Bug Ness law

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Crystal wordprocessing.png This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

The Bug Ness law, or monster bugs law, is a proposed observation that, the worse a released bug is, the more likely it is to get unnoticed and unfixed.

To illustrate the concept, if the bug in the software is so bad that it sets fire on all your computers, then you will not be able to report it.

If a very bad bug has been released, it probably means that the developers didn't see it because they are using an environment or a workflow in which it doesn't appear. The clueless user encountering it, on the contrary, finds it impossible not to notice the bug. This leads to back and forths of mythological nature which don't go anywhere: "I don't see it!" "But it's right there, as big as a skyscraper, with red scales and spitting fire!" "You obviously must be making it up".

Such bugs often present characteristics opposed the best practices on how to report a bug e.g. bug summaries "X makes my computer freeze/crash" or "X totally broken". This is however a symptom rather than the cause of the problem: the user is really unable to provide better information because the bug is so powerful as to prevent the user from describing and fighting it.

Therefore, when such a total incommunicability or mismatch of experienced behaviour of the software happens, reporters and developers must put an extra effort in putting themselves in the other's shoes: the developers, by guessing what's the cause of the different experience by the reporters; the reporters, by investing time and effort in debugging their problem and/or translating it to technical terms which reduce it to a set of actionable items. The latter, however, usually does not happen because it requires the user to acquire developer-like technical skills.

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