Error Messages Are Evil

Peter Bogdanoff bogdanoff at me.com
Mon May 12 14:46:31 EDT 2014


I've been having a horrible experience with the United States Internal Revenue Service website--trying just to set up an account in order to download a pdf of a previous year's return.

Every attempt (at least 6) over two days ended somewhere along the process with:
	"A technical problem has occurred. Please try your request again later."
followed by the options "Close your browser" and a button "Continue" (????).

The time I actually did get to the part where I was able to set a user name and password, there was no explanation what was an acceptable user name or password until I had entered one in. I pushed on through this and the security questions and answers until the final "Create account" where I got again the "A technical problem has occurred. Please try your request again later."

(I was trying to avoid the 2 hour wait time on the phone and the 60 mile drive to the nearest IRS office.)

Idiot programmers. Maybe the same ones who did the Obamacare website. Grrrrrr.

Peter Bogdanoff
UCLA



On May 11, 2014, at 10:19 PM, Bob Sneidar <bobsneidar at iotecdigital.com> wrote:

> I also meant to say that to imagine one could predict every kind of erroneous user input or machine fault and program around it is easy, but it’s just our imagination. In reality, it is a great deal more difficult to do. I remember articles written when Hypercard was rolled out, about how much work it took in a commercial product to program around the possible user input errors. Some were saying that a full 2/3 to 3/4 of code in a commercial product was dedicated to error detection. My own experience bears this out. How often do we encounter a dialog that reports an “unknown error”?
> 
> Perhaps I should revise my estimate of this article, referring to it as “tripe”. Perhaps that was too harsh. It’s probably just a product of the author’s imagination. How nice it would be if we could write software that never generated an error dialog? And have bacon that cooks itself, and dishes that never got dirty, and clothes that put themselves on our bodies when we called for them? Well, that WOULD be nice indeed!
> 
> Bob S
> 
> 
> On May 11, 2014, at 10:48 , Bob Sneidar <bobsneidar at iotecdigital.com<mailto:bobsneidar at iotecdigital.com>> wrote:
> 
> Call me a naysayer, but I think the premise is nonsense.
> 
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