The Edge-case Excuse

I find the excuse that the bug is just for your small “edge case” as an explanation for why it won’t be fixed annoying.

I have found “edge cases” to actually mean we don’t want to fix it. Often the issue isn’t needing some special code to deal with an “edge case” it is the coding was done poorly and breaks in many different “edge cases.” It isn’t that those edge cases need to be coded for. It is that the code should have been written in a robust way that didn’t break for lots of “edge cases” but the excuse given for not fixing the fundamental coding fragility is the bugs found are just “edge cases.”

There are real instances where “edge cases” is a justifiable excuse. For example, adding in special code to deal with some odd category of users that just isn’t worth the cost.

But I just am so tired of fragile coding being excused as if breaking in lots of “edge cases” is perfectly acceptable when the only reason it fails is because the code is fragile instead of being built in a robust way to begin with. The issue isn’t that you have some special edge case that you want special coding for the issue is the code was written in an unnecessarily fragile way that makes it not work unless you follow a list of acceptable use cases.

Code should avoid adding in requirements that are not necessary. The edge case excuse I see used far more due to requirements that the code added which never should have existed instead of actually being an edge case that would require special code. For example, most web pages don’t require javascript (or IE, or flash, or downloading 5 mb of code to view simple text…) to do what should be done (display text, display images…) but some sites code their page to break if javascript… isn’t used by the user. Seeing this as an “edge case” issue missing the point of creating code that has superfluous requirements for the user that create “edge case” failures where they shouldn’t exist but for poor coding practices. In some cases jasvascript is required to do fancy things that are useful, in which case gracefully degrading and potentially not working fully is acceptable.

Related: W. Edwards Deming and Software DevelopmentSoftware Supporting Processes Not the Other Way AroundComplicating SimplicityWhich Prime Minister Said “The last programme I wrote was a Sudoku solver in C++”?

2 thoughts on “The Edge-case Excuse

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