The title says it all. This applies to all aspects of life – from a pothole on your drive to work, to a broken link on a website, to asking a question in a class, to fixing a bug in a software project.
There are three main reasons I attribute to people following this bad behavior of “not fixing problems as they arise”- 1) Laziness, 2) They don’t think action will be taken in response to their report and 3) Bystander effect
In 2010, the excuse, “I don’t have time to report the problem” is simply ridiculous. In almost every case, an at least semi-relevant email address can be found and a two sentence email sent in less than one minute. “Hi, I was on your website today and I noticed that a link is broken. I just thought you’d like to know!” or “Today I was driving on 1st Ave between 22nd and 23rd St. and I hit a HUGE pot hole. I thought you’d like to be made aware of this so someone does not damage their car or get injured!”
In software, a very common, very unfortunate situation that stems from laziness is a “workaround”. That is, developer A notices that something doesn’t work as expected. Rather than fix the problem, they find an alternate route to the solution. This is fine for developer A, but what about developer B who is working closely with developer A. Developer B notices the same thing doesn’t work as expected. He then asks around and developer A shows him the alternate path to the solution. Eventually the amount of time spent frustrated and trying to figure out why the feature doesn’t work would clearly be undercut by the amount of time it would have taken to fix the issues at the time it was first noticed. Now, developers C – Z (and all of the users). These people are outside of the close-nit team comprised of developers A and B. This very large group will certainly struggle with the same problem but are not in a position to find out about the workaround (likely due to (2) and/or (3) below). They then simply label the software as “buggy” or “broken” and the software starts to gain a negative reputation.
2) Anticipated Lack of Action
In the above cases, one may think “Yea it’s easy to do, but they aren’t going to care” or “They’ll think I’m whining”. According to my point (1) above, the worst case scenario is no one responds and you wasted one minute. The best case is the item gets fixed and it makes life better for the next