Works on my machine

by @edent | | 2 comments | Read ~1,483 times.

If you've ever reported a bug, you'll have seen the dreaded response "works on my machine."

So, I was using a small open source project (I'll leave it anonymous for now) when I noticed a bug. Not a show-stopper, but one which would affect and annoy lots of users.

I wrote as detailed a bug report as I could:

Scroll Bars Always Showing In Browser

In browsers X and Y on platform Z, I notice that the scroll bars are always showing, even when the content doesn't require it.

This is confusing to new users (like me) who will try to scroll when it isn't possible and think that the app is broken. It also trains users not to scroll even when there is overflowed content.

Here are screenshots showing the problem [image].

I think that the problem is in layout.scss, but I'm not able to test it.

Ok, not the best bug report in the world, but it provides documentary evidence of the problem, why it is a problem, and a route for fixing.

The answer I got back from the developer was, you guessed it...

I've tried this on OSX and it works fine.

Well... ok... good for you, I guess?

Another user chimed in.

I've tested this on Windows 7. Here are screenshots showing the problem in 3 different browsers. I also found this a bit confusing.

Again, came the reply:

It works for me. Not really sure it's worth fixing.

You can see how frustrating it is, right?

Along came another user:

This is also affecting me on Windows 10 - see screenshots. The fix is pretty simple - on layout.scss line 123 change overflow-x: scroll; to overflow-x: auto;.

The developers' response was predictable:

The original works for me. I don't see any issues with the layout. I'm reluctant to make a change which doesn't help me. It may introduce problems later on. Besides, I'm not sure if anyone really needs it.

And with that, he closed the issue as WONTFIX.

I don't know about you, but I find that infuriating! When people give you a well described issue, evidence of the problem, and a fix - to turn round and say "it's not a problem; you are wrong" is a huge slap in the face and intellectually dishonest.


Ah, my faithful readers, while the above tale is mostly true - it is also an allegory for something much more serious...

Your positive experience does not negate my negative experience.

You don't get to tell people that the way they feel is objectively incorrect.

If something never happened to you - that doesn't mean it never happened.

Ignoring thousands of "bug reports" and claiming that the users shouldn't be so sensitive is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the human experience.

Whether people are patient or exasperated in their explanations, try shutting up and listening.

Waving away problems as "drama" means that you can't conceive of other people being in pain when you are not. That's just childish.

Saying "well I am not like that" is no different to saying "works on my machine - what's your problem?"

Denying that an issue is "real" because it doesn't affect you or your friends is logically indefensible.

Refusing to make changes when other people can demonstrate the problems they face is unkind.

Wilful blindness to reported problems makes you a quisling.

If you get angry when other developers say "works on my machine" then you should be angry at yourself for saying "doesn't reflect my experiences."

There is a happy ending to my (somewhat fictionalised) story. A few days before I posted this, the dev had a change of heart and accepted the change saying:

Seeing your screenshots and hearing how it affected specific devices forced me to action when it Worked On My Machine.

It's not hard. Listen to people. Accept their experiences even when they're different to yours. Make changes where you can to help fix things.

Your personal experiences are not the objective source of all truth!

2 thoughts on “Works on my machine

  1. Ce n'est pas parce que quelque chose n'est pas un problème pour vous, qu'elle n'est pas problématique pour quelqu'un d'autre.
    Ai entendu beaucoup d'enseignants dire qu'ils avaient réussi à apprendre à chercher de la doc et que les étudiants y arriveraient…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *