one.

I've had issues with plenty of software in the past, as vendors release a new version that might not have been tested as well as it should. I've also seen plenty of scale issues, where software is tested or architected for a certain scale, but customers use it at larger scales. My work with large enterprises, showed the latter to be the case more often than I'd like.

In the case of the game, the public outcry can cause lots of changes, mostly because the goodwill and reputation of the vendor are at stake. However, in many enterprise software sales, there isn't a public disclosure of issues that prevent other customers from learning of issues. Part of this is a lack of detailed public reviews of software, and part of this is that users don't often share specific issues outside of their organization.

I wish more vendors were held accountable for bugs, and with responsibility to patch and mitigate them. However, I also see that software is used in so many different ways, with many configurations, that it can be hard to comprehensively test everything. I also know that there are bugs that very few customers hit, and the cost to deal with these can be high.

Ultimately, I think I'd like to have more transparency required about which bugs customers hit and in which environments. I'd also like to have some requirement that some percentage of bugs must be fixed within a timeframe or customers entitled to some compensation. I know this might lead to many simple bugs fixed, but perhaps it would also pressure software vendors to improve their quality a little more than they do today.

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