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NN/g Home > AskTog > Interaction Design Section > The Bughouse


Welcome to the Bughouse 

Use the category links above or jump to the Table of Contents to access:

  • 130+ of the most reviled software-design bugs in cyberspace
  • Gleaned from more than 300 angry readers
  • All driving people crazy
  • All steadfastly ignored by their creators

Who I am

Bruce Tognazzini. I was Apple employee #66, have been designing software for more than 30 years, and hold 49 US patents in computers and aviation. For more info, check my bio.

To Developers

The bug reports you will read are very much toned down from what the readers actually submitted. Users are really, really angry about these.  In many cases, they have tried to report these problems over the years, only to face insurmountable barriers. 

Programmers come in for a lot of criticism in these letters, many written by other programmers. In reality, management is responsible for any and all lack of quality in products and services. They set the tone. They make the rules. They get no less quality than they demand. However, that does not let programmers off the hook:

I come from the early Apple culture, where no one, not even an engineering manager, could keep us from achieving excellence. Others have been raised in a different culture, where mediocrity is not only expected, but encouraged, in the false belief it saves money. It does, but only the engineering department. Technical support ends up needing all that money and more to fend off the unhappy customers.

Excellence can be achieved under even the most trying of management. Right now, particularly on the web, we often aren't even measuring up to rank mediocrity. For the sake of our own pride, we can and must do better. Look at the pandemic bugs, look at the bugs more specific to your product or service. Search for your company or product name using the search box above. How are you measuring up?

To Readers

Write the developers, not me.

  • Contact the bug maker if you find a bug bothersome. They are the ones who can do something about it. If the bug maker doesn’t provide a simple means to do so, some people find a call to the Office of the CEO brings relief. 

  • Don't write to report Bughouse bugs. The Bughouse does have a few bugs of its own, including spelling errors and a general lack of organization.  If you want an index and/or better organization, volunteer to do it. Otherwise, just relax. After all, what's a bughouse without a few bugs running around?

    • Do write if and when a bug has been cleared.  Keep it short and offer proof.

    • Do write if your organization is capable of taking over the bughouse permanently, with the means and resources to maintain it on a constant basis.

It took me more than a month, working 40+ hours per week, to put the Bughouse together. Hence my entreaty, "don't write" unless you are prepared to take over. I can do no more. (You may also want to check out The Risks Digest for more bugs and a way to speak out about them.)

A business Opportunity

I received over 1 million hits the first day the first "Ten Most Wanted" column was on line. The onslaught effectively shut down our servers. This subject has struck a nerve. People are sick and tired of engineering managers ignoring design problems in favor of coding bugs and "creeping featuritis." They want a place to post design bugs where developers can no longer ignore them.

The industry could stand such a steady source of light on the problem. Quality in the software industry would be unacceptable in almost any other walk of life. (Can you imagine a car or airplane that would "crash" ever few days or so?)

A business opportunity exists for an advertising-supported, user-maintained site similar to epinions, etc., devoted to letting people give off steam about their products and voting on which bugs bug them the most. If you are interested in starting such a site, the Bughouse can be all yours.

How the Bughouse came to be

In December 2004, I published one very simple column entitled “10 Most Wanted Persistent Bugs.”  I supplied seven original bugs and asked that readers send in the other three.  More than 300 people responded, with over 130 unique bugs.  I found only four with which I took issue.  A few other submissions were really more in the nature of new feature requests. I prepared for publication the entire balance, which appear here. In case of duplicate entries, the earliest submission about a bug won.

Bughouse Table of Contents.


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Join me as I teach the Apple method and show you how to not only organize for and come up with successful designs, but sell them to engineering and upper management.

It's intensive, yes: A one-semester-equivalent with a strong, real-world bias. However, we have a lot of fun along the way, and you'll leave having worked with a team to design and build a complete project, so you will have not only learned, but experienced everything taught.

User Experience Conference Website There's more than my course at an NN/g conference. You'll find a breadth of other specialized courses and networking opportunities that will put you and your company at the leading edge of the design curve.

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