Friday, February 15, 2008

The Politician's Fallacy

I ran across this - the Politician's Fallacy - today and it made my entire team crack up:

Something must be done.
This is something.
We must do it.

Kudos to The Old New Thing for leading me to it.

And then it got me to thinking (as these things tend to do)....

One of my responsibilities is to handle escalations from customers. Basically, if a customer has an issue and it's not something support can handle, it comes into engineering. This is fine, and often we're able to find the bug, diagnose the issue, etc.

The real fun part, and the part where the Politician's Fallacy starts to apply, is when the issue is a non-showstopper bug and there is no workaround. For example*:

An issue comes in that a client on an unsupported configuration is seeing duplicate log messages for certain events. We track it down to an issue with the configuration. This particular configuration is already scheduled to be supported in the next release.

Enter the Politician's Fallacy: We must do something. Hey, look, a script to remove duplicate messages is something. Let's do it!

The short answer is no, we don't really have to do something. Don't fall into the trap of believing that a fix means changing something. In the end this often leads down the path to one-offs and other scary unsupportable hacks. Sometimes acknowledging the issue is sufficient - inaction can be as beneficial as action.

* As usual, names and some circumstances have been changed to protect the innocent.

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