Why Do You Keep Having This Problem?

by Davis_Kingsley 1 min read20th Jan 202016 comments


One thing I've noticed recently is that when someone complains about how a certain issue "just keeps happening" or they "keep having to deal with it", it often seems to indicate an unsolved problem that people may not be aware of. Some examples:

  • Players of a game repeatedly ask the same rules questions to the judges at an event. This doesn't mean everyone is bad at reading -- it likely indicates an area of the rules that is unclear or misleadingly written.
  • People keep trying to open a door the wrong way, either pulling on a door that's supposed to be pushed or pushing a door that's supposed to be pulled -- it's quite possible the handle has been designed poorly in a way that gives people the wrong idea of how to use it. (The Design of Everyday Things has more examples of this sort of issue.)
  • Someone keeps hearing the same type of complaint or having the same conversation about a particular policy at work -- this might be a sign that that policy might have issues. [1]
  • Every time someone tries to moderate a forum they run, lots of users protest against their actions and call it unjust; this might be a sign that they're making bad moderation decisions.

I'm not going to say that all such cases are ones where things should change -- it's certainly possible that one might have to take unpopular but necessary measures under some circumstances -- but I do think that this sort of thing should be a pretty clear warning sign that things might be going wrong.

Thus, I suspect you should consider these sorts of patterns not just as "some funny thing that keeps happening" or whatever, but rather as potential indicators of "bugs" to be corrected!

[1] This post was primarily inspired by a situation in which I saw someone write "This is the fifth time I've had this conversation in the last 24 hours and I'm sick of it" or words to that effect -- the reason they had kept having that conversation, at least in my view, was because they were implementing a bad policy and people kept questioning them on it (with perhaps varying degrees of politeness).