Working Around Bugs


When people switch from Android to iPhone or macOS to Windows one of the most common complaints I hear is that the new OS is much buggier than the old one. But interestingly enough, I hear the same complaint from people switching in the opposite directions as well. People switching from iPhone to Android or Windows to macOS seem to have the same complaints about bugginess! How can this be? Surely one must be buggier than the other, so people must notice an improvement going in one direction or the other.

My theory is that you learn to work around the bugs on the system that you are used to. Just like your workflow will optimize itself over time to the way that you work, you will also modify your workflow to they way your tools work. This includes working around bugs. This is so natural that it quickly becomes subconscious. You forget that those bugs even exist in the first place. But, when you move to a different OS, your workflow doesn’t avoid any of the bugs, so it is fairly likely that you hit a few right at the start. This leads to the impression that the new OS is buggier.

I recently experienced this myself. I started encountering a Firefox crash triggered by moving windows across monitors. This would also sometimes occur when just dragging tabs within a window (likely because if I dragged slightly down it would pop up a new window for a moment which spanned monitors). To avoid this bug I changed how I worked.

I was very careful to open new tabs in the window that I wanted to use them in because it would be annoying to change it later. For example instead of opening a link in a new tab then dragging to the desired window I would make sure to drag the link directly. Especially for pages such as a bridge game where I couldn’t seamlessly disconnect and reconnect. In some situations where I would previously move windows during their use (for example while eating lunch vs leaning back after lunch) I would need to pick which of the two windows was overall better upfront.

This bug was fixed pretty quickly and hotfixed into the next patch release but a few days later I realized that I was still performing these workarounds. Especially the second one stood out because I was opening new tabs in the window that I would like to have them later, not the window that was the most convenient right now. Even though I could easily move tabs between windows again, my workflow was impaired to subconsciously work around a bug that no longer even existed.

This appears to be a strong anecdote for my theory. If this bug stayed around a bit longer, or if I wasn’t tracking the fix, I probably would have ingrained this into my workflow and largely forgot why. If I had then tried to switch to Chromium and ran into a bug or two I probably would have thought that it was buggier than Firefox!