Sunday, July 8, 2007

On Failure Modes

People designing systems don't think enough about failure modes. Failures are annoying, but you need to design the system to fail gracefully. It is exceedingly annoying when this doesn't happen.

A recent example, that is of particular concern, as it bite me twice yesterday, it the access control system at Stellenbosch. When the system is down for a particular building, there isn't anyone authorized to open the other doors into the building, thus one is forced to wait until the technicians responsible for the access control system respond. Since this is naturally after hours, this takes some time, and is less than ideal when all you want to do is dive into the building quickly to collect something. A failure mode not designed to enable people to do what they need.

I'd feel a lot happier about the whole experience if I thought there was some chance the system would improve.

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