When The Noise Is Too High You End Up With A New Norm Of Mediocrity

My co-workers and I were doing some user studies with an internal developer who was using our tools in order to see how he was using it daily and also asking him how he debugs problems with our tools.

It was amazing to see the developer go to the homepage of the tool, he noticed a giant 302 error page, and he quickly reload.  Then he jump to another page and got a 500 error and quickly reload again.  I let him do this for a few more minutes and then asked him if that is his normal reaction when he sees these error pages.  He said, ‘yeah, a reload usually clears up the problem

I had to stop my self from pulling my hair out!  This is the world our developers live in where they accept that these errors are normal.  This is the quality of service they’ve come to accept of our tools.  Where errors are now the ‘norm’ and not the exception.

And this is just 5 minutes into to the user story interview..  Part 2 to come later.

What I’ve learned after this user story is that if the owners of the service do not personally get offended and treat errors as totally unacceptable, their users will treat the ‘error’ state as the new norm.

cannon balls in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
cannon balls in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico from 2013

Tony Tam