Bugs: Product Features or Warranty Restrictions?
Friday, January 09th, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

Jessica Hagy writes a neat little blog called Indexed - it’s full of interesting meanderings about life that we all recognize as true, but we Never Quite Thought Of That Way.

Each is hand drawn on an index card. Short attention span theater. As the blog’s tagline states:

PUBLISHED WEEKDAY MORNINGS as the COFFEE BREWS

Not all musings are about bugs or debugging, but many highlight problems, misunderstandings, and truisms about life.

This card begs one to explore the disposition of bugs which aren’t solved, either before product launch or after.

Fix, Featurize, or shove into the Product Warranty under “misuse, abuse … or use under improper environmental conditions.”

Heh.

Disposition of Bugs on Product Launch

We, as consumers, think bugs are bad. Companies strive to fix bugs if possible, lest recalls, refunds, and online denouncements and ridicule drag profits into the toilet.

Balancing the need to fix bugs against the possibility of product rejection by the buying public is a constant dilemma. Late-appearing or unsolvable bugs produce impossible situations and heated confrontations, often between the technical and marketing organizations.

But what if a company can recast a bug as something good or desirable?

Or if (heh heh) they can demand a higher selling price for this Really Unique Feature the competition doesn’t offer?

It’s the infamous, “That’s not a bug, that’s a feature!”

Featurizing Bugs

Here’s a ridiculous but completely true example from my sordid technical past.

We were striving for customer acceptance with our brandy-new cell phone, but it had a few issues. A tendency to overheat was one of the more concerning problems. But us skiers in the Northeast US set upon a perfect solution - boot warmers! Just mold a cutout with the same relief as a cell phone and snap it into the boot. The idea’s got real merit, we tried to convince marketing. Plus, you’ve got a working cell phone in case of emergencies - that whole Two Birds thing.

Marketing was not amused.

But here’s the kicker - our first customer was a service provider in Alaska. Really. I’m not kidding.

“Featurizing” - Definition #1

While many (many) folks refer to the process of “turning bugs into features,” it seems none have created a catch-phrase to describe the concept.

Clearly this is needed. And so obvious I am shocked at its nonexistence.

The only reference I found was from BuzzWhack’s Buzzword Compliant Dictionary, dedicated to de-mystifying buzzwords,

To add features to a product - often unnecessary - in the name of meeting a customer’s needs. “As users identify new ways of using it, we try to featurize the product to meet those needs.”

“Featurizing” - Definition #2

The definition I have been using is somewhat retarded (heh heh) temporally in time,

To recast bugs into features of a product - often unnecessary - in the name of facilitating customer acceptance and product launch. “As field testers and beta-customers uncover unexpected and unacceptable problems while using the product, we featurize these behaviors to meet customers’ yet-unvocalized needs.”

There are two differences between our definitions: the initiator of said featurization, and the temporal discovery that leads to said featurization. BuzzWhack’s definition implies that the process occurs after product launch to highlight “enhancements.” Mine refers to the process (usually) before product launch to hide bugs.

Limitations of Featurization

If a company isn’t creative enough (or perhaps in some cases unethical enough) to find a way to featurize a bug, then unresolved and frequently-occurring bugs sometimes end up in the teeny-tiny print of the Product Warranty. Kinda like the “sweaty hands - touch screen” scenario.

I’m not saying companies do this with malicious intent, or that it’s done with great frequency, but when little visuals like this show up on Indexed and we snicker and nod in recognition … well, there ya go.

Category: Humor, Product Bugs