Broken-Windows Software

In broken-windows policing the cops go after guys who jump subway turnstiles and commit other minor crimes. This is because the policing of low-level crimes tends to lead to reductions in serious crimes. Not only are minor criminals disproportionately responsible for felonies as compared to the general population, the fact that the police are seen not to ignore the small stuff creates a virtuous cycle by deterring other crimes and increasing the public’s confidence in civic authority.

I thought of this issue when I noticed that a sophisticated Java program that I use on my PC has serious bugs that are never corrected. For example, opening an Excel tie-in in the Java program kills all of the open Excel processes on my PC. I’ve complained several times but nothing gets fixed. Meanwhile there are simple apps on my phone that get updated frequently so that annoying little problems disappear over time. The fancy Java software has many more features but which software would I rather use?

Another Chicagoboy adds: The problem is that many companies view software updates as a cost rather than a feature. Software upgrades in response to customer complaints should be a trumpeted feature, because they are a way of convincingly communicating that the company shares its customers’ values about what matters, and therefore that it’s safe for the customers to invest their time in the company’s products as opposed to competing products.

6 thoughts on “Broken-Windows Software”

  1. I suppose the question here would be, Whose software needs to be updated? The folks at Oracle might say Microsoft, and the folks at Microsoft would say Oracle.

  2. Broken windows policing makes sense when laws are sensible. Killing Eric Garner for selling loosies does not. It turns communities into enemies of the government.

    When you have widely flouted laws – such as our current Prohibition regime – it makes the people enemies of the State.

    You might want to read our Declaration of Independence again. It has a few words to say on the matter.

  3. Windows 10 seems to me be quite an improvement. Speaking as a “non-techie”, I’ve been impressed.

  4. MSimon:

    I don’t disagree with you about civil-rights abuses by govt or about the Declaration. I was simply looking for a metaphor to help explain what seems to be a signalling function of businesses’ software bug-fixing policies.

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