Musing about Agile error messages

For most of my adult life, I’ve been bemused, perplexed, sometimes irritated and occasionally completely taken aback by the error messages spewed out by the applications we build and use. Over the last twenty-five years or so, I’ve watched them improve, but at speeds that make glaciers look agile.

Today, while looking at technorati, I saw this:

Something is wrong! We know about it, and are working furiously to fix it. Please check back later and probably everything will be back up and running.

Great stuff. You may not think it’s perfect, given that it doesn’t actually say how long it will take to get fixed. But I like it. It is open, conversational, simple, honest and brief. I tend to think that the uncertainty implied in the message is actually a good thing; it made me think … could we expect to see error messages that are Agile in nature, improving by iteration as better information emerges/is discovered?

Who knows, this may be a leading indicator of the paradigm shift taking place in the applications and services space today.
My thanks to all at Technorati.

4 thoughts on “Musing about Agile error messages”

  1. Hi JP. Funny post! I been ping-ing technorati for the last 6 weeks, with no updating happening. I wrote to them repeatedly, with no substantive response. Now I understand! Best, chutki

  2. When we were releasing our service (Interactive Voice Notification) to our beta customers I can hon estly say that the number one cause of “annoyance” was when an error message wasn’t “specific”. For instance if a call could not be delivered, don’t just say “call could not be delivered!”. Customers wanted “the number specified was called but the person did not pick up the phone!” A simplistic example perhaps, but even for simple services such as our own, the need to get pretty specific with error and exception handling reporting was a big take away.

Let me know what you think

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