Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bugs in the Apple

Revelatory short article by a veteran Apple engineer on why known bugs often persist for years, even decades. This explains the sprawling, indignant threads in user forums that continue for years and years without relief.

I simply never thought of the primary reason: bug fixes can create new problems - perhaps worse ones. There's cost and uncertainty, so if a bug's not causing crashes or data loss, or specifically and conspicuously afflicting some splashy new product, its repair will be very, very low priority. I.e. fahgeddaboudit.

It makes sense. If you design and build an office tower, and, eight years later, it's become apparent that the building is a bit drafty, you wouldn't go to the trouble and expense of examining the structure, brick-by-brick to find the gaps. Even though frail old Mrs. Collins on the 16th floor recently perished from pneumonia. And even though tenants are installing space heaters to beef up the climate control.

The one factor not mentioned is the one I'd always imagined the most significant: a company at the scale of Apple can't worry about bugs that affect hundreds or even thousands of people. They think in millions. So they simply shrug at the aforementioned sprawling, indignant threads.

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